The problem with keeping your emails in a large file is finding specific messages again. Then, people create an additional folder, then two, and then it gets overloaded! You can use these techniques instead of folders to organize your file.
How and why label your emails?
We recommend simply archiving your emails. It is the best way to organize it so you don't waste your time moving messages to folders in your email client. You just have to put everything in a file folder. For example, in Gmail, simply click on the Archive button.
But, if you don't have folders, how do you organize your messages to retrieve them easily? The answer is simple: labeling.
The biggest benefit of using tags instead of folders is that you are not required to type one of your emails in a single folder. With labeling, you no longer have to decide if that email about a provider problem in a client project goes in the provider folder, the client folder, the project folder or the lessons learned folder.
Simply add the appropriate tags to the email, and then you can easily find it. Whether you want to find emails related to that provider, customer, etc.
If you are moving from a folder-based system to a single file, tagging is the key to finding things later. You can tag in bulk, so if you have a folder for a customer, you can tag each item with that customer's name before moving it to your file. In this way, you can be sure that it is easy to find it again.
Best of all, labeling is simple in almost all modern email applications. Even if you end up maintaining folders, labeling is so useful that we recommend doing it anyway.
Categorization and emails in Outlook
In Outlook, labeling is called "categorization." You can create as many categories as you want, assign them colors and then apply them to anything in Outlook. Emails, calendar events, tasks, notes and even contacts.
This not only facilitates the search, but also highlights the content of Outlook with a color. For example, if you create a category for a project and give it a specific color, for example purple. You can label each item related to that category.
Without reading anything, you will know that each of the purple emails, calendar event, task, note or contact is associated with that project. The categories have not yet reached the Outlook mobile application, so you must categorize the client or the web application.
By categorizing your email, you can categorize everything in a single folder by selecting all email (using the CTRL + A keyboard shortcut) and then selecting your category (or categories) of your choice.
You can even change the view of the File folder to group the mail by categories, which will mimic a folder structure. Then you get the benefit of tagging and the benefit of a folder view.
Tagging emails in Gmail
In Gmail, tagging is called "tagging" and it works both on the web and in mobile applications. As in Outlook, you can create as many tags as you want.
More or less, there is a limit of 5 thousand, after which Google says that you may experience performance problems, In addition, you can assign them colors. You can also create filters to tag emails automatically based on the criteria you want.
Tags have become an intuitive and integral part of the Gmail experience, mainly because you can't add folders. Therefore, get the labeling and see how your mailbox becomes a completely different and better place.
Dial in Apple Mail
Labeling in Apple Mail is known as "dialing." Unlike Outlook, it is limited to the seven existing indicators, so there is no way around it: Apple has not done very well here. However, in their defense, they push hard on smart folders.
Although these are not as simple or fast as labels, it is not a system that you can use to group your email. We cover smart folders and know they work, but of the three email applications we cover here, Apple Mail is the least suitable for a single file method.
Let's keep looking for emails
Whether you're using an email client (such as Microsoft Outlook or Apple Mail), a web interface like Gmail or Yahoo! Mail. Or an email application on your mobile, the search is your friend. Most of the time, a name or label (or a combination of both) will be enough to find what you are looking for.
You can search "Joe BBQ," for example, to find that email from Joe about the barbecue he will have next week, or "Project Alpha" to find all the emails tagged with "Project Alpha." But there are many advanced and easy: Search techniques to help you find those emails buried a little more in the stack of similar results.
Using Outlook Search
Outlook search capabilities used to be a bit incomplete, but those days are gone. Now, searching the Outlook client, the web interface or the mobile application is incredibly fast and accurate.
However, the client contains the most powerful search tools, so that is the place to go if you have a particularly refined or complex search query.
The search box is located on the main mail panel and is always available.
We have already covered how to change the search locations of the current folder to other areas of Outlook. You can also quickly find messages related to the current sender by right clicking on the message in your inbox. Selecting "Search related" and then "Messages in this conversation" or "Messages from the sender".
Outlook will find the previous emails in the conversation or from the sender and will show them to you.
If you do the same search regularly, you can create custom dynamic search folders to perform the same search each time you open them. These are particularly useful for finding new emails with specific keywords or particular properties, such as size, attachments or categories.
To perform a more complex search, you can use the "Advanced search" option. This is found on the Search tab, which only appears when you click on the Search box. In that tab, click on Search Tools and then on Advanced Search.
This opens the Advanced Search panel, where you can choose as many criteria as you want to search.
You can continue experimenting in the search
Use the More options and Advanced tabs to access additional criteria. The Advanced Search options are extraordinarily broad and use properties that you almost certainly did not know existed. For example, here is a look at "Advanced" and then in All mail fields from which you can choose.
You can use Advanced Search to retrieve any email from your file. It is quite fast, even with complex queries.
You should keep in mind that if you are using a Microsoft email account, Outlook by default only synchronizes the last 12 months of emails, but you can change this to include all your emails if you wish.
Use Gmail Search
As expected, the search for Gmail is fast and accurate both in the web interface and in the mobile application. There are a lot of keywords you can search for, such as "from", "to", "newer_than", "older_than", "label", etc. Instead of requiring you to remember all this, the web interface provides a drop-down filter.
On mobile devices, you can enter your search term in the Search box in the same way, but, at the time of writing, the filter drop-down menu is not available. You can still go to gmail.com and open your mail there if you need an advanced search on the go.
There is a complete list of Gmail search operators, all of which work both in the web interface and in the mobile application. If you can master them, you will be THE boss of Gmail in no time.
Using Apple Mail Search
Apple Mail does not have the same advanced Search capability as Outlook, but it has a significant advantage: you can search for emails with Spotlight. If you are a Spotlight user, you can search emails directly from there. You can also configure smart mailboxes, which look like Outlook dynamic search folders.
Between tagging and searching, you should be able to locate most messages fairly quickly in any email application. Outlook probably has the most effective tagging because it covers any item, not just mail, and the search for Gmail is second to none.
Apple Mail may not necessarily compete with any of these, but although its labeling is not excellent, the search and automatic filtering are quite good. So choose the right email application for you and start organizing.