I always hear people say stuff like I was only gone for 4 days and I came back to 300 emails in my inbox. There is not an inbox which would not benefit from using message filtering/tagging.

Some people have said they do not sort mail into folders any more but just use the gmail labelling like folders. I use gmail all the time now, primarily to deal with email lists and I use this technique for this and it is a very viable solution.

For personal mail I still like the order of having them in folders; I still use tags (formerly called labels) – only discovering tags mid 06 and they have been a revelation – in this case though. Here are some techniques to improve the inbox madness:

  • Create sub folders within your inbox with relevant names, like colleagues, departments, friends, project names, etc.
  • Create rules to move incoming mail to these folders, Eg. :
    • All email received from certain people
    • All email containing these words in the subject; so if you are sending an email out that you expect to get replies to, add a rule for it
  • Create a New tag to show all unread messages in all folders (status isn’t read) and save the results to a folder called “New”. As you read your email then you tag all messages you want to respond to appropriately.
  • Create a “ToDo – Personal” tag to show all tagged messages (tag isn’t none) in all friends & family folders and save the results to a folder called “ToDo – Personal”
  • Create a “ToDo – Misc” tag to show all tagged messages (tag isn’t none) in all other folders and save the results to a folder called “ToDo – Misc”

As email comes into your inbox, you can adjust your filters so that next to no mail/once off & don’t want to save mail is all that’s there. Your new inbox is now your “New” folder and as you add your tags you will automatically have the messages you want to deal with listed.

To keep an eye on your tags and make sure they do not get out of hand, you should turn on the option to activate the message count for all mail folders, including saved search folders. You need to enable the “Show Expanded Columns” option first which can be done by going to Tools > Options, selecting the Advanced tab and checking “Show Expanded Columns in the Folder Pane”. Then click on the small icon next to Name in the folder pane and select total from the drop down menu.

I made the change in 05 from Outlook Express to getthunderbird and it’s just so much nicer. As described above, you can (colour code) tag any message as Important / Work / Personal / To Do / Later; you can save tagged messages to a folder as described above, this will update as you tag new messages. Just superb.

For similar todo tags in gmail I use the activeinbox plugin which allows one to tag mail as Next|Waiting on|To do with these tagged mails easily accessible.