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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...

Mark Grimes's picture

I simply have a single...

I simply have a single archive folder that i move stuff to with spacebar (mail act-on action key) "a". I use MailTags2 to tag my mail with the appropriate keyword (password, receipt, etc) and do lookups by keyword or otherwise project.

I do have several more folders then you -- generally they are folders resembling ebill notifications, email from family, etc so I can apply a Growl applescript to only those folders I care about (e.g. not maillists). I used to use GrowlMail but the plugin is too coarse grain and backed down to an applescript so interruptions only hit particular folders and not all my new mail.

I have a folder called Purgatory which is a target mailbox for a mail act-on cleanup action ("c") that dumps all mail that is not addressed specifically to me or sent by me into a bin for deletion. I only have this folder setup as a safety net as missing an email is BAD -- same goes for spam filtering as there's no such thing as being completely free and clear from false positives. This [clean up action] quickly gets rid of all the crufty email I get at work and all the maillist crap that I can inevitably read online in archives anyway.

Although slightly off-topic, aside from thinning my workflow down to Mail Act On and MailTags2 I am using GPGMail, MailFollowup, OMiC, SpamSieve (to accompany server side spamassassin) and IMAP IDLE.

I'm finally starting to get a good handle on my email thanks to all the GTD Mail.app posts between 43Folders and HawkWings. Probably a good thing since I use Mail.app for personal and my day job email.




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