Using Email Filters To Replicate Some Of HEY’s Approach

This isn’t a review of HEY, the new email service from Basecamp. I gave it a shot and while impressed, I opted to stick with my current setup (Fastmail). The main reasons I stuck with Fastmail was that I prefer having choice with which email client I use, and going with HEY requires you to go all-in on their mobile and desktop “apps” due to the unique nature of how they filter and display email. This means using any old IMAP client is off the table.

However, after giving the trail a shot for a few weeks, I took a fresh look at how much non-important mail I get every day. None of this is groundbreaking, but over time I let the signal to noise ratio of my inbox get way out of hand. I’ve used this opportunity to reclaim some sanity.

I already use the VIP mail feature on my phone and computer to allow notifications for a small subset of folks in my contact list. This keeps notification volume low, but HEY’s approach to screening out receipts, newsletters and other non-important email into their own areas of the app got me to thinking about how I could recreate this in Fastmail.

First up, I created a rule that sends newsletters to my Feedbin account so I can read them in my RSS reader when I’m already going through news. I simply add the sender address to a list and if it matches, it forwards to the special Feedbin email to add it to my reader and then deletes it from my email account. This had the great side effect of clearing up hundreds of old emails from my Archive.

Second, I filtered based on any email with the word Receipt in the title, as well as from some key senders. These get labeled as a receipt, marked as read, and put into a folder.

The one thing I’d like to be able to do is create a filter for first-time senders to allow me to quickly make a decision like you can with HEY. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to think of a way to do that without adding every sender to my address book, which I’d prefer not to do.

I’m hopeful that HEY’s approach causes email vendors to innovate more going forward. Ideally, Fastmail, Gmail and others could add similar functionality to screen emails from new senders and ask the user if they’d like to add the email to an existing filter, block them entirely, or create a new rule.

Ok, now what?

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