Kicking Apple Mail Up a Notch

by Boyd on August 18, 2010

Apple’s built-in Mail client is great for most users “as is”, but some small business operators may want additional functionality and features.  Staying organized, managing your email and Getting Things Done can all be more efficient by adding features through Mail’s plugin architecture.  Here are a few of our favorite tools:

MsgFiler

This is a small, popular plugin that offers pretty much everyone a quick boost to workflow efficiency.  It only does one thing — with a single keystroke you can bring up a window to quickly file messages into any one of your mail folders.  Believe it or not, this is a huge timesaver compared to drag and drop, especially when you’re working on a laptop and have that trackpad to contend with instead of a mouse.

Unlike Mail’s built-in smart mailboxes functionality, which allows you to view your email based on certain criteria, MsgFiler lets you file any selected messages quickly and easily.  The plugin is shareware — your $8 purchase price removes the initial alert when using the application.

Mail Act-On

Mail allows you to define rules that are applied when a message is received.  Mail Act-On takes email management a step further — by allowing you to define keystroke combinations that will perform any action you’ve defined on a particular message.  Do you regularly forward messages to an assistant or colleague?  Move messages to an application such as OmniFocus?  Post them on a company website?  Log them into a trouble ticket system?  With Mail Act-On you can automate any of these actions (and any others you can dream up) with a single keystroke.  This is great for GTD and “Inbox Zero” adherents who maintain ACTION and ARCHIVE folders and invariably assign emails to one or the other as they read them.  It’s easy to set up without getting a programmer involved, and the developer offers lots of great tutorials.  Mail Act-On is free for 30 days and then $24.95 to register.

MailTags

If you’ve ever appreciated the ability of Outlook or Entourage to associate messages with projects, add comments and other tags to email messages, you’ll love the MailTags plugin.  Offered by the same developer as Mail Act-On, this plugin easily and efficiently allows you to tag messages with projects, comments, etc., and to find your added metadata with Spotlight.  You can add reminders, contexts (great for GTD) and due dates, then create smart mailboxes for any of the tags you’ve created.  Mail Tags will also automatically apply tags from earlier messages when you get new emails in the same thread.  It integrates with EagleFiler, OmniFocus and DevonThink so that when you move a message into one of those applications the tags remain in place.  MailTags is free for 30 days and then $29.95 to register.

Bonus Tip

Speaking of email productivity, we wanted to offer one other tip that’s saved us hours.  Do you ever deal with clients or vendors whose mail servers keep packaging their messages to you as winmail.dat files?  Invariably the solution offered by the client is for you to work with their IT department to get the problem fixed — typically a real time suck.  A simple solution?  TNEF’s Enough, a little utility that easily decodes these attachments.  Simply save the winmail.dat file to your Desktop, launch TNEF’s Enough and open the winmail.dat file from the utility’s File menu.  Ta da!  You get a readable attachment and don’t have to waste your time pestering your client.  TNEF’s Enough is freeware.

More Plugins and Resources

Hawk Wings is a great place to find plugins, tips and other helpful add-ons for Apple Mail.  All of the plugins we’ve discussed in this post are listed on this site, as well as many others, all with a nice description of what they do.

Have you found other tools that increase your productivity with Apple Mail?  Let us know in the comments!

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