I’ve come up with a slightly complicated system for managing email, but one that works well for me. Most people are happy with just using Gmail or something like that, and if it works for you, great. But I have a few needs that Gmail won’t satisfy. I want my email sorted by category, automatically and accurately. I get a lot of spam and junk email and don’t want to have to see most of it, but I don’t want to miss anything that might get miscategorized as spam. I want to keep all my email on my main computer, but still want access to important email on my smartphone.
Here’s what I do. You can pick and choose among these suggestions, but it works best if you do all of them.
1) I have my own domain, which is something I recommend for everyone. It isn’t expensive, and gives you an email address you own, that can’t ever be lost against your will, as recently happened to people using Verizon email addresses. Even a Gmail address can potentially go away. If you want to use Gmail, get your own domain and forward that email to your Gmail account.
2) I use a different email address every time I register on a website, and set up my email account as a “catch-all” so I will get any email sent to my domain (
email@example.com), rather than having separate mailboxes for everything. For example, if I register on
xyz.com, I use the email address
firstname.lastname@example.org. This is very important for security. I can be reasonably sure that if I get an email from XYZ Corp. at the address
email@example.com, it is legitimate. Likewise if I get an email supposedly from XYZ Corp. but it comes to a different email address than
firstname.lastname@example.org, it is probably a phishing email. This protection works very well. Further, sometimes email addresses “get loose” when a company gets hacked or sells their email list. I can then change the XYZ Corp. account to use a different email address (say
email@example.com, or just cancel the account, and then route all email to the original address directly to my spam folder. Lastly, email addresses are one of the main ways that sites track people. By using a different one each time you sign up for something, you break the link that connects different sites you sign up with and that lets them track you between those sites.
3) I have an email client running on my main computer that downloads, sorts, and stores all email I receive to any of my various email accounts. I use an email client called “The Bat!” by http://www.ritlabs.com (yes it has an exclamation point in the name). The Bat! is very configurable, which makes it more complex than most other clients, but if you’re comfortable around computers you won’t have trouble figuring it out. It does cost money, but not a lot, and I think it is well worth the cost.
4) I use an email classifier called “PopFile” that works as a fancy spam filter, and assigns a category to every email I receive. I have a dozen or so categories, each of which gets routed to a different folder in The Bat!, and some of which get additional processing like being marked read, or having a copy sent elsewhere. PopFile works by intercepting POP3 traffic and processing it to determine what category it belongs in, and adding a flag to it which specifies the category. It requires “training”, but is probably 99% accurate once you’ve given it a few examples. You do have to correct it when it miscategorizes something, but that only happens with a couple of emails a day, and is very easy to do.
5) I have a separate Gmail account that I only use for copies of emails that I want to have available on my smartphone (there are a few PopFile categories that I consider “important”). The Bat! forwards copies of those emails to that Gmail account, and they pop up on my phone. I review them several times a day when I’m away from my computer, and delete them from the special Gmail account (remember that there is still a copy stored in The Bat!) when I’m done with them on the phone.
This whole procedure is kind of old-fashioned (few people still use POP3 for email) but it works for me and newer ways of dealing with email won’t do everything that this does. Enjoy!