The product Mail, that comes with Apples operating system is already considered a good product by many. However, its schema is based on a mail philosophy we’ve been using for years and competitors are coming along to change and move the status quo forward.
Current thinking is that there must be a better way to handle mail. We are basically swamped with the stuff. Presently, most systems handle mail the way it was handled thirty years ago with only the most modest of changes. Thus, new modes of processing mail are being introduced.
Getting Things Done Model
There are certainly more modes of processing mail than this one and our traditional method but for the sake of brevity we’ll look at a prominent processing model. The Getting Things Done model or GTD, developed by David Allen, is being used in a number of products a few of which we’ll look at.
Sanebox is a systems based approach to capturing your mail, diverting mail to boxes that don’t need immediate attention and getting your inbox down in size so you can more rapidly handle your work. Since it is a systems based approach, it acts on all your mail regardless of client.
A new client, that has just hit the market, is very much a GTD based system as it views mail items as tasks to be done. It has a very fast and one can call it almost a harsh workflow in that you do something with the mail to get it out of your inbox.
Dispatch is the client most recommended for the iPhone and it a sure winner. It a fully GTD enabled and again with a fast and harsh workflow.
Yet What about Mail
Mail itself portends fully to a standard mail workflow. Neither harsh nor enabled for the rapid processing of mail nor any very enhanced processing it is very plain and vanilla in function. What you can do with mail, cannot meet anywhere near the speed you can deal with mail in the above systems.
Mail can be Enhanced
There are 4 tools to enhance mail and with these enhancements you end up with a very powerful email system. One of the systems, Mailhub, is from Dervish software whereas Mail-Tags, Act-on and Perspectives is from Indev.
Some will use only a portion of this pie and others the whole thing. In my view, the whole of the pie is great but might be a bit confusing as there is some overlap but at a minimum you could use just Mailhub or Mail-Tags and Mail-Acton, the latter being the preferred choice but some people love Mailhub solely.
These solutions we can’t really define as pure GTD but as mail enablers or enhancers. They speed up both the way you process your mail and how you process your mail allowing for a very tidy outcome.
Mail-tags is an add-on solution for mail. It’s what is referred to as a plugin. Before going any farther, I have one word of warning and that is when Mail is upgraded in any significant manner these plugins might and do often prove incompatible completely destabilizing your Mail system. This though is not a reason not to use them due to their overall benefits.
Mail-tags is a very powerful add-in allowing your to tag any or all of your mail. With these tags you can write up notes and set reminders making your mail somewhat project management oriented in feel.
Mail-tags is probably the most powerful organizational solution you can bring to mail. It isn’t something which, at the moment, speeds things up but rather is a powerful organizational tool. Mail can be grouped by tags and this in turn might create a project. Or you might just use Mail-tags to find things, remind you of an item and on it goes.
This product will help you process the mail or get the mail organized into spots. It should be used with Mail-tags. The two, in combination are dynamite. Mail-Act-on will allow you to move your mail, rapidly to a folder say while Mail-tags can help ensure the organizational structure of you mail.
I would highly recommend, if you’re going to enhance mail with anything, these two should be at the tops of your list. Organizational structure, applied to mail, ultimately speeds things up especially when you go to find something. Mail-act-ons role in life is to speed things up and get the mail where it should be.
Mail is now not Vanilla
With these two tools added to mail, you certainly no longer have a vanilla mail product. Where you might fail yourself is if you don’t use them. The long term benefit of using them will quickly be realized in their use.
Putting into place the above solutions I would say you have now lessened the need dramatically for one of the new breed of mail clients. Mail itself has been made to be new breed. This is important as much add-on stuff in the Mac world is made for Apple’s mail client and not these third party solutions. Even something as powerful and expansive Microsoft’s Outlook gets all its gusto from Microsoft as little is made for even this client.
As such, there is an immediate and apparent benefit enhancing the functionality of mail. You are creating a power client that is treated as a standard in the Mac world. You are creating a powerful and fast system without having to venture to one of these third party which very well be here today and gone tomorrow.
