Mail Act-On 2 Review

act on 2 header.png

I reviewed Mail Act-On last year explaining it is one of the most useful utilities on my computer. With the recent release of version 2, that hasn’t changed. For the uninitiated, Mail Act-On installs itself as a preference in the Apple Mail client. It allows you to assign keystrokes to repeated actions and rules when dealing with your inbox and, with version 2, outbox. For instance, after reviewing an e-mail, there are a limited number of things I will do with it. I will either deal with it and file it, put it in my “action” folder, or delete it. Each of these require me to drag the e-mail over and place it in the proper folder. This works fine if you don’t mind taking your hand off the keyboard and using the mouse to drag it over and if you’re accurate enough to make sure that you actually drop it in the right folder. For those who use hierarchical folders to sort their Mail, this can be even more difficult. No matter how you slice it, this process takes time.
Using Mail Act-On, I can simply create a rule that takes the highlighted e-mail and files it in a pre-designated folder with a simple key combination. For instance, on my Mac, if you press control F, the highlighted e-mail gets dropped in the “filed” folder and makes a satisfying “plunk” sound courtesy of Mail Act-On. If I wanted to get exotic, I could additionally have Mail Act-On highlight the e-mail green, create an automatic reply, mark it as read and perform a variety of other rule based actions. This is the beauty of Mail Act-On. You can selectively apply user-defined rules with a simple keystroke. You are limited only by your imagination.

act on 2 screenshot 1.png

This application has become such an ingrained part of my e-mail system, that when I first upgraded to Leopard, and the developer had not yet released a Leopard compatible version, I felt naked. Suddenly, I had to use my mouse and all sorts of other commands to accomplish what I was used to performing in one keystroke.
With the recent release of version 2, Mail Act-On is cleaner, faster, and sports several new features. The act of creating rules in this new version is much easier. The new interface gives you three views: inbox, outbox, and keystrokes. There are a many options for you to make things as simple or complex as your heart desires. If you use Indev’s other excellent Mail plug-in, MailTags, you can create Act-On rules that apply MailTags metadata such as keywords and projects.
Another nice new feature is the F1 key that allows you to, among other things, apply an existing rule, copy, or move an e-mail message even without benefit of a rule. You can pick the destination by simply typing a few characters of the folder name. When using the Mail Act-On menus, a new function allows you to lock them open. This is useful when you’re grinding through a pile of e-mail. Another improvement is the application’s memory of recent destinations so you can find your most recently accessed mailboxes quickly.

Act on 2 screenshot 2.png

Perhaps my favorite new function is the addition of “undo.” As fun as it is to quickly send your e-mail to a designated folder with Mail act on, it can be a real pain when you accidentally send a message to the wrong place. Act-On now includes an undo memory which allows you to reverse these mistaken actions and get back to the task at hand.
Act-On also now allows you to apply rules to your sent items box. If you like to keep your e-mail organized in nested folders, you can now create rules to automatically move your “sent” items to the appropriate file. This would allow you to keep everything in one place. Frankly, if you are that person, this function alone would make Mail Act-On worth the cost.
With the release of version 2, Mail Act-On now requires a license fee. It is currently at the introductory price of $19.95 but it will raise to $24.95. Having used this application for some time, I believe the price is fair. You can download a 21 day demonstration from the developer. Version 2 only works on OS X 10.5. An older version that is compatible with OS X 10.3 and 10.4 is still available.
If you find processing e-mail tedious, this application is a must-have. Once you set up your rules with Mail Act-On, you will receive immediate dividends of saved time and increased productivity.
You can listen to this review on Surfbits MacReview Cast 186.

Continue reading

Screencast 15 – email sorcery

apple mail icon.jpg

I just published my longest screencast yet. This one weighs in at 32 minutes and covers email management from top to bottom including such subjects as:
1. Pop v. iMap
2. Gmail v. MobileMe
3. Best Practices (managing your inbox and smart folders)
4. Spam
5. Archiving old mail
I put a lot of work into this one and I hope it is helpful. As usual, it is in Apple TV format. So what are you waiting for? Head over to my iTunes feed and download it.

