Airmail – the email powerhouse

Airmail is an email powerhouse with a serious set of features to accommodate every possible way of working with email. It is available for both the Mac as well as the iPhone and iPad, which means that you will get a unified experience regardless which platform you use. Continue reading

What’s missing in iOS email apps

After having tried nearly all email apps under the sun and never feeling properly satisfied with the functionality, I have naturally become a bit frustrated by the lack of options. There must surely be an email app available which fulfills my need of making sure that nothing slips between the cracks while waiting for responses. Continue reading

How to use Gmail more efficiently using stars and multiple inboxes

Andreas Klinger describes an interesting approach to managing your Gmail inbox using a combination of the principles of Inbox Zero and GTD.

Without using any plugins, messages can easily be marked as having different statuses using custom stars while still having a good overview from the main Gmail view. The basic premise:

  • An easy to manage, usually empty inbox on the left
  • All "todos" in the first box
  • All emails "awaiting a reply" in the second
  • All “delegated” emails in the third
  • All emails related to meetings, flights, etc easy to find in the fourth
  • All done with 0 plugins, using only standard gmail features

There is just one thing keeping me from adopting this technique – I rarely use the normal Gmail interface, instead relying on apps such as Mailbox and AirMail. Not being able to use the entire workflow regardless of device will just make me not use it at all.

A lifesaver for me has been the OmniFocus Mail Drop service together with OmniFocus for keeping track of todos and waiting fors, but that is a post on its own.

Using the Yesterbox technique to handle email overflow

Yesterbox seems to be an interesting approach for handling large amounts of email.

Instead of going though today’s email which fills up throughout the day and largely ignore the incoming stream of mayhem, focus on handling email from yesterday instead. That way, there is always a finished state, since no new email message can fill up the queue from yesterday.

There are of course times when you really need to reply to an email today, and the model supports this scenario as well. Just get going on the old email and as a “reward”, you may answer important email from today as well.

Two Providers of Secure E-Mail Shut Down

Two major secure e-mail service providers on Thursday took the extraordinary step of shutting down service.

A Texas-based company called Lavabit, which was reportedly used by Edward J. Snowden, announced its suspension Thursday afternoon, citing concerns about secret government court orders.

By evening, Silent Circle, a Maryland-based firm that counts heads of state among its customers, said it was following Lavabit’s lead and shutting its e-mail service as a protective measure.

The only way to protect your communication is to not trust the service, but instead use something like PGP or pinned X509 certificates to encrypt the contents before it is sent.

Danah Boyd on taking an email sabbatical

An interesting way to approach email while on holiday. Instead of just letting it pile up in the inbox while on vacation, save yourself of the guilt and burden of going through each email by simply deleting it.

The [email] interface is designed to put you on a hamster wheel, rarely ever succeeding at letting you reach empty. You feel accomplished when you get to inbox zero. And then you sleep and it’s all back to haunt you. For this reason, I recommend taking an email sabbatical.

It would perhaps be wise to instead of deleting the email, just direct it to a specific holiday folder, or set it to auto-archive instead. That way, you would still get the same peace of mind, but still have the email for the “in case stuff happen” moments.

The OmniFocus Mail Drop

We call this new feature the “OmniFocus Mail Drop”. Unlike previous mail-processing features, we wanted a method that wouldn’t require any of your devices to be present in order to add items to OmniFocus, we wanted to add the much-requested better attachment support, and we wanted to reduce the amount of extra work you had to do in order to get your items into OmniFocus as much as possible.

This has the potential to completely change how we deal with the inbox in Omnifocus. There is more information in the official thread, including instructions for signing up for the service.

What’s your standard for email?

For email, it’s actually less effort to maintain it at zero than to maintain it at three hundred.

David Allen talks about the effort required to maintaining an inbox at zero in contrast to another number.

Facebook changes everyone’s listed emails to @facebook.com

While users can opt out of having their @facebook.com address listed, the troubling part of the change is how Facebook went about implementing it. The social network didn’t as much as announce the change was coming or alert users once it happened.

