Modernizing Mail.app: The Solution

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.

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