Continue reading

Review – MailTags and Act-On

MailTag 1

One of joys of being a switcher is getting to know Apple’s remarkable suite of built in software. After spending 20 years of scraping bloatware off PC computers it is quite a paradigm shift to find that not only am I keeping the built in Apple applications, I’m actually using them.
This of course includes Apple Mail. Like everyone else, I have too many email accounts. Apple Mail handles these accounts like a champ. I’m not, however, one of those guys that use my Email inbox as a “to-do” list. I like to keep it empty and my mail nicely filed. Unfortunately, between taking care of clients, volunteering in the community, helping my wife with her business, my new-found friends in the Mac community and several other commitments, it quickly became obvious to me that I needed to get better organized with the daily piles of email.
Enter MailTags
MailTags 2.0 is developed by Indev and can be found at It is an add-on application for Apple Mail that shows up under the preferences window of Apple Mail.
Picture – MailTag Preference.png
The official release is version 1.2. This review is of Release Candidate 1 of version 2.0 which includes a great deal more functionality. The key to MailTags is, well, Tags. Like so many enlightened Mac applications this allows you to give an item multiple searchable labels. For example, I’m getting ready to spend a few afternoons in my daughter’s 5th grade class explaining how the judicial system works and helping them in their own mock trial (Did Humpty Dumpty fall because of an accident? Or was it Murder?) So with this project I’ve got a series of emails from the bar association, a friendly attorney, and my daughter’s teacher. I’m tagging these emails as “Humpty Dumpty”. But I’m also tagging some of them as “School”, “Bar”, “Legal”, and “Samantha” depending on source and context. Using MailTags (or spotlight) I can easily search out this collection or any portion of it. Put simply MailTags brings order out of the chaos that is my email archives.
Version 2.0 adds IMAP functionality with a special header or in clear text format so that any IMAP client can read and interpret the tags. Not only does this allow you to keep your tags for your various IMAP clients, it also allows you to search with Spotlight and send the tags with your outgoing mail. The program even detects when you change your tags and automatically updates it among your several clients. So with this update MailTags jumps off your local computer and into all of your IMAP mail applications.
In addition to the IMAP upgrade, version 2.0 makes several “workflow” improvements. Emails can be a launching pad for projects and you can create task list items and iCal events. For instance, when I received the email from my daughter’s teacher confirming the date of the Humpty Dumpty trial, I was able to create an iCal to-do item to write a keynote presentation and create an iCal calendar event for the presentation straight from the MailTags pane. This really ramps up the productivity and assures I won’t forget to do it later. As somebody who is constantly setting appointments and task list items from my email, this feature is worth the price of admission alone.
Speaking of the price of admission MailTags will cost $29.95 once version 2.0 is formally released which, from reading the web site, seems to be just about any day. In the meantime, while it remains in public beta, you can purchase a registration code for $25. Whether its $25 or $30, it is a good value in my opinion and I already bought my license.
Speed Things Up with Mail Act-On
Indev has a companion plug-in called “Act-On” . Indev accurately calls this program “inbox triage”. Act-On allows you to trigger Apple Mail rules with keystrokes. This allows me to quickly work through my in-box moving email to its appropriate archive. Act-On is open source but donations are requested.
I am also using this product. I have created several archive mailboxes in Apple Mail. They include subjects such as Business, Friends, Family, Legal and Mac related. I also have folders for mail that requires a more detailed response. That is it. With MailTags I don’t need complicated nested subfolders. With Act-On I’ve made a series of shortcuts that allow me, with 2 keystrokes, to file each email in its proper archive. The Act-On shortcuts are ridiculously easy to program, even for a non-programming arts major such as myself. I even put in a pleasant little “ding” when it completes each action which gives me a very satisfactory, yet somewhat irrational, smile.
Using these two programs I have a new, streamlined, way of taming my inbox. I read it, tag it, make to-do’s or calendar entries, and mark it for further reply or archive it with just a few keystrokes. Just like that. “Ding”. MailTags and Act-On supercharges Apple Mail. If you are having a daily battle with your inbox and can’t find anything a month later, I definitely recommend giving these programs a spin.
One last plug I’d like to put in for Apple Mail power users is an excellent website, Hawkwings. This is a site devoted solely to getting the most out of Apple Mail and really well done. If you are interested in more mail power tips, you should definitely take a look.

Continue reading