CNXN has published a detailed tutorial on using Outlook without folders. It aims to overcome the drawbacks of folders — they obscure as well as organise, and filing things into them can take a lot of time.
Folders, it argues, are to blame for the following time-wasting and stress-inducing situations:
- This message relates to â€œTrainingâ€ and â€œExpensesâ€â€¦… better put a copy in each folder.
- I found the message but canâ€™t remember my response? Now I have to search my sent messages!
- Letâ€™s see, whatâ€™s a good folder name….. hmmmm….
- *&%$# it! Throw it in â€œTo Be Filedâ€ and file it later. (mental note: stay late on Friday, again)
- My folder list is HUGE! This is tougher to navigate than the emails!!
- Canâ€™t find it â€“ quicker to rewrite it.
- Folders, within folders, within foldersâ€¦â€¦..
The tutorial is based on a white paper (PDF ) from the Information School at the University of Washington.
Researchers at UW interviewed 14 people (most of them UW academics) about how they used folders for organisation and whether improving Desktop search utilities could convince them to live without folders.
In the main, the answer is no. Participants valued folders for security (don’t trust searches), for control (ensuring files are all in one place) and “understandability” (folders indicate the relationships between things).
Above all the researchers are convinced that hierachies (i.e. your Mail folders) have basic limitations. In a hierarchy each information item can only belong in one place, although it may have information relationships with many other items elsewhere in the hiararchy. More flexible or nuanced models of organisation (tagging, metadata) are required, they argue.
Hence a long tutorial on a folder-less Outlook, using colour and sorting instead for organisation.
A folder-less Mail.app is also easy to create. Mail Act-on can supplement Mail’s in-built rules feature by allowing to you to colour emails on the fly. MailTags offers the easy tagging of emails with metadata, which can form the raw data for Smart Folders or searches within Mail.
- What is a Smart Mailbox?
- Importing email from Outlook and Outlook Express
- Use MailTags and kiss your folders goodbye
- Importing Contacts from Outlook or Outlook Express
- Mail.app’s blue and white folders explained
Tags: Apple Mail, email, folders, getting things done, gtd, information retrieval, mail.app, organisation, outlook, Productivity