Mac OS X’s Mail: More on message filing

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Mail
January 19th, 2010 • 12:52 pm

Following my recent posts about message filing issues in Mac OS X’s Mail and the feedback I have received by e-mail, I have a couple of additional comments to make.

One is about the third-party MsgFiler plug-in for Mail. In my previous post on this topic, I wrote:

Unlike LaunchBar, as far as I can tell, MsgFiler does not have a smart abbreviation engine that “learns” your preferred destinations based on abbreviated versions of their names. It just matches what you type to the actual names of the mailbox folders.

If, like me, you have lots of subfolders that start with the same word, then you need to type not just that whole word but the beginning of the next one (or hit the cursor keys multiple times to select the right item in the list of matches). For example, I have mailbox folders called “Betalogue – Admin,” “Betalogue – Mail,” “Betalogue – Feedback,” etc. In order to select one specific mailbox in that group, I have to type “Betalogue -” and then the first few letters of the next word. That’s a lot of typing.

The same issue applies to family members. I have a mailbox for each family member and, of course, many of them have the same last name, which I usually type first so that mailboxes are sorted alphabetically. Here again, in order to narrow things down to a specific mailbox, I have to type the whole last name and then the first few letters of the first name. Again, that’s a lot of typing.

A couple of readers wrote to indicate that you don’t necessarily have to type out the first word in the name of a mailbox. For example, to get to “Betalogue – Admin,” if I have multiple mailboxes starting with “Betalogue,” I could type “Admin” instead.

The problem with this, of course, is that I also have multiple mailboxes with the word “Admin” in their name. Similarly, when it comes to people’s names, if the last name is common to multiple mailboxes, I could type the first name. But here again, I have multiple acquaintances with the same last name, and I also often have multiple acquaintances with the same first name.

A more useful note with a view to reducing typing is that you don’t have to type out words in full. For example, to select “Betalogue – Admin” in MsgFiler, I just need to type out “bet ad.”

This is good to know, except, of course, that, in this particular case, in my mailbox drawer, “Betalogue – Admin” is not just a mailbox itself, but also a folder containing multiple subfolders. So I still get multiple results when typing “bet ad,” although the “Betalogue – Admin” mailbox itself is the first result (i.e. the one selected by default) and the other mailbox subfolders enclosed within the “Betalogue – Admin” mailbox folder are listed afterwards and can be selected directly by typing portions of the words in their own name.

It all depends on the names used for one’s various mailboxes and mailbox folders, of course. I have a long-established system that I use and I have no desire to change it after all these years. It means that, in my case, MsgFiler might require more typing than it would for other people with other naming systems.

It can still be argued, however, that, even in my situation, MsgFiler is still more convenient and efficient than the default message filing options available in Mail. I will have to give it another try over a number of days and see if I can really get used to it and find it more efficient than Mail’s options and consider it worth the expense and the additional burden of having to manage yet another third-party plug-in. (I am not giving up Mail Act-On for the single keystroke shortcuts that I have defined for my most common mailbox destinations.)

Speaking of Mail Act-On, another reader wrote to point out that Mail Act-On has its own feature for filing messages in any mailbox, aside from its rule-based keyboard shortcuts that can be defined by the user and used for specific mailboxes.

Under “Menus” in the Mail Act-On preference pane, there is a shortcut for a command named “Move Messages.” The default shortcut is F3.

However, as I wrote in my reply to this reader, I have to report that, on my system, that command is unusable. On my system, the window that pops up for message filing is totally unresponsive, or responds to key strokes (or mouse actions) after a delay of many seconds. It is unacceptable.

It was already like this a couple of years back when I first tried the feature, and it is still like this on my 2009 Mac Pro.

The reason might be that I have a large number of mailboxes (nearly 2,000). The reader who wrote to me and who uses this feature all the time only has 40 mailboxes. He has tens of thousands of messages, but only a limited number of mailboxes, and mostly relies on Mail’s search feature to locate individual messages.

I obviously have a different approach. And it looks like Mail Act-On’s “Move Messages” command is useless when the number of mailboxes is large. (Other Mail Act-On features still work fine.)

In closing, I think it’s fair to say that, for people frustrated with Mail’s built-in options for moving messages around, there are third-party alternatives, but that these third-party alternatives are an extra expense and might not work for everyone. My wish is still for Apple to include more efficient built-in solutions, but until that happens, I will definitely give MsgFiler another try.


One Response to “Mac OS X’s Mail: More on message filing”

  1. Organize Your Mails with MsgFiler. Review and Giveaway. says:

    [...] it makes me wonder why Apply didn’t implement something like this. And while Pierre from Betalogue doesn’t seem to appreciate it because he has hundreds and hundreds of mailboxes in Mail and [...]