Apr 27 2009
Our goal is to minimize the time we spend sorting information, consolidate it into one area and access it online and off. Sound difficult? It really isn’t. And we’ll get it done with free software you probably already have.
Email is a natural to-do list, and with massive storage space there’s no reason not to funnel all your information through your account. Use forwarding or Gmail’s “+” feature* to build multiple addresses that go to one account. Use these addresses to funnel all kinds of alerts (Google Calendar reminders, Vonage or YouMail voicemail) into your master email account.
Now that we have all this good information flowing through email, we can take advantage of tools to archive our information. If you are using an email service that supports POP, use Thunderbird or Mail to archive your messages. I store these by year in archive folders. Both Thunderbird and Mail have advanced search features that will make it possible to search through these archives. Both applications store messages in databases, making them faster to soft through than files on your drive.
Next we’ll want to invest some time setting up rules/filters. Gmail, Thunderbird and Mail all support this fantastic, underused feature. Set up rules to handle messages for you.
For example, send your voicemail from YouMail to a special folder. Use Gmail’s filters to tag links you’ve send to yourself and bypass the inbox. If you’re not afraid of Automator, you can whip up some mean actions to do even more with messages as they come in over POP or IMAP.
Gmail is a pretty dependable service, but it has outages. So does your ISP. If we’re sending all out important information through our email then we want to look at offline caching. Google Gears promises to do this, once Gmail supports it. For now, our best bet is IMAP. Gmail does not support IMAP, but you can set your Gmail to forward to an another [IMAP] account.
Thunderbird 2 has a great new interface (including the favorite folders view above) and supports filters mentioned above. Mail also works for this. In addition to the POP archiving mentioned previously, IMAP will allow us to store messages online and maintain a cache of them offline (on multiple computers too). Filters will do the filing for us.
None of the ideas or tools here are new, but I think you’ll find that combined they create a powerful way to organize your data.
*If you have a Gmail account, you can send messages to email@example.com. Gmail will route any of these addresses to firstname.lastname@example.org account. This allows you to use filters on these messages based on what address they were sent to, like email@example.com.