Apr 27 2009
Anyone who spends a lot of time online will eventually come to realize that coping with email is a far more daunting challenge than dealing with postal mail ever was. There is the obvious nuisance known as â€œspamâ€? but even processing the deluge of legitimate correspondence is more than some people can bear. Each email carries with it as an unseen attachmentâ€”the responsibility of the recipient to appropriately deal with that email. Itâ€™s like every email is a debt owed by the receiver to the sender. Is it any wonder that email can be a source of stress for people. Is it any wonder that every so often people will deal with this â€œemail debtâ€? by claiming â€œemail bankruptcyâ€? and deleting all of the unread mail in their inbox.
The strategies Iâ€™m about to show you probably wonâ€™t solve all of your problems in processing your email inbox, but if you find the task overwhelming, any help should ease the pressure.
The first thing youâ€™re going to want to do is to filter out the spam. If youâ€™re finding that Mailâ€™s own Junk Mail filter is too often fooled by the industrious spammers, I recommend C-Commandâ€™s SpamSieve (USD$30). This shareware application uses something called â€œBayesian filteringâ€? to learn what types of email you consider spam by â€œprofilingâ€? the content of your unwanted email. In a matter of days, SpamSieve can be trained to accurately identify and remove spam and prevent it from confounding your inbox in the future.
If you use an IMAP email account and own a spare Mac, you can use SpamSieve to keep your other Macs, PC, PDAs and Mobiles spam free. You can even train SpamSieve remotely! Hereâ€™s the tutorial: http://www.macmerc.com/articles/Mini_Media_Mac/368.
Now that you have reduced the contents of your inbox to legitimate mail, the task comes down to categorizing it based on how you intend to respond to it. This process can be simplified by the use of Mailâ€™s built-in rules function and by using multiple email addresses.
Most ISP and web hosts allow users to set up several email accounts and some people find it useful to use these extra addresses for special functions. You might have one account that you use only when signing up for online services. Maybe youâ€™d benefit from setting up a special account that you keep secret from all but a close inner circle of friends and familyâ€”anything coming in on that account is automatically viewed as being of a higher priority.
Another method of categorizing email is to use Mailâ€™s built-in Rules and Smart Folders to distribute incoming mail based on criteria that you program into them. The trouble with this can be that you canâ€™t foresee how email on a particular subject is going to find its way to you, so it isnâ€™t always possible to set up rules that anticipate accurately.
To help with this problem, I recommend Indevâ€™s MailActOnâ€”a donationware add-on that allows you to assign actions (like moving email to particular folders) to key commands. With MailActOn well configured, you should be able to quickly sort through the email remaining in your inbox so that you can then narrow down which messages need to be replied to, forwarded, archived, or deleted. The MailActOn website has a tips page thatâ€™s a great resource for making use of this simple but powerful Mail add-on.
Another problem with using Rules and Smart Folders to move mail is that sometimes we are so focused on our Inbox that in the process of trying to be clever, we outsmart ourselves and put our mail where we donâ€™t tend to find it.
To put this new, categorized email back in front of your face, you can use Ecammâ€™s DockStar (USD$8). What DockStar does is add 4 new numerical indicators to Mailâ€™s Dock icon. This means you can have up to 5 colored shapes keeping tabs on the unread, flagged, junk or combined number of emails in any of your mailboxes.
DockStar also comes with a Dashboard Widget that reproduces Mailâ€™s DockStar-ified icon as well as a Screen Saver that shows your custom indicator shapes bouncing around your screen with live updating of the number of emails in their associated mailbox.
One caveat with DockStar is that it is an InputManager. The word from developers is that Apple has removed support for InputManagers from their yet to be released operating system, Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. InputManagers are also considered to decrease the overall efficiency of your system because they are constantly polling and processing whatever your Mac is doing in every application that you use regardless of which application the InputManager actually affects. That having been said, DockStar has been running quite well on my system for several monthsâ€¦no complaints.
So, there you go. Hopefully one or more of those ideas is going to help you better tackle your email challenges.