Mail Act-On 2 Review

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Bento Syncing Done Better

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Awhile back, I posted a tricky little Applescript I made to make syncing the Bento database easier. I was so busy patting myself on the back that I completely missed a much more elegant solution. Thankfully reader Neil shared it in the comments. It was so much better that I decided to give it a separate post. As Neil explained …
I have a somewhat simpler approach (I think). All I did was copy my Bento folder from ~/Library/Application Support to my iDisk folder. Then I deleted the Bento folder and replaced it with a symbolic link. That way, when I start Bento, it looks in ~/Library/Application Support/Bento and is redirected to the copy on my iDisk. That way, it is always synced between the local computer and iDisk whenever I sync iDisk.
When it comes to computers, simpler almost always equals better. Neil, I bow my propeller beanie to your chocolate covered Mac-ness.

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Bento Syncing with Applescript


As I continue my attempts to synchronize using two Macs I have run into a wrinkle. My database application, Bento, does not sync. Since I’m only using one machine at a time, and the address and iCal data is already synced, it works fine if I just copy the database file between computers when switching. The trouble is that Bento insists the database be located in my Application Preferences/Bento folder so it is a pain to drill to it and copy it over to my iDisk. This seemed the perfect excuse to try my Applescript chops. So here is the script:
set SendOrReceive to button returned of (display dialog “Hey Sparky, Sending or Receiving?” buttons {“Sending”, “Recieving”} default button 2 with icon caution)
set LocalBentoFile to POSIX file “Users/david/Library/Application Support/Bento/bento.bentodb”
set iDiskBentoFile to POSIX file “/Volumes/iDisk/Documents/Bento Data/bento.bentodb”
set LocalBentoFolder to POSIX file “Users/david/Library/Application Support/Bento/”
set iDiskBentoFolder to POSIX file “/Volumes/iDisk/Documents/Bento Data/”
tell application “Finder”
if SendOrReceive = “Sending” then
duplicate LocalBentoFile to the folder iDiskBentoFolder with replacing
duplicate iDiskBentoFile to the folder LocalBentoFolder with replacing
end if
end tell

This script asks if I’m sending (to iDisk) or receiving (from iDisk) and then copies the file in the right direction. I thought about making it more automatic by comparing dates and duplicating the newest version in both places, but decided I want to have control over what direction the sync is going.
If anyone out there has any ideas for improving it, let me know or leave a comment.

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A Lawyer’s Take on Macworld 2008


In addition to being an affirmed Mac geek, I am also a lawyer. So as I spent the last several days talking to developers and roaming the halls of Macworld, a few things in particular got me excited about practicing law with my Mac.

Macbook Air

Apple’s new machine is a real eye catcher. It is just three pounds and manages to keep a 13 inch monitor. While this would be really nice for the roadwarrior or running around in depositions and trial, the $1800 price tag makes me look twice. If you really need thin and are willing to sacrifice a bit of functionality (no ethernet or firewire) you may want to check it out. I’m sticking with my Macbook Pro for the time being.


For those of you former PC users who miss having DragonDictate in your toolbelt, fret no more. I was never a big fan of iListen, but the folks at at iListen recently acquired the license for the Dragon recognition engine for use on the Mac. Their new product, MacSpeech Dictate will be releasing next month and looks fantastic. I spent about an hour at their booth and am very impressed. I also watched David Pogue fawn over it as it produced very accurate and quick results.
I wasn’t alone in my opinion that this product will change things. It was one of the “Best of Show” award winners by several publications. Put this one at the top of your list for productivity boosters.


I’m a big fan of the Omni Group applications. I use OmniOutline, OmniPlan, and OmniGraffle to manage much of my caseload. I got in early on the beta of their OmniFocus task management application and it was just released as a 1.0. This application is fantastic for keeping all the plates in the air. I did an extended review of it at
I talked to the folks at Omni and they are going to do everything in their power to get these applications on the iPhone once the iPhone SDK releases.


For the small offices that don’t need the expense of a server but want to sync iCal calendars between multiple desks, there is a great little application called BusySync. For a cost of $20 per computer, you get seamless bonjour and net syncing between machines. They have a new version due out soon that will also allow for Google calendar syncing.


FileMaker is the best application for database intensive solutions. If you are running a small practice, FileMaker’s smaller application, Bento, looks really robust.

Billings and Daylite

Marketcircle continues its place at the top of small office management software. They had a nice booth and made regular presentations. I was unaware of some of their interesting add-on products like Daylite Delivery and the FileMaker connector. These guys fill a very particular niche.

Fujitsu ScanSnap

I love my Fujitsu ScanSnap. It is a reliable, fast scanner with a small footprint. Now they have a portable version, the S300M, that retails at $295 and looks perfect for those depositions on the other side of the country.

Smart Board

Smart Technologies has a very impressive device you install over your LCD television that allows you to create a virtual white board like you are John Madden. The price point is steep. I was told “around $5,000” but it sure is nice.

Storage – Drobo and TimeCapsule

While TimeCapsule is aimed as a consumer device, 1TB storage with a built in wireless “N” router is a pretty attractive product.
I was also impressed with the Drobo that allows you to drop up to four swappable drives in with no headache. Interestingly, if you pull out a drive while it is running (or if the drive dies), Drobo automatically moves the data around to protect its integrity. The Drobo device costs $500 without any drives.
For all of you Mac lawyers, I highly recommend visiting Macworld sometime when you get a chance. Not only will you find some great tools for your practice, you’ll probably have a good time while you are at it.

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New FileMaker-lite Product Bento


Today Apple owned Filemaker announced a new product that appears to be a lighter version of their relational database. There is a public preview that will work until the product release in February 2008. I’ll give it a whirl and report back here. If you are interested, you can download it here. I confirming email is now 30 minutes overdue so I suspect their server load is pretty large today. You can also get more information at the TUAW entry on it right here.

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