This almost sounds GTD but it isn’t quite the perspectives of a GTD system but in some ways it’s similar. This is the least necessary of your Indev solution but I would personally recommend getting it. It places a small window next to mail and gives you a perspective on the mail hitting your inbox. It’s quite easy to jump from a mail item you see in the perspective to the item in your full blown system and deal with it immediately.
This component is not a necessary component but just adds a nice piece of functionality.
Mailhub by Dervish
Mailhub is a completely separate application and can be used on its own or in conjunction with the Indev solutions. You might find though that your duplicating some functions or running up one function against another.
Mailhub is really a mail processing engine. It will make the best guess for the filing of software both that which sits in your in-box or if you so choose, you can file outbound software in a certain mailbox. If you wanted a certain group of software all lined up, ready for filing, Mailhub can be an immense assist in getting the software into the right box.
Mailhubs name is very descriptive of what it is. It’s a hub that manages mail. All mail goes through the hub and depending on what you’ve assigned mail hub to do, it will do it. This can lead to pretty fast processing of your mail. As an example, instead of having to find a place for your different types of mail e.g. receipts, followup, todo etc you can just file everything in the archive. Of course, doing it this way requires the use of a lot of searches to find something as it isn’t filed in a special category. However, used in conjunction with Mail-tags, you could assign a tag to suit the function.
Power using all of the Above
If you consider yourself a power user, you could easily employ all the above applications making for a very powerful mail app. If you just want the basics I would use either Mailhub or Mail-Tags with Mail-Act-on. The latter is just as simple to use but gives you far more functionality than Mailhub. Yet, Mailhub is no slouch.
Regardless, you don’t have to go to a completely different application to improve your use of the handling of Mail. You can do it with Apple’s Mail program and some assists with add-on tools.
Stepping out Mail to a completely Different System
For those though that want a completely different approach from Apple’s Mail there are now options. I would recommend using a GTD type system such as Mail Pilot however with a caveat that it is a very new system in which they are still sorting out bugs. One might at times question even whether they are looking at the right mail.
Putting that aside, it does work on the Mac and IOS. Only Microsoft’s mail can do this outside of Apple’s mail. Microsoft’s mail solution is extremely solid but uses a fairly standard approach to the processing of mail. You would have to program a number of routines to speed things up but they are available to you in Microsoft Outlook.
This then brings me back to Mail Pilot. It really is the only system that uses very modern GTD techniques for the processing of mail in OSX and IOS. It is very fast where it comes to processing mail and you can easily get to inbox zero. Mail can be set aside, placed in a list or a reminder for another day all the while getting it out of your focus. This would be the alternative system I would go to if you work in IOS and OSX.
Finally, there is Dispatch. This currently is an iPhone only, GTD type solution which has quite a lot of functionality. If you use your iPhone only primarily to do your mail this would be the solution to go with.
Apple’s Mail or an Entirely New System
This is the hard question. Apple’s Mail alone will suit a lot of users. However, it can be extended greatly in power through the add-ons we have covered. Mail is a sound product, produced by Apple and many third party products will build hooks to mail.
If you don’t care so much about that and are willing to ride a little wild, the newer, GTD type systems will get you processing mail much faster. I have only covered a couple here but there are more. Most of the others are IOS only solutions but they are fast and some are very reliable. It’s a bit of personal preference at this point though.
Deluged by Mail
We’re in a quandary of sorts. Many of us are deluged by mail and will try anything to get out from under and it only seems to be getting worse taking more of our time. This article has been about making Apple’s Mail a more powerful system to attempt to deal with this problem.
However, the newer methods of managing mail have come along as the problem is pushing a solution. There are some risks involved involved in the newer approaches in terms of reliability which would be of primary concern. For myself, I’ve taken to the newer approaches as they do allow you to get and manage your mail much faster.
With this in mind and knowing there are some risks with these new GTD type tools I always have Apple’s Mail at the standby as I know by checking this I’ll have an accurate picture. Mail was swamping me and I didn’t want this boat to capsize yet.