Don't put mails in folders

by Volker Weber

Rael Dornfest tries something that I have been doing for years:

I've spent an inordinate amount of time over the years acting as librarian for my mail archive, manually sorting and sifting, carefully categorizing, and lovingly tending my history in email. After spending a little time with ZOE and thinking about the single archive methodology in Gmail (don't sort, search), I'm starting an experiment today where any mail to be kept for any reason I'll be dropping into a single Archive folder and relying on full-text and To/From/Subject-based searching rather than sifting through project-, person-, or mailinglist-specific folders. I'll check back in and let you know how I get on.

I can remember a Lotus Devcon (must have been 2001) where then-CTO Nick Shelness asked "Who is still putting mails in folders?" and the majority of people were still doing that. Both Nick and I had abandoned that a while ago, so I can safely say that I have not filed messags in folders for at least three, if not four years.


Interestingly, I've now changed my position somewhat. I still don't store email in folders as a means of finding it later -- search still remains a far better way of finding stuff -- but I do use rules/agents to assign incoming mail to different folders so that I can view it in context. This may just be a reflection that I now do a number of different things, and I'm effectively maintaining multiple inboxes in one mailbox, rather than employing multiple mailboxes.

Nick, 2004-04-14

I still use folders. But not so highly sophisticated as in the beginning of my mail career. Mails from mailing lists are automatically shifted to separate folders. But it's true that I do not categorize the remaining mails anymore. Searching is still faster than always thinking about which folder could be the right one for this special mail. However, you still need a trash folder to get rid of the spam mails, don't you?
(BTW, I'm not really happy with Apple Mail's spam filter. Too many "good" mails are declared as junk.)

Volker Berding, 2004-04-14

Hm, I still use folders and I'm happy with that...
The context issue which Nick has brought up is the main reason for me. And working in a Notes/Domino messaging environment, I use Siwftfile to ease the classification process. And I must say, I'm quite happy with that.
One thing I realized though, is that Swiftfile sometimes has troubles to locate the profile document which stores the settings if running on local replicas. The @DbName function seems to return a different filepath than the equivalent in LotusScript, one gives the absolute filepath, the other the relative (to the Notes Data directory). This can be fixed by an agent which copies all fields form one profile into the other (the filepath is used in the profile's name). Then it works like a charme...

But as far as my mail in folders is concerned, I wouldn't want to miss it, neither the folders nor Swiftfile.

Just my two cents,

Ragnar Schierholz, 2004-04-14

Ragnar, One of the problems with folders as a finding aid, with or without swiftfile, is that the role of a folder morphs over time. So, unless you are willing to go back from time to time to re-assign previously filed emails (and who has time for that) to a now more appropriate folder, you will find that you can't find what you're looking for, because where you would put it today is not where you actually put it 3 years ago. And yes, I do occasionally search for stuff that's that old.

Nick, 2004-04-14

I am not filing mails in folders but I still use them. There is one "Done" folder where I put all messages I no longer want in my inbox. The inbox is never longer than one screenful of messages.

I have temporary folders that hold messages for a certain event, like a conference. I delete the folder (not the messages) after the event.

On top of that I have four mail accounts: a general account vowe@... for all messages, a pr@... for press releases and a lists@... for others mailing lists. Finally I have which everybody gets who insists that I put a mail address on a form. That accounts is redirected to spamcentral a.k.a.

Volker Weber, 2004-04-14

I have tried folders initially but quickly gave up. Too much time spent on filing. I don't even clean up my inbox.

People who use folders are often having trouble, Domino/Notes updates can mess with folders and it's a hassle getting them back to work, in one case after a few attempts to recover the contents of the folders, I finally told the customer to make a choice: is it worth my time and the cost of further attempts to repair the folders?

Regarding Outlook folders, they are worse than a simple headache, they let users assume they have a real file directory, when of course they have not.

I am looking forward to Chandler and some new ways to organise our digital life...

Moritz Schroeder, 2004-04-14

Geez, I'm obviously sooo old-fashioned. I still use folders. I'm still happy with them and I hardly ever have problems finding the mails I'm looking for. Maybe I just don't communicate enough to have those problems ;-)

Lyssa, 2004-04-14

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