10 February 2010

This is a really old school topic. It’s so what I used to love to read in the paper version of Macworld 10 years ago. I always loved reading about the fun and productive add-ons you could could get for your Mac (and install with Font DA Mover! Remember?)

In honor of all that, I’d like to give some kudos to a few little Mac apps that make my life better. Since, apparently, I am exceedingly verbose, I will just write one up at a time, and make this an ongoing series.

Today’s gem is: MsgFiler:

This is a really simple plug-in for Apple Mail (did you know there were such things‽). It lets you use a keyboard command to file messages into mailboxes.

That may not seem that exciting to you, and if you’re a refugee from Outlook or someone who uses Mail in what I’ve been told is the “normal” way, it might not even make sense. But to me it’s huge. As far as I’m concerned, this little plug-in has single-handedly made me stop pining for Eudora (no pun intended… though that would be one geeky pun!), and that is no easy feat. I loved Eudora. Oh so much. I was such a “power user”. At some point though, after a few years of OSX, I decided my life would be simpler, less expensive and more compatible with my colleagues if I switched Mail.app.

The paradigm for most users of Eudora goes like this: all your incoming messages stay in your inbox. You click them to read them (I think there was a preview pane, but I never used it… I didn’t like having the messages be readable before I was ready like that). Once you’re done with them, and don’t want them in your inbox anymore, you hit Apple-F, for filter. With this one magic keystroke, Eudora would file all the selected messages into their permanent storage folders, however you’d chosen to set them up those folders and map characteristics of messages to them (using Filters). You could have a complex tree of clients, projects and friends, or just one big “read” folder. Whatever you wanted. Bye bye. Messages that need dealing with are in In, everything else is put away, according to sender or subject or date or whatever crazy methodology floated your boat. Oh, so neat and tidy.

But with Mail, setting up Rules makes the messages fly right into their assigned mailboxes by default when you receive them, whether you’ve read them or not. Sure, there’s a little blue dot to indicate there’s something unread in a folder, but who wants to go around reading things in all sorts of different folders and keeping track of what needs doing? I like having the things to deal with all in my inbox until I file them. I could do that, by not setting up rules that put things in mailboxes, but then I had to use my mouse to manually drag each message I was done with to its ultimate resting spot. And that was annoying, in a carpal tunnelly sorta way.

This drove me crazy about Mail for ages, until I found MsgFiler. It doesn’t work exactly like Eudora, in that you don’t set up filters ahead of time (which can be a time-consuming, and frankly endless task). Rather, you hit your chosen key-command (or Apple-Option-T to repeat your last task) and you get a list of mailboxes in which things can be filed. This works wonderfully if you throw everything, like I do these days, in one great big “read” folder and rely on searches to find old stuff*. I especially like the Apple-Option-T thing. Now I feel, properly like a Mail power user. Phew. One less thing to stress about.

MsgFiler is shareware. It costs $8 to buy, and certainly you should do that if you like it as much as me. Or half as much. It works with all those different Leopards. Get it here: http://www.tow.com/msgfiler/

* BONUS: Finding Stuff in Mail

You might be wondering how I can deal with throwing all old messages into a “Read” folder, when Mail’s find feature is somewhat notoriously wussy. Using the find field in the toolbar of Mail only allows you to input one criterion, which is usually a pretty useless way to find an email, if, for example the sender has sent you more than one, or more than one sender have sent you emails on the same topic, or, indeed, you don’t know or remember all the facts. This frustrated me for a long time. Luckily, somewhere I read this fabulous tip:

Create a Smart Mailbox (use the little + sign in the sidebar). Call it something like “Robust Searches”. Whenever you need to search on multiple criteria, edit this Smart Mailbox (right click or contol-click it and choose edit in the contextual menu). There you go. What a smart mailbox.

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