Productivity

RSB on Recently Viewed Mail Smart Folders

Daniel at Red Sweater Blog wrote an interesting post about using Mail’s Smart Folders to create a Recently Viewed Mail Smart Folder — seems like a pretty keen tip to me.

I’m giving it a try, and in addition to his Recently Viewed parameters, I’m also excluding it from a few mail folders that I’m unlikely to refer to as often, such as the folder where “Someone has replied to your topic/blog entry/etc” mail goes, and some mailing list folders.

Depending on how you filter and store email, that might not be necessary — or it might be easier to tell it to only look for Recently Viewed mail in certain folders, as opposed to not in certain folders.

Windows for the Future

I have a Windows machine sitting on the other side of my room, safely segregated from my working desk. I use it for work purposes occasionally: to deal with legacy files and to test stuff in IE, plus I play a few games now and then, and I prefer to keep them compartmentalized away from my work machines. Sometimes I use VNC to connect to it so I can play online poker from my Powerbook

Before I started using Macs — and, really, before I started using OS X — I think I actually enjoyed fooling around with Windows, to a degree. There used to be some level of fun in installing new video drivers to make performance just a little bit better, and in running all sorts of little applications to tweak my computer. Once I learned that doing stuff with the computer was cooler than doing stuff to the computer, I began to resent the never-ending stream of maintenance that Windows seems to require: relatively frequent security updates, virus scans [and updating the software and definitions], spyware scans [and updating there, too], defragging, and as many hardcore users will say, a full reinstall roughly every year.

I don’t have time for that. More importantly, I don’t want to spend that much time doing “work” to maintain a computer that doesn’t do much work for me — time I spend twizzling with Windows is time I can’t spend on something more profitable, constructive, or fun.

I bought the current Windows machine [a HP, it has an AMD processor, some RAM, and perhaps a very small donkey inside] in late 2004. I’ve been faithfully upgrading my virus scanner, my adware scanner, and I defrag it on a regular basis. I’m such a good little babysitter. I’ve never had a virus on that machine, never had “adware” more intrusive than a cookie, and all in all, the machine is still pretty stable [although slower than it used to be … something about “using it” that seems to make it slower.]

As of now, though, I’m stopping. I’ve set the virus scanner to run once a month, and to check for updates on the same schedule. I’m not going to run spyware scanning software out of habit anymore — only if I suspect Windows has become crudded up. I’ll upgrade the software firewall if it stops working for some reason or if I run into some sort of incompatibility, but I’m not going to touch it otherwise. Defragging? No. Scandisk? Only if I have reason to suspect the hard drive is failing. Windows Updates? Once a month, no more. I’ve turned off auto-updating in Firefox — the version I have works, and I have extensions installed that work. I’ll update them once a month if there are updates available. I am not even bothering to check if I could install Vista on it.

I’m going to set this up on a schedule: first Saturday of every month is “the day I am allowed to spend an hour — maybe two — dorking with Windows.”

At some point during the year I’m going to transfer as much of possible of the actual data on the drive onto an external drive, and back static data up onto DVDs. I’ll keep the external drive powered off unless I’m actively using it.

With minimal babysitting and sane browsing habits, I think there’s a fine chance of the computer staying relatively clean and useful for another year or two. At that point, it can go in the garbage and be replaced — or not — and I’ll feel fine about discarding something that I have so little investment in, and no valuable data on.

Super-fast Mail Act-On

If you use Mail Act-On to apply filters to your mail within Apple’s Mail.app, and you use one of your rules much more than any other, here’s a quick tip: assign the trigger key to the same key you use to invoke Mail Act-On. A quick double-tap of your chosen key can file mail 1.8 times faster than conventional Mail Act-On methods!

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Crash Dieting OS X Mail Attachments

Mail.app’s data takes up too much space on my hard drive. I know why — I’m an email packrat. I have mail dating back to 1997 on my other computer, and a lot of that mail includes attachments, because I’m constantly sending them: drafts for articles, layout drafts, art sketches, random pictures of last night’s snowfall … all sorts of attachments. And Mail.app saves those for you right within its own data files, so you don’t lose the attachment if, in the future, you delete the original file.

That means if you send a 1MB PDF to a co-worker, that 1MB PDF is now taking up 2MB+ on your hard drive; once in the original place, and once somewhere in the bowels of ~/Library/Mail/.

Side Tip: As soon as you hit the Choose File button, Mail saves the file you’re attacahing. So if you’re working on a graphic, attach it to your email, and then notice you made a typo, you must delete it from your email before you edit and re-save the document. Even if you edit and re-save overtop of the original file you attached, the first one will be sent!

Aside from taking up hard drive space, this is a potential security/privacy issue, as you may think you’ve deleted confidential files from your hard drive, but still have a copy saved with Mail’s data.

Thankfully, it’s relatively simple to get rid of all of those attachments, or at least re-save them all into a form where they’re more usable. That’s a potential reason to want to save attachments with your mail data — if you accidentally lose the original file somewhere down the road, you have them saved in your mail data and you can retrieve them. But really, that’s a last ditch resort that should be unnecessary given a backup plan, and we all have one of those, right?

Alright, let’s go through the steps to archive and delete these files.

1. Create a temporary directory on your hard drive, and inside that directory create directories for each mail account you have. You can get away with just one directory even if you have multiple accounts, but since my accounts often send files related to a single company, I can save sorting time by making these directories in advance and saving the files there.

2. Open your Sent folder, and select the first folder inside it. Turn off Threading so you can see every single email in it, and Select All, then File -> Save Attachments. Select the relevant directory to save your attachments in, and they’ll be saved in there. This step may take a little while and jack up CPU load.

3. With all your messages still selected, select Message -> Remove Attachments.

4. Select Mailbox -> Rebuild.

5. Repeat steps 2-4 with the next mailbox until you have none left.

6. If you just want to get that junk off your hard drive, burn all those attachments to CD and date it, then toss it in the pile of backup CDs full of random junk that aren’t useful and you’ll never use again. Or you can sort out the attachments, delete the ones you’ll no longer need, and safely archive the stuff that might be useful in the future.

You can, of course, do this on any other folder that you have mail in, including a Smart Mailbox — so yes, you can make a Smart Mailbox that only includes emails that have attachments, both incoming and outgoing, and simply save and delete the attachments from there. I tried this for all my incoming attachments, and it took roughly forever, but then again, I did have over three years of attachments built up, and I do find recent attachments to be useful when they’re in-line with the message, so you may want to set it up a smart folder that shows all messages with attachments that are older than, say, 90 days, and then archive and delete those, keeping attachments newer than 90 days in with your messages.

BTW, Mail helpfully adds a notice like “[The attachment file.pdf has been manually removed]” to each message you remove an attachment from, so if you need it to hunt it down at a later date, you at least know what you’re looking for.

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