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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...

Paul Melone's picture

I need this program. ...

I need this program. This may be the reason I finally upgrade to OSX 10.4.

I'm in the same boat as Trevor. As production manager of a small non-profit theatre company, I have many separate projects that I manage. I work with a number of people across several projects in a collaborative environment with complex deliverables and absolute deadlines. Keeping things in separate containers is essential.

My setup has a top level of folders and then sub-folders for projects. I run Outlook 2000 on a Pentium III 450mhz (love the non-profit world). Searching is not an option as it takes all day. My folders are set up like this:

Inbox @actions @waiting on @someday maybe @read-review +Projects -01 show1 -01 show2 -03 show4 -hiring/firing -crew -etc.(about 30 to 40 projects, some limited, some ongoing) +Reverence (for things that I need to keep on file that require no action) -box office reports -board of trustees reports -mailing lists +Archive -01 show (from past seasons) and other archives

I use the Ctrl-Shirt-V keystroke to invoke the "move messages" command, which pops up a dialog box with my folder list, and typing the beginning letters of a folder name selects is from the keyboard. I hit enter to file the message, and Outlook switches to the next message in the folder.

Using the keyboard shortcuts, the del key for spam, and the preview pane, I can clear my inbox to zero in about 30 seconds to two minutes.

The irony of this is I'm way more productive on my ancient PC at work than I am at home with my Mac. I installed Mail Act On, but the extra step of creating rules is a big drag. I need to be able to take on a project, or split a big project into two small ones, and instantly be able to re-file messages with the keyboard only.




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