My Priority Inbox in Apple Mail.app

With the announcement of Gmail’s new priority inbox I thought I might share how I make my own priority inbox using Mail rules in Apple’s Mail.app. First this is not nearly as impressive as what Google has built, but when you have several email addresses and a filing system you like, using Gmail is just not that practical (at least not for me).

First let’s take a look at the rules I have:

Screen shot 2010-09-01 at 4.27.53 PM.png

News From Apple

The first rule is the basic rule that Apple gives you, it colors all mail from Apple as blue, I actually like that so I have kept it all these years.

Junk Mail Deleter

The next is a junk mail deleter, basically if Mail flags an email as Junk mail it then marks it read and deletes the message. Yes, it deletes the message, I may miss one or two emails a month because of this but I don’t care because the time savings are well worth it. Additionally if the message I missed was really that important someone will call or contact me via other means.

Backup Rule

This is for a few blogs that I run that email me a database backup on a regular basis. This rule finds those emails and marks them read and files them away for me. This is essential to keeping my inbox empty.

Urgent

This is a very basic rule that scans just my emails, looking for the word ‘urgent’ in the email body, subject line and like. Once it finds this it colors the message Red.

Verification / Confirmation

Same setup as above, but looking for verification or confirmation, then marking the message red and coloring it gray. I often shop while on the run, and I hate confirmation emails making me think I have 5 emails in my inbox, when really I only have one that needs attention.

Database Backup

Another rule for emailed backups.

Send to OmniFocus

This is added by OmniFocus for emailed task entries. It works, kinda.

CCd Bamboo

This is one of my favorite rules. Basically it is looking for my work email address to show up in the CC field, and then checking to see if my name appears in the message body. If my name is not in the message body and I have been CCd on the email, the email is then marked read and archived. I figure I will never need to read these emails, and if I do they are easy enough to look up or for someone to tell me later what they said. Saves a ton of time.

Important People

This is the group that I pay attention to, I have a group in Address Book.app that is labeled Important. In that group I have added all the contacts that I think are important and that I want to be sure I see their emails (my Wife, good Friends, family). Whenever one of these people email me their message is flagged. I sort by flagged and so these emails are always read and responded to first.

TBR Backups

Just another backup rule for this blog (I never get around to consolidating).

In Practice

I have been using this setup for a while now, and rarely do I run into problems. I am always making new rules and later deleting them if they don’t work. The CCd rule is the newest, and so far I am really liking it.

Now these rules are not made to help me on my Mac, but on my iPad and iPhone – for this to help there I must keep my Mac running 24/7 with Mail open so that it can process this stuff. Fortunately I do this with my Macbook Pro and Mac mini that I keep on all the time.

The real key here is keeping emails out of my sight, I don’t even want to see them if I don’t need to, and that is the basis I have used for creating all these rules.

[Updated: 9/3/10 at 7:11 AM] Be sure to read my update on my reasons behind this setup here.

[This part of an ongoing series on dealing with email, to see more posts look here.]

Originally posted for members on: September 1, 2010
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