What I've learned about email these past two weeks

What I've learned about email these past two weeks

We”ve not long migrated from Thunderbird to Entourage at work, which I was a bit hesitant about as I”m a big fan of Thunderbird and have used it quite successfully within my “Getting Things Done” system, plus it made managing emails really easy with the rules and labels that it offers.

So, what have I learnt about moving email clients?

All email clients are not created equal

Firstly, even Microsoft’s two versions of their email client for Exchange Servers (Outlook on PC and Entourage on Mac) aren’t equal. Entourage has a far more powerful task management system (or “Project Centre” as they call it) built in that allows you to link tasks, documents, appointments etc. I’ve not looked into it fully yet but it seems a lot better that Outlook 2003 (the last version of Outlook I used to use).

But, therein lies the problem! Thunderbird was sleek and simple (in fact I’ve just let my Dad loose with it and he’s had no problem!), Entourage has so many settings it’s ridiculous.

I can view my inbox by date received, group messages by categories, projects, size, account – you name it! This in itself isn’t much of a major problem but you have to set this on a per-folder basis, meaning that I’ve had to go through all 50+ or so of my folders and edit the view individually for each one! What a pain in the rear!

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Thunderbird and Lightning are very, very frightening

Frightening in a good way that is!

The task list in Thunderbird is excellent. I know people have complained recently that it’s quite intrusive as it’s always visible when you”re in your inbox but it was quite handy being able to see your day’s calendar items or task list in this area without have having to click through to another screen.

Outlook 2003 got around this problem by providing you with the “Outlook Today” screen, which I’ve previously discussed customising but this seems to be missing in Entourage, you need to click though to your task list or calendar to see what you”re supposed to be up to.

Consequently, I decided to try scheduling things that I needed reminders for at certain times in the Calendar (which I know is somewhat of a no-no in GTD circles) but that didn’t work either, which brings me to my next point.

Snooze functions should be banned

The annoying pop-up alarms are annoying at best but letting me continually snooze them so they pop-up more is silly.

Snooze Functions are Evil!

Make it difficult for me to put something off and I’ll be more inclined to do it there and then!

Plus, I’ve decided that tasks have no place on the calendar, they definitely need a dedicated list to go on. The only things that should go on your calendar are appointments.

Email notifications are evil

Thunderbird had a “quiet” little pop-up on my PC that gave me the sender’s name and subject. On the Mac, I could turn on a notification “bounce” or just have an envelope on the icon. In Entourage all of these functions are enabled by default! How in your face is that?

I get a popup with name and subject and a bouncing icon with an envelope. Talk about taking my focus away from what I”m doing!

Let me choose my method of notification, don’t throw it all at me at once! And don’t hide these options away in a stupid place!

Once your Inbox is empty, it’s so much easier to keep it that way

All of my inboxes are completely empty (yeay me!) and I strive to keep them that way. Nothing’s left in there at all it’s all filed or deleted as it comes in. I’ve noticed it’s a lot easier to do this using an email client than it is to use a web-interface, largely thanks to being able to drag and drop items easier on a desktop application.

Two questions for my readers:

Am I missing something in Entourage here? Maybe there’s a better way to deal with tasks? I’d love to hear if there is!

Also, I’d like to hear from you about what email clients you use. I’ve added a poll (RSS reader, you’ll have to visit the site I”m afraid!) on the right-hand-side for you to select your preferred clients.

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