So, you’ve taken my recent advice and decided to start using a dedicated email application (like Mail or Entourage for the Mac or Outlook Express or Windows Mail) to manage your email. This week we’ll look at some features common to all quality email applications and a few things you can do to make reading, organizing, and replying to your email more enjoyable.
Not all email applications name or implement these common features the same way. Check your software documentation for the specifics on how to set things up.
Let’s begin with the least enjoyable aspect of email: spam and junk mail. Some sources estimate that spam makes up as much as 95% of all email traffic on the internet. In 2007, the California legislature found that spam cost United States organizations alone more than $13 billion, taking into account lost productivity and equipment, software, and manpower to combat the problem. Wow.
While your Internet Service Provider probably has “industrial strength” spam filters at the mail server level, some of those nasty notes are bound to make it through to your InBox. You can help to further limit your exposure to spam by “turning on” and “tuning in” the built-in spam filter in your email application. Once you’ve enabled filtering, most applications do a pretty good job of catching spam and junk mail and automatically placing it in a junk mailbox.
If spam and junk mail makes it through to your InBox, you may be able to help your email application “learn” that a given sender is a junk mailer. For example, Apple’s Mail application has a “Junk” button in the toolbar. Select a junk mail message that made it through the “first line of defense”, click on the Junk button, and mail places that email’s sender information in Mail’s database of offenders and moves the message to the Junk mailbox. Theoretically, the next time a message arrives from that sender, Mail will immediately file it in the Junk mailbox.
Despite these new-fangled “smart” junk mail filters, occasionally innocent, legitimate mail gets categorized as junk. I recommend “leafing through” your Junk mailbox daily. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting reading those emails touting who-knows-what. In fact, 99% of them can be culled simply from reading the sender addresses and the Subjects. But you may see a familiar email address that your filter didn’t recognize. No problem. Chances are your email application has a button you can push with the legitimate message selected that will tell the filter than the message is “Not Junk”. The filter learns this for future reference. You can then move the message into your InBox. I check my Junk mailbox daily because it’s easier to spot a legitimate email in a small list. Once I’ve checked it, I delete that day’s junk mail. Fast. Easy. Effective.
As your InBox grows in size, you’ll probably find it handy to create mailboxes or folders to further organize your email. How you choose to organize is up to you. You can create mailboxes for particular senders (Mom), categories of senders (Friends and Family), or subject matter. For example, I have a mailbox for email I receive from MacMaineiac readers. I can manually move messages into the mailbox, or set up “Rules” in Mail that move appropriate messages there automatically.
Setting up a Rule is simple. In “Preferences” under “Rules”, I tell Mail to move any email I receive with the word “macmaineiac” in the “To” field automatically into my MacMaineiac mailbox. I can further customize the rule to stipulate other differentiators, like Message Content, date received, or whether or not it has attachments.Next time: how to prevent emailer bloat.
|© 2008 Peter F. Zimowski|