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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...

John Collis's picture

You scenario is based on...

You scenario is based on some presumptions.

For a single lone user, mainly working on their own, who implicitly trusts that Apple Mail is fine and will not destroy their mail, that it will be easy enough to migrate away from if required and that your email will not exend into any particularly "power user" requirements - then you may be OK sticking with the system you use.

For me I work with others as part of a flexible team, mail is my number one critical input, I use IMAP, I use multiple clients, I have 6+ years of filed email, from my current work that is over 4GB last time I checked. It's filed by topics and projects etc. Each folder can be shared to other team members. I can access it from multiple machines anywhere with multiple different clients on different OSs. I can search it easily with the server doing the work for me. If my mail-client exploded, crashed-n-burned, laptop was stolen etc. etc. etc. my mail store would still be there and organised. If I leave the company, my mail is there - already organised for whoever may need it.

Sure I'd like to use some more intelligent search+DB based method of handling mail, however having access anywhere is still a complete requirement, as is being able to share it. An IMAP backed store with server-side stored tagging, predefined searches etc. may go someway towards that. However mail clients need to be much more intelligent also. For example, I'd love to see a client that acts as a "low volume" server publishing as an IMAP Rendezvous service, your local mail-store including all the "smart folders" or similar. (I'd love Gmail's tags, searches etc. to be publishable in IMAP space also!!).




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