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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...

Liz I's picture

I’m a visual/tactile learner—and ADD,...

I’m a visual/tactile learner—and ADD, and dyslexic—“differently abled.” Aesthetics are key to me (I’m an artist and designer and design teacher) and I have to keep an orderly work space for my disorderly mind in order to be happy and productive. I find that the Montessori preschool method of containerizing things works well for me, and I even use that approach in my university design classroom/studio.

I’m just “uncomfortable” with huge undifferentiated piles of data. Even though I know intellectually that I can search that pile and probably find what I need, I just prefer smaller, contextual piles, in folders. That’s how I deal with my paper world and that’s how I prefer to deal with my email world. I have beautiful, orderly file folders at my real-space work station and I prefer to have beautiful, orderly file folders in my Mail work station.

I’m just a lot less stress free if I know that I can go to my (course name) folder and quickly and easily find that crucial email from a student who’s email address and subject matter line are cryptic.

I tried tagging emails, but I forget to tag and then I’m frakked. Physically deleting or filing the email right then just works best for me.

And yeah, i don’t like to file. Who does? But I love the results of filing. So anything that helps me file my email quickly is hugely useful. Alas, I get the -1700 error when I try to use MsgFiler, but I’m optimistic about a fix.




An Oblique Strategy:
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