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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...

BZ's picture

Ok... I gave this a...

Ok... I gave this a try.

Since I have 13 different email accounts in Mail.app, I want to quickly be able to process one inbox and get to zero.

Each Account has its own Inbox, Outbox, Junk, etc (always done as part of Mail.app which I love). I belong to 4 mailing lists and those get automatically thrown into their own Folders

/MailingLists MailingList1 MailingList2 MailingList3 MailingList4

I also have some old account that I no longer keep active and some old email that doesn't belong to any of the accounts.

/Archived Stuff1 Stuff2 Stuff3

That leaves me with the two Smart Folders I have set up.

Inbox Zero - All unread email that is not in those mailing lists folders Flagged - All flagged emails

As emails come into the 13 accounts, they end up in my Inbox Zero. I got through that reading, responding, deleting and flagging. Anything flagged means that I have to deal with it later. As soon as I am done processing the Inbox I can click on it again and it is empty. Inbox Zero.

Now I go to my flagged and process those either making them into Tasks, Projects, etc GTD style.

All emails just read and not deleted are archived in their inbox folders automatically. Actually, they never leave the inbox.

Here is a photo of it (yes, I have 99 things flagged, that is greatly improved down from 300+ when I started GTD). http://static.flickr.com/120/300905974_b66a5861e2_o.jpg

Anyway.. that is my new system and I like that it gives me inbox zero with very little processing or need for other tricks.




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