Interesting things start to happen once you realize that many people have Facebook contact sync, meaning that the email addresses for all Facebook contacts in their phone’s contact list will be replaced with the one from @facebook.com.

Rethinking Email

I have been a long-time Gmail user and prefer using their web interface for my personal email, which I love for a number of reasons. For instance, when receiving a new reply to an archived email, the entire conversation is always shown, regardless of where the individual emails are located.

On the professional side of things, I use Apple Mail, which I am sorry to say is starting to get fairly outdated. It does not have the above mentioned feature where email replies are automatically shown together regardless of location. It doesn’t even support using SSL client certificates for connecting to the email server. The latter can fortunately be remedied by using stunnel as a proxy.

Thunderbird

I have used Thunderbird ages ago, so I decided to install the new version and add both my personal and professional email account and see what has happened these last major versions. To my surprise, Thunderbird has been cleaned up considerably and has lots of new features like tabs, smart folders and a unified inbox.

The coolest new feature in Thunderbird 3 has to be the new search interface. It is just a beauty to see the data mining ability and the ease of refining the search terms as you go. There is for instance the possibility to visually drill down on the year, month and day to find just the thing you are looking for.

Thunderbird Search

Thunderbird Search

Then I recalled trying out Postbox a while ago when it was in beta. It is a commercial fork of Thunderbird, with its own unique set of features and looks, and although many Thunderbird plugins work with Postbox, not all do. I ended up giving this some thought.

What can a commercial company do with Thunderbird that the Mozilla foundation can not do themselves?

I decided to yet again give it a go. The installation is as easy as it can be on the Mac — just drag the application to the applications folder and you are done. The account set-up was super easy, with most things detected automatically, and that even includes the work account. Being a Thunderbird derivate, I knew that it would support SSL client certificates, so I just added mine and it worked instantly.

Postbox

Postbox

The interface of Postbox looks a lot like Thunderbird, but there are some not-so-subtle differences too. First of all is the polish — Postbox looks and feels more like a commercial product with its clean interface and modern color palette. The only interface section I liked better in Thunderbird is the main toolbar, which is a lot cleaner. It mostly has to do with Thunderbird having support for showing button labels beside the icons instead of below. That small setting makes all the difference in the world, esthectially speaking.

The first technical thing I noticed was that there is only one folder view — you have your accounts on the top, and the folders (including the inbox), changes below depending on the account you select at the top.

I am not a big fan of unified inboxes, and I had a hard time finding a view I like in Thunderbird (not to mention Apple Mail). Postbox, while only having this single view, get how people work with email. Having personal and professional mail in the same unified inbox just adds to the clutter and distractions we try so hard to get rid of.

Making the accounts completely separate is the perfect recipe for me, and lets me focus on one thing at a time, while not being distracted by Facebook alerts or Twitter messages and other things that may pop up in my personal inbox.

Thunderbird Single message

Thunderbird Single message

The conversation view in Postbox is excellent too. It works exactly like in Gmail, with collapsible replies and a beautiful interface. There is also this thread and message summary to the right of the message which collects all links, photos, files and other types of attachments for easy access.

Postbox for some reason, even has integrated support for posting to Twitter and Facebook. While I would use a dedicated application for this like Tweetdeck or Echofon, I will definitely try it out and see what they have done with it.

A last thing to mention about Postbox is the built-in tagging support. If you would like to tag email with certain action tied to them like “Follow Up”, “Waiting For” or other tags, it is possible to do so without having to resort to putting these emails in separate folders.

Postbox Single message

Postbox Single message

If you are not into sorting incoming email to different project folders, you will definitely enjoy the archive feature, which is available in Thunderbird as well. Pressing “a” will move the selected messages into the archive, which is a regular email folder. The thinking behind this is that since Postbox and Thunderbird index all email, you could just search for what you want.

I am personally fond of having separate folders for different projects and mailing lists. Everything else is put into the generic “archives” folder.

The latest version also features support for Things and Omnifocus, which means that it now is as easy as using Apple Mail to get emails into your GTD in-basket of choice!

If you want to purchase Postbox, please consider using my Postbox referral link. This will save you $10, and you will support this site too!