Tuesday Tool Tip: Otherinbox’s Organizer

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There are several different flavors of tools floating around the web who all promise to solve all your inbox problems and enable you to achieve greater efficiency in managing your email.  One of the more promising applications is the Organizer by Otherinbox .  I was intrigued by its claims and the wide variety of email platforms that it will handle.  I was hoping to introduce our readers to a wonderful email handling solution, so I decided to give it a try.

I installed Organizer on both my Yahoo and Gmail accounts.  (It also runs on AOL and iCloud.)  While these accounts were not linked, I made the mistake of first creating my Organizer account when installing the service on my Yahoo account, and then adding an installation on my Gmail account without creating a totally new Organizer account.    Within a short time I realized that only one daily Organizer email was being sent to my Yahoo account and it combined the folders (tags) created in BOTH Gmail and Yahoo accounts.  This could have been cool, but upon clicking on the organized Gmail items in the summary memo, the system was confused, first asking me to log into Gmail, but still being unable to link to the specific email showing up in the Organizer summary email. This was frustrating.  I do not recommend linking more than one email account to this service for that reason unless you are able to create two separate Organizer accounts.

Upon installing, Organizer started working right away.  Don’t install this service until you are able to work outside your email on other projects for several hours as Organizer will be trying to sort and file your current inbox.  For me, those inboxes were substantial and Organizer sorted what it could, but I never achieved anything close to a zero inbox, though I have worked with the system, tweaking folders, adding folders, “teaching” it where to file certain email addresses, etc.

I discovered a number of Pros and Cons to Organizer during my experiment:

 Cons:

  • My installation doesn’t distinguish between Gmail and Yahoo emails being organized.
  • Since it works on email address as the sort key, trying to send emails to different OIB folders will confuse the system.  Likewise, once you send an email to an OIB box, you will need to be prepared for all subsequent emails sent from address to be automatically put into that box.  This seems like an obvious characteristic of creating a filter, but one that I had not thought through with regards to consequences.  I did not realize how often I made evaluations and treated emails from the same address differently…whether that meant saving, filing or deleting them. For example, I have a number of FeedBlitz emails from various feeds.  I would not optimally sort all of those together into the same folder since they are on different topics.  You can remove an address from Organizer’s sort list and send it back to your inbox, but if you hand file a lot of emails into OIB folders once you review them, Organizer will “recognize” the email again and start sorting that address to the last OIB folder location you chose.
  • Organizer’s Daily Digest is its summary notice of emails that the system has filed.  I like the format of this email as it lists every email it has sorted since the last time the Digest was published.  I have not been able to nail down how often during the day Organizer actually scans my new emails and files them.  I have seen emails normally sorted still in my inbox in the mornings at times, but also seen emails which arrive during the day go to my OIB file folders before I see them pass the inbox as well.  This is a little confusing to me since I end up checking the individual OIB folders anyway if I want to be sure I don’t miss emails that arrive between the delivery times of the once daily “Daily Digest”.
  • My organized mind still feels the urge to “clean out” the OIB folders of “junk” that I don’t want to hang onto once I’ve seen it.  I have discovered that I already had been doing a pretty good job of quickly sorting emails as they come in. While it is nice to have all Shopping emails together in one place when I want to purge/sort, it is still somewhat irritating to have to go through each folder.
  • After a month, I find I’m getting tired of teaching and correcting Organizer.  It is doing a lot of things well, but there is still clutter and misfiled emails to correct/consider. I’ve started wondering how much time it is actually “saving” and how much time it is “costing” me.

 Pros:

  • It is easy to create and customize folders/tags for Organizer.  Just create a folder or tag with the folder name you want and begin that name with “OIB “.  I created “OIB Astronomy”, “OIB dogs”, “OIB authors”, etc. and then placed the emails in each of those folders as appropriate.  Organizer “learned” from my example and then sent all subsequent emails from those addresses to the new folders.
  • I like that expired offers (shopping in particular) are automatically deleted from the folders after several days.
  •  The most significant plus for me is that Organizer has made me think through how I deal with email and given me several good ideas about possible filters I would (or sometimes would NOT) want to set up on my own.  I can apply these lessons to my work email box and other accounts that Otherinbox does not currently support.

VERDICT:

I will be disabling Organizer from my email accounts in the near future.  I have found that I prefer using my own foldering system that I do my hand.  Experiencing Organizer has made me think more about filters that I would find helpful.  I will probably create a few of those for specialized categories of emails, but I’ll be using the filtering features of my individual email accounts instead of another outside application

Don’t just take my word for it! If Organizer intrigues you, try it out for yourself.  Even if you do not find it to be the tool for you, I can guarantee that it will make you consider email organization in a new way.  Or if you have found another email organizer tool, tell us about your experiences with it, good or bad.

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