Make email suck even less (an update)

I wrote a post in 2009 called Make Email Suck Less in which I bemoaned the slow roll-out of Google Wave (heh) while offering a better way to manage email (stolen from inspired by Merlin Mann’s inbox makeover article) as a consolation prize.

Three and a half years later, the technique still works. I still use Gmail, and I still file incoming messages into “Action,” “Hold,” “Respond” or “Waiting” labels based on the action required to archive or delete them. My email doesn’t overwhelm me… inbox zero is the norm.

What has changed are the apps. Three years is an eternity in internet time. Here’s what I use now.

Mailbox for iPhone

List settings in MailboxI know, I know, this app has been hyped to the point of ridiculousness… but not without reason! If you’re unfamiliar with Mailbox, I suggest you watch the trailer to get a sense of its mad gestural skillz.

Mailbox automatically syncs its lists to Gmail as labels, which is awesome. The default lists are “To Buy,” “To Read” and “To Watch,” but you can easily make new ones or remove any you don’t need. (If you’ve been paying attention, you can probably guess which four lists I created.)

Once synced, all the lists you created will be nested in the [Mailbox] label in Gmail. If you’re as big a fan of Gmail’s Multiple Inboxes feature as I am, you’ll want to update its settings to reflect the new labels. (It’s up to you whether or not to bring [Mailbox]/Later into the fold as well.)

Gmvault for backups

In 2009, I used Postbox primarily to keep a local backup of my email. I abandoned desktop email apps entirely after Google introduced a much nicer compose and reply experience. This transition made backup a lot less straightforward.

If you’re not afraid to roll up your geeky sleeves, I recommend giving Gmvault a whirl. It retrieves all messages in IMAP-visible labels to a local file system in a non-proprietary format, with options to compress, restore, encrypt and more. All it’s missing is a GUI… but I’ll forgive it for such a technical task.

It’s a good idea to keep your backup up-to-date by running Gmvault regularly. Tutorials exist for doing this automatically in OS X and Windows.

Why I still care

From my original post: “Because email is a beast, a sickly mutant beast that eats at your productivity and requires specialized care no matter how you access it. This is what it takes to make me happy with it.”

I’m thankful for every technique, app or service that makes my inbox a friendlier beast to care for.

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