C-Command Software Forum

Handling new mail (or I just don't get it)

I’m very excited by the possibilities of Eagle Filer–fast search, tagging, open formats–but I’m afraid I’m missing something basic about how to use it.

My typical Mail workflow is to keep my Inbox empty. I have a hierarchy of folders in Mail and I drag messages to the appropriate folder after reading them (and noting any needed follow-up actions in my GTD system).

With Eagle Filer I can import my entire hierarchy of mail folders and delete the messages from Mail. This works great and I get all the benefits of Eagle Filer for the archived messages.

But what do I do with new mail messages?

I can’t import individual messages from my Inbox to the appropriate folder in Eagle Filer, as noted in other forum threads. I tried importing my inboxes and then organizing the messages from within Eagle Filer, but that doesn’t seem to be supported either.

So is there no way to organize incoming mail with Eagle Filer? That can’t actually be true, can it?

I’m sure Eagle Filer is design to support your workflow, Michael. How do you handle organizing incoming email with it?

Hi Curt,

EagleFiler handles mail somewhat differently from the other file types. With Web pages, say, the idea is that you’re browsing in Safari or NetNewsWire, you come across something you want to save, and so you capture it into EagleFiler. You might put it in a folder or tag it to maintain some kind of organization. You might read the page at the time of capture, or you might read the Web archive in EagleFiler at some later date. So EagleFiler is letting you capture, organize, read, and archive the Web pages.

Mail is different because you probably have rules in your mail program to help organize your messages into different mailboxes, and you probably read your mail pretty much as it arrives. So for mail, EagleFiler acts as more of an archive.

Although you can always group messages in different ways using tags, and you can organize mailboxes however you want, messages don’t move between mailboxes. The idea is that the messages were already filed into their proper mailboxes in your mail client. By assuming this, EagleFiler is able to make some important optimizations to store your mail more efficiently and speed its browsing and searching. Although it’s possible, you probably don’t want to be bothered to import individual messages into EagleFiler every day. It’s easier to wait until you have some accumulation of mail that needs to be archived–a week or a month, depending on how much mail you receive.

The very first import is a little different, because it’s when I organize my mailboxes into folders in EagleFiler. The folder structure is somewhat different from that in my mail clients, since it’s geared towards how I will be browsing and searching the archived mail, rather than how I will be reading the incoming mail.

When I notice that my mailboxes are getting too large in Mailsmith or Mail, I import a bunch of them into EagleFiler and delete the original messages. Now, in EagleFiler, I have the older, organized mailboxes, and the newer ones, which are all at the top level. I want to get the mail from the newer mailboxes into the archive hierarchy. So I click on the Library source and sort by name. I find the pairs of old and new mailboxes with the same name and use the Merge Mailboxes command to combine them.

Result: the messages were moved from the mail client into the proper locations in the EagleFiler library.

There are lots of possible variations, of course. For example, if you get lots of mail in particular mailboxes, you might want to only merge up to a year’s worth of messages. That way you prevent an individual mailbox file from getting really large. And if you have a separate mailbox for each year, this makes it easy to search specific time periods–just select the years you want in the source list. I imagine that different people will find different techniques that work for them.

This thread is very interesting, as it changes the way I think of storing mail.

Right now, I use Mail as a mail viewer (and a frontend to spotlight search), my mail is actually stored on a IMAP server in .maildir format (which allows for easy backups and replication). Now, this maildir format is not spotlight searchable, and I end up with several copies of my mail in the machine running as IMAP server (on copy in IMAP and one as Mail cache).

Using a program like EagleFiler would be a good solution for this, but I have a couple questions:

  • In what format does EagleFiler store mail? Can they be easily imported again in another mail reader?
  • Can EagleFiler deal with a lot of mail? I have about 100,000 emails totaling 2 GB that I would want to import there.
  • Can I edit the emails? I have some old ones that were imported through different formats too many times and that should be corrected (wrong “From” addresses, wrong times).
  • Does EagleFiler understand MailTags? Right now most of my mail is dumped in a huge “archive” folder with some tags to help for later retrieval. Will these tags be preserved if I dump my mail in EagleFiler?

Thanks a lot.

(Edited: typos, and the MailTags question.)

EagleFiler uses standard mbox format, which is the only format that every mail program knows how to import.

Yes. I have tens of gigabytes of mail in my libraries.

EagleFiler doesn’t support editing of individual messages, although you can add data using notes. Of course, you could edit the files before importing them into EagleFiler.

The current version of EagleFiler will preserve the tags and annotations from MailTags. The next version will also preserve the project.

Wonderful, you’re winning me over :wink: (and I already own Yojimbo and KIT…)

The only (small) drawback that I see is that it seems impossible to manipulate mailboxes except by merging them. Do you plan on allowing the following (or maybe it’s already possible):

  • delete a message from a mailbox
  • copy a message or a bunch of messages from a mailbox
  • split a mailbox in two

They are all fairly related, and I see how I could do it with an external program, but it seems a bit heavy to import the mailbox in a mail reader, delete it from EF, split the mailbox in the mail reader, then import it back in EF (especially since notes might get lost in this cycle.)

Thanks again for your answers, EagleFiler looks nicer and nicer. (Any ETA for the version importing MailTags projects?)

I plan to support deletion. Splitting a mailbox and making a new mailbox using a subset of messages are not currently on the to-do list, but that’s because no one’s asked for them (and I haven’t personally needed them, either), not because I have any objection to those features. It would help if you could explain how you plan to use them.

Soon. :slight_smile:

I guess only deletion matters: I could copy a message out of a box, edit it, delete the old version, and import it back. Splitting a mailbox is not that important: most of my message will leave in some “mailbox” archive, and be tagged and annotated accordingly (which is what I currently do inside Mail, but it’s not fast enough for my purpose).


Thanks for the insight, Michael. I had missed the Merge Mailboxes command.

As an academic, it would make a lot of sense for me to archive messages at the end of every term. I’m currently approximating this by moving the folders for the past term deeper into my Mail folder hierarchy, but this really slows down Mail over time. I think Eagle Filer might be just what I’m looking for.

Next up, more experimenting with the tagging features…

I’ve added a FAQ with some information about how to manage e-mail messages.

EagleFiler 1.4 lets you store individual messages in folders and rearrange them.