Busy/Quiet Period 2, and email

Now that Christine’s back from overseas, I seem to have entered another busy/quiet period. In the last week we have had Z’s birthday (he’s now a precocious three-year-old), Easter, our midsemester break, various small house renovation things, and catching up on previously unattended email. (The inbox is down to two items as of this afternoon, both of which came in today, so that’s going fairly well.)

On the topic of email, it’s been interesting to see how the topic of email filing practices is in the aether, now that Gmail is there, tempting you to archive all of your email and use search to get at it, instead of filing it away in different folders. My own email folder hieararchy is slowly spiralling out of control: the act of asking “where should I file this?” (and answering it) is becoming stressful, and burrowing through folders to find things (did I put it in the Teaching folder orthe Admin folder or…?) is tedious. I am tempted to ditch the folder hierarchy completely and stick everything in an archive folder and let the pretty competent search box in my mail client dig up what I need.

But I won’t do that yet. I’d like two features I currently don’t have in my mail client.

  • Labels or categories: I want to label all of my correspondence to do with the AJL (to pick a salient example) with an “AJL” label, so that I can pull them out when I want to see all of my AJL correspondence in one pile. (Not all AJL email contains the text ‘AJL’, so searching for it does not necessarily help.)
  • Configurable Views: I’d like a “virtual” folder of everything labelled “AJL.” When I’m collaborating with Person X, I’d like a virtual folder containing of all of my email to or from Person X. And so on.

Now, different mail clients out there have some combination of these things. The scary thing, when I think about it, is that what I’m asking for is iPhoto for my mail archive. (Though without the rating feature. I don’t think I need to rate my emails from 1 to 5 stars!) Maybe Apple will add these features to the venerable Mail application. Maybe someone else will build a robust mail client for Mac OS X with the combination of fast content-based search, arbitrary labels and configurable views. If you hear of one, please let me know. My 660MB ~/Library/Mail/ folder and I will thank you.


I’m Greg Restall, and this is my personal website. I am the Shelby Cullom Davis Professor of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews, and the Director of the Arché Philosophical Research Centre for Logic, Language, Metaphysics and Epistemology I like thinking about – and helping other people think about – logic and philosophy and the many different ways they can inform each other.


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