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Automate your Mac: 10 ways to make managing email easier

Christopher Breen, Katie Floyd, Dan Frakes, Matt Gemmell, Topher Kessler, Kirk McElhearn, David Sparks | Sept. 3, 2014
If there's one daily chore that cries out for automation, it's managing your email inbox. Fortunately, there are all kinds of tools--some built into Mail.app itself, others from third-party vendors--that can help you do just that.

Filter messages to specific address

Tool: iCloud As the author of Macworld's Ask the iTunes Guy column, I get lots of reader email, which is forwarded to an iCloud email address. Rather than filtering those messages with a Mail rule on OS X, I chose to set up a rule on iCloud. The main reason: I didn't want them cluttering up my iPhone. Server-side rules like this work on messages before they reach your inboxes, so they apply to all of your devices.

Sign into iCloud on the Web. Click Mail, then click the gear icon at the bottom-left of the window and choose Rules. Click Add a Rule. Set the first popup to Is Addressed To, and enter an email address there. (I use the address itunesguy@macworld.com, because messages are redirected from the macworld.com server to my iCloud address; you might want to use Is From instead, though Is Addressed To is a fine choice for messages from discussion lists). You can also choose a specific term in the subject to filter emails. In the Then section, choose Move to Folder, then select the name of the folder on the iCloud server where you want the messages to go. Click Done to save and activate the rule. — Kirk McElhearn

Email favorite tweets

Tool: IFTTT

As I scan my Twitter stream, I often see links to articles that I'd like to read, but can't delve into at the moment. Rather than saving them to Safari's Reading List or to a service like Readability, I prefer sending such tweets to my email inbox, so I can process their links later, when I have time. IFTTT lets me do this automatically; all I have to do is favorite a tweet.

To set that up, I first activated the Email and Twitter channels in IFTTT. I then set up the basic recipe: If Twitter, then Email. In the action, I accept the default email subject: Favorite tweet by @{{UserName}}. And for the body of the message, I also accept the default: {{TweetEmbedCode}} via Twitter | https://twitter.com/{{UserName}} | {{CreatedAt}}.

With that set up, I get an email a few minutes after I mark a tweet a favorite, with the tweet in the body, including the link to the article I want to read. It also gives me a record of these favorited-links messages, if I want to find an article again later. — Kirk McElhearn

Automatically file and reply to customer-support email

Tools: Mail, Sanebox, TextExpander I self-publish books through the iBooks Store. One thing I didn't realize when I began this side-business is that, because the books contain a lot of interactive elements, some of my readers would need customer-support. So I quickly developed an automated workflow that filters these emails to a place where they're easier to manage and uses text-automation to make replying more efficient.

 

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