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Vox Pop: Sell me on manual email filing

tow.com » MsgFiler

Lots of the kids are excited about the arrival of MsgFiler, which is a neat litte app for helping you file away your messages in Mail.app:

MsgFiler is a plug-in for Apple Mail which quickly files emails into existing mailbox folders. MsgFiler’s fast searching means you just have to type a few characters to find the right mailbox. Move selected messages with a click or open a mailbox without having to navigate the mailbox folder pane. MsgFiler is optimized for keyboard-only usage, perfect for Apple Mail power users.


But I'll just play devil's advocate on this one: if you find yourself inordinately excited about the arrival of this (admittedly clever) application, there's an excellent chance that your email archiving system is unnecessarily complex and, in fact, is in need of a major streamlining. Discuss.

Me? Here's my own folder hierarchy (and the Mail Act-on key I use to send selected messages there.):

  • To Respond (CTRL-R)
  • Archived (CTRL-A)
    • Receipts and things I Bought (CTRL-B)
    • Passwords and account info (CTRL-P)

That's it. Personally, I abandoned the byzantine filing system quite a while ago, and so far -- given a mindful combination of Smart Folders and Spotlight -- I've yet to find a compelling case for manually filing beyond a depth of more than one folder.

So, my larger question for you guys with more than, say, five or so archive sub-folders:

How often are you using your archiving hierarchy to retrieve old mail? In other words, give me your success stories and best practices by which the time spent on meticulous manual filing has paid outsize rewards in finding stuff later. Or, perhaps better put: what are the limitations of Smart Folders, and what would need to change about them to get you out of the manual filing routine?

Because, I gotta tell you, it kinda seems like a lot of busy work given what seems like modest functional pay-off. But you school me...

BJ Snider's picture

I have an hierarchy as...

I have an hierarchy as a relic of when search didn't work as well. This hierarchy has migrated from mail client to client since 1999. I don't file into the hierarchy any more. I keep it as an archive in a single folder. Why waste time moving messages around to a new filing structure when I have Spotlight.

I've streamlined the filing process by using Mail Act-on (Ctrl-M for "move") to file incoming messages to a folder "On my Mac" that corresponds to each of my IMAP-based mail accounts. I use this when I've dealt with a message that has made it past all of the rules I use and is able to still appear in the In Box. Mailing lists all have their own folders and rules to move the messages to those folders unread. Family and friends have the same setup. Junk mail is handled by spam filters at my ISP and the built in Junk Mail processing of Mail.app.

I also use Mail.app as my primary Feed-reader for what I consider "high priority" feeds (which includes 43Folders .) These are collected by FeedDemon which sends the individual posts. The individual feeds have their own folders and rules to automaticaly move the posts without leaving them in the In Box.

Finally, I have top-level Smart Folders to do the heavy lifting. These folders all have "Unread" as a part of their search function. The one that gets the most use is "All Unread Email" after I have processed the In Box.

Incoming client email is auto-tagged by rules and using Mail-tags. It is NOT moved automatically since I want it to appear in the In-box for processing. It does get filed with a quick Ctrl-M when done processing.

I may flesh this reply out a bit further and post it to my blog. We'll see.




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