Sam Brown

Sorting Email


I’ve been struggling to find a decent way to organise my Thunderbird Inbox for a long time now, and I can’t work out the best way to do it. I figure there are 3 ways to do this, and I haven’t really decided which one is best for me.. so, I use them all!


The obvious choice, and one I used from the start. But things get messy when, like me, you have lots of emails and lots of folders. In many cases, I have folders inside folders, (and rarely inside folders again). Friends for example, they generally get split up into their own folders, especially for those that email alot. Clients, again, have their own folder within the Clients folder. Then their are a few other folders for Important things on the top level.

Saved Search Results

This is a really great technique implimented into Thunderbird, and only something I have started to use recently. Basically it is as it sounds.. you create a search, and you can save the results as a folder. Ie. I have one called Emails from Chris , now we email each other a lot, things to do with work, hosting, servers, clients, bits and pieces, I have loads of emails from Chris. My Saved Search Result for Chris simply says, “for all emails that arrive in my inbox from Chris (insert multiple emails that he uses) show all results”. When I click on this folder I see all the emails I have received from Chris that reside in any folder.

Very similar to iTunes Smart Playlists, you can have some very complex Search Results folders, for example, I could have one with “emails from Chris, in the month of February with the body of the emails containing PacificMed”. This folder would essentially display all of the email correspondence I had with Chris when I was working on his stationary for his business. Very clever, and very fast!

GMail method: Search

My Inbox

The way Google thinks is most appropriate is searching, this can be seen in their GMail Webmail application.. no folders, just one gigantic inbox and an easy to use Search function. Thunderbirds search is equally easy to use and the results are 9 times out of 10 what you are looking for.

You may be wondering why I don’t delete all my emails, and the main reason is so that something, or someone doesn’t come and bite me in the ass and say “Well.. you said in your email you would do it for x amount”. This way, I have proof of what I said, and what they replied with, without fail. I don’t tend to do this with friends and family emails, but a lot of them are worth keeping my hands on.

So my question remains, what is the best way to sort emails? I don’t think I have a firm grasp on what the best method for me is, I’m no power email users, but things do need a good spring clean.

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Tek 3 April 2005, 20:20 #1

How, umm, weird to having my own folder. Hah, I must be special! :)

Sam 3 April 2005, 20:27 #2

Well, you are the biggest spammer in my inbox. I get more emails per day from you than I do SPAM emails!

That may not be entirely true, Thunderbird usually catches all the SPAM, but the nasty ones that do get through are few and far between!

Sean 4 April 2005, 07:36 #3

Is my unloved email in the ‘friends’ folder, Sam? :P

Sam 4 April 2005, 17:04 #4

Nope. It’s in the must reply to folder! :(

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Sam Brown co-founded Iterate, and was previously VP of Design at Foursquare. Based in NYC.