Review of MailTags

Here’s the review of MailTags from indev software which I did for Allison Sheridan at the Nosillacast Podcast hosted at podfeet.com. This is a follow up to the review of their Mac OS X Mail application plug-in Mail Act-On. Mail Act-On lets you go through your e-mails and process them quickly - filing, copying, tagging. Did I say tagging? Well, here’s where their plug-in MailTags comes into the picture.

MailTags is a Mac OS X Mail application plug-in much like Mail Act-On. It’s from indev software at indev.ca. What MailTags does is it lets you add tags to your mail messages, and much much more.

So - as always, what’s the problem to be solved? Haven’t you wished that you had a magical means of making expired e-mail vanish? I mean aren’t there messages from stores containing expired coupon codes and shopping offers which are buried deep within your folders taking up precious space on your hard drive? Well, MailTags gets you that capability. In addition, for all you ardent fans of the Getting Things Done methodology, MailTags will lend a hand in identifying which of those messages in your folders are actionable, reference material, things for review, for example. You could of course file the message away in a folder say for reference material but what if it’s got more than one aspect in its identity - it’s reference material but for a given project and you need to read it by the 30th. That’s where MailTags comes in.

What’s a tag you ask? MailTags calls these keywords which you can attach to an e-mail message to remind you of what that message is about - for example it’s an action, it’s to read later, or it’s about photography. This is akin to assigning categories to blog posts or keywords in Aperture. For example, when MailTags is installed, it automatically adds the @Action, @Reference, @Followup, and @Review keywords by default - and you can apply these to categorize your e-mail in one of those Getting Things Done classifications. You can also assign more than one keyword to an e-mail message, as well as create your own keywords on the fly.



The keywords created in MailTags can be used in Mail’s Smart Mailboxes. Whoopee! Now I can create a Smart Mailbox which will list all my actions and items for review, even if they’ve been filed in different folders.

To make a Smart Mailbox, I go to the New Smart Mailbox menu item in Mail’s Mailbox menu and up pops a Smart Mailbox dialog. I give it a name, such as @Action, and then pick MailTags Keyword from the leftmost popup, Is Equal To from the middle popup and @Action from the last popup. Immediately a Smart Mailbox called @Action is created and lists all my e-mail messages which I have tagged with the @Action keyword. Neat!!



But wait, there’s more you can do! If you use MobileMe, IMAP, or MS Exchange 2007 - you can save your Mail Tag data for your messages to the server. This is neat - you’ll have the tags on all your Macs’ Mail. No, it doesn’t work on the iPhone since the iOS Mail app doesn’t allow extensions. One caveat, GMail’s IMAP won’t save your Mail Tag data - I hear its IMAP implementation is not quite standard.

Keywords are one thing.. How about adding dates? MailTags lets you associate a date to the e-mail message - this is the tickle date. As with keywords, you can build a Smart Mailbox which looks at these dates. So for any time-expirable messages, I use a MailTags keyword called “Expire On” - I apply that and add a tickle date which I set to the expiration date for that message based on its content - for example the date when an offer expires. Now I have a Smart Mailbox called “To be deleted” which collects messages that have the “Expire On” keyword and whose tickle date is earlier than today. This Smart Mailbox will now contain all the messages which have expired. Automagically. It’s like opening your refrigerator and saying... hmmm... what can I throw out. Except you don't have to look at expiration dates, thanks to power of the Smart Mailbox. I’m really taking to all these Smart doodads in Mac OS X - be they Smart Folders in the Finder or Smart Playlists in iTunes - there’s so much you can do with them.



Apart from Keywords and Dates, MailTags also lets you associate a project from a predefined list with the message. You would use this to quickly gather all the e-mails pertaining to a particular project (Smart Folders, anyone?) And finally MailTags also lets you set a priority and attach notes to the e-mail.

Here’s the best part - what you do using tags, dates, and projects with e-mail messages, you can do likewise with Mail Notes and RSS Items. MailTags also integrates into the Mail ecosystem by letting you use Mail Search, and even displaying a column in the e-mail list view to indicate if a message has been tagged. And for all you who need keyboard equivalents - MailTags has them for almost all of its primary commands.

Now, how do I use MailTags? Here’s an example of one of my workflows. Whenever I go through my Inbox and notice that the message refers to an offer expiring on a given day, say on March 28, I hit Command-Control-M. This slides out the MailTags panel from the right hand side of the mail message. You could also click on the Tag icon in the upper right corner of the mail message to open the panel.



Looking at the MailTags panel, the topmost pane lets you select Keywords (and enter new ones) and associate a project with the message. The next pane down lets you pick a tickler date and assign a priority. Finally you can colourise the message and enter notes. So in my case, I’ll pick the “Expire On” keyword, and enter a tickle date of March 28. I can throw this message anywhere in my folder hierarchy, safe in the knowledge that when its time is up, it will appear in my “To be deleted” Smart Folder. The tag icon now turns dark and a little tag appears in the mail list against the message to indicate that you have tagged it.

Other neat things about MailTags is that it’s Applescriptable, can be incorporated in Rules, and uses OpenMeta tags. It even integrates with Getting Things Done programs such as the OmniGroup’s OmniFocus. I’ll need to see if I can do the same with Cultured Code’s Things.

Here are the details - MailTags is available from indev software at indev.ca. There’s a 30 day free trial - after which it costs just $29.95. There’s a special bundle deal with Mail Act-On for only $49.95. Remember that Mail Act-On by itself costs $24.95. MailTags, Mail Act-On - the dynamic duo of mail processing! You’ll wonder how you manage to get along without it.