9 Comments

Summary:

Mail.app is an imperfect beast. Thankfully, with a little modification and some extensibility, you can make Mail.app a more modern email management client. In my previous post, I criticized Mail.app for not providing modern tools to improve email management. Nevertheless, I was able to find a […]

Mail.app is an imperfect beast. Thankfully, with a little modification and some extensibility, you can make Mail.app a more modern email management client.

In my previous post, I criticized Mail.app for not providing modern tools to improve email management. Nevertheless, I was able to find a basic solution to a couple of my gripes.

Tagging and Searching

I decided to purchase MailTags. It did not take a long time to go through my archived email messages, tag them and then create smart mailboxes to display these items grouped by tag. Hats off to Scott Morrison, the developer of this excellent product. I am now able to search by my own tags as well as filter the results accordingly. MailTags also has functionality in terms of task management, as you can assign projects, reminders and more to your existing and new messages.

Here is a screenshot of my left navigation bar (I did remove some items for privacy – sorry):

Here is an example screenshot of a Smart Mailbox I created:

I now only have one real mailbox with my MobileMe account (the Archive mailbox). I didn’t want all of the email in my Inbox, so it made sense to store everything in another mailbox. The rest of the email management is now via the Tag-based Smart Mailboxes.

Intelligent Conversation Management

Nothing. The ability to have Mail.app manage the thread intelligently just doesn’t exist. I did, however, discover RelatedMail. This is an interesting plugin in that it looks for related messages to the currently selected item (the item can be an email message, a note or an RSS article). However, this plugin is more about discovery, not management.

Automatic filing/tagging based upon my email behavior

Again, nothing. Meaning, there just isn’t a tool out there that supports this functionality. I did create some rules (for specific items – an example would be iTunes email receipts). However, much of this functionality should be automated. Users shouldn’t have to think about filing or tagging. Email clients know who the sender is, they know the subject matter as well. The email client can then make recommendations for tags and filing (learn first please) and then automatically act once the behavior is learned.

Summary

I would love to see Apple tackle some of these features in Snow Leopard. Alternatively, if any smart developers want to talk about how this could work within Leopard Mail.app, please impart your knowledge to the rest of us.

  1. Regarding Mail Tagging, how is a Smart Mailbox called Apple, that contains emails you have tagged as Apple, functionally different from a “real” Mailbox called Apple that contains emails you moved to that Mailbox.

    I mean, either way it’s a separate line item in the sidebar and only as good as those emails you have identified as being Apple.

    With tags, I suppose an email can be in multiple mailboxes. Is that the primary advantage?

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  2. Matthew Bookspan Friday, October 3, 2008

    @Tom – yes – that is this the primary advantage.

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  3. I used to have the same setup as you but it worked just fine WITHOUT using Mailtags. I just set up Smart Mailboxes suing email addresses and it was fine. Now I use Gmail IMAP with Labels and Filters. Again, works EXACTLY the same way as my Smart Mailboxes did. In fact it was very easy to set up. All I had to do was basically use the same rules I had for my Apple Mail Smart Mailboxes. I can even have mail in multiple mailboxes depending on the Label. I still use the Apple Mail client. Now my mail is ALWAYS in sync no matter where I check it from thanks to IMAP. I also don’t get any down time like with MobileMe (DotMac).

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  4. What Tom says is true but only because the author did a disservice to Mailtags by giving a much too over simplified description of Mailtags which can do a ton of great stuff. In fact I use Mail because of Mailtags!

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  5. For my business email I use Smart Mailboxes too. Each time a new client emails and a project starts, I create a smart mailbox where I can see email only from this client. I also create a include any sent email to the client. In effect a ‘log’ for all of that projects mail. This works great until I come to archiving. The email is still in the inbox. Smart mailboxes do not move or copy email. It would be great if once the project is finished with I could archive each Smart Mailbox folder in to a central storage place. A better solution would be for smart mailboxes to be able to copy/move the email, thus emptying my inbox. I guess I could do this using Rules instead of Smart Mailboxes.

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  6. Is there an issue with storing all of your mail in one folder? I’ve had Mail.app lose it’s mind after a few thousand message. Anyone else comment on this?

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    1. In a word, “no”.

      Contrast with Entourage (soon to be Outlook for Mac) and Windows-centric mail clients that store email in *one file* – now *that* is a risk. Apple Mail stores each mail message separately, which is great from a recoverability perspective.

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  7. I would use mail, but I have spent almost two days on trying to get my Exchange account to work and it just won’t. I can receive mail but can’t send it. I believe a plethora of people are having problems with exchange accounts working and I know my server is setup correctly. It is a serious problem, because it renders it pretty much useless for me right now.

    Thanks for the tips though

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    1. Microsoft are freezing you out. Snow Leopard will sort your problems.

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