Oct 30

Allison Randal

Allison Randal

Apple's Email Solution

At Simon Cozen's suggestion, in my recent post on solving the problem of email, I decided to try Apple's with MailTags.

I've used before. Several years ago, when my volume of mail grew too great to manage it easily in mutt or pine, I switched to My favorite feature from it was the fast, accurate searching. If the search string appeared in any message, anywhere in my mail folders, it would find it quickly. (It was certainly slower to search the entire collection than a single folder, but still perfectly usable.) It also handled multiple identities better than pine (mutt didn't handle multiple identities at all then, it may now).

I stopped using late last year when it ground to a screeching halt under the weight of my email. At 3GB of mail across all my folders, it was taking a minute or more to load a single folder. I also didn't like the fact that moved away from mbox format for storage, because before the change I had been happily accessing the same mail folders from both pine and

So, last week I installed MailTags and then loaded up one of my IMAP accounts into, to get a nice sized collection of email to play with (this particular account has about 3000 messages between the inbox and IMAP folders).

MailTags acts as a plugin for It adds a new panel to the main window and a few additional menu items. It allows you to annotate messages with meta information such as keyword tags, a project, a text note, and a scheduled todo entry. The MailTags panel lets you create iCal Todo entries without leaving, which is a nice work-flow boost (though it would be nicer if it could create full calendar entries).

If you have an average volume of email and want a more feature-rich archival system, MailTags could work well for you. Setting tags is a manual process, so it's not usable for me. (Anything that adds extra work to the email process is more than I can manage.)

A further downside for me: It's Mac-only, so I can't use it from my Linux desktop. I switch from desktop to laptop quite frequently, so I like to have my email available no matter where I am. Also, the tags are only client-side, so if I set the tags in IMAP on one Mac, they don't appear in on another Mac.

On a related note, Mail Act-On from the same company as MailTags, adds nifty keyboard short-cuts to This solves another problem I have: I spend an enormous amount of time clicking around and dragging messages. Even though the GUI is better for managing large volumes of email in many ways, it's also slower than I used to be with mutt key-commands.

tags: life hacks  | comments: 7   | Sphere It

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Comments: 7

  Beck [10.30.06 05:15 PM]

Have you used the Nostalgy add-on for Thunderbird? I was a hardcore pine user until late 2003 and have since experienced the unacceptable response times of which you speak.

Nostalgy allows keyboard shortcuts (G for "go to folder", S for "save/move to folder", and C for "copy to folder") for mouse-less interaction with your email.

While I'm still crossing my fingers for someone to skin tbird in all pine's terminaly goodness, nostalgy sure does the trick for now.

  smorr [10.30.06 07:10 PM]

"Setting tags is a manual process, so it's not usable for me."

Actually - I added mailTags actions to the rules of mail so that you can create rules and Act-On rules to tag messages. MT 2.0 will also feature Applescriptability and the creation of events in Ical from messages

  gse [10.30.06 10:57 PM]

I've found pine to be totally scalable for huge amounts of email. I do two things: one is to archive every single in/out email automatically (ancient blog post about that system here.

The second thing I just started doing is running mairix (via cron) across my entire 10-year mail archive. Complex body searches take about 5 seconds, and the results appear in pine. I haven't blogged about my mairix setup yet, but I will soon. It's quite easy to configure, and was definitely the missing link in my "archive it all" strategy -- which has proved to be The Right Approach over and over again, for me.

  gse [10.30.06 11:02 PM]

I should add -- IMO, tagging is hopeless for email, be it manual or otherwise. I get and send so much email that I can't (and don't want to) invent some meta-system for organizing it. Archiving everything solves that, as long as you can search your archive reasonably easily. Gmail does this for some folks but I want my data on my server, thus my above approach.

Plus, your Inbox really can become a list of "need to be dealt withs". There's no "need to be filed" category because everything is filed already! Just delete when you're done.

I really believe in this system; it's saved my ass time and time again.

  Justin Mason [10.31.06 03:21 AM]

gse: 'There's no "need to be filed" category because everything is filed already! Just delete when you're done.'

oh yeah -- that's a very important point! I love that.

However, I do like the idea of being able to tag, or at least re-title, emails so that they'd be easier to search for later. ie, instead of a mail titled "Re: Hi", I could rewrite the subject line to be "john's idea for new blah infrastructure" or the like.

As to the meat of the issue -- personally, I use a "main" mail UA on my laptop, then use gmail nowadays for (a) pervasive access everywhere and (b) searching. gmail's search is IMO unbeatable.

  Allison Randal [11.01.06 01:31 PM]

Justin: My main problem with Gmail is no offline access. I travel so much that it simply isn't usable.

  peter hannan [11.04.08 03:26 AM]

Evolution mail has come forward leaps and bounds...i can access my mailbox from both of my linux machines. compatable with google and microsoft calenders Evolution is a good contender!

only problem is client side tags etc.....of which your having problems with, and thats on macs platform !

and i do believe you can install a mac and a windows version too.....

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