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Tips for Managing Your Inbox with Filters and Scanners

written by: Hans•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 5/23/2011

Managing your mail accounts starts with managing your inbox. The second part of this series deals with technical methods, such as using filters and scanners, you can apply to improve your inbox management.

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    Order by Filter

    Filter functions are available in most Email accounts and most Email Clients (like MS Outlook, we mean all programs that are able to write, send, receive and manage mail). This enables you to sort your Emails using automatic rules. The idea is simple. Whenever you get an Email, it has characteristic attributes that can be used to categorize it.

    One wide-spread idea is to make folders for different classes of people you get Email from. One category may be "family" - set a rule that moves all Email coming from family members into this folder. If your family is made up of Email fanatics, you possibly should make sub folders for family with names like "mum", "dad", "Paul", "Susan", and so on. When doing so, don't make a rule that moves Email into the family folder. Delete this rule, and set up rules that filter in the refined way.

    Another folder may be "friends" where sub folders with names of your friends can be found where Email is sorted by the sender (your friend) and put into the correct sub folder. Summing up: Find a structure to manage your mail using folders as in the physical world, and create rules in your favorite Email client that sort the Emails into these folders.

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    Remove Junk and Spam

    There are discussions about the difference between junk and spam. For the purposes of this article, both are the same. One thing is important for your inbox management. You should always keep the junk and spam list of your Email program up to date! Automatic updates are available for most Email clients. Your online access to your mailbox often has a black list that can be used to improve filter efficiency against junk and spam. Help your provider to improve this spam filter technology to protect you even better.

    Monitor your Spam and Junk folders!

    Automatic filtering is a really cool thing, and today's systems really work well. Complex mathematics works behind the simple mouse clicks. But as everything has two sides, the same is true of filtering. One iron rule is: Don't delete junk and spam, move it into its own folder, and review these folders regularly a least once a week. Why read these folders when we filtered this mail out just to avoid reading? Quite simple: Having a look at your spam and junk folders is very a fast scan to ensure you're not deleting a message that was erroneously recognized as spam or junk, but is possibly a very important mail from your mother (every mail from your mother is important of course).

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    Ensure Data Security

    Data security has different components. When managing our inbox, you should think about backup (archiving, exporting, saving) and virus scanning each and every mail that goes in or out of your client. Make sure to:

    • Update your virus scanning program automatically at least once a day.
    • Ensure you have the most actual and best rated anti-virus software on your computer.
    • Never switch off your anti-virus system! NEVER!
    • Use a modern anti-spy system and keep it up to date (use automatic updates).
    • Use a modern, solid, well-adjusted firewall system and never (NEVER!) switch it off. Instead use the automatic update function to keep it up to date.
    • Ask professional computer experts for a check up of your system. Don't ask the geek at the corner. Ask real professionals who may cost some money, but this is nothing compared to losing all Email.
    • Make sure you really do check whatever goes in and out of your mail program.
    • Don't click on buttons when you are not sure what they do.
    • Use phishing filters when clicking on buttons in Emails.

    Using these simple tricks, your inbox will be kept fairly clean and safe. There is no guarantee for anything. There is always some dirt coming through the smallest hole. But there's a big difference between having a farm of viruses, worms and Trojans on your PC and having a risk of less than 1% that some problem enters your system.

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    Cleanup and Backup

    Last but not least, don't forget to clean up your inbox sometimes. It's simple. Delete all mails you don't need anymore. Really delete them, don't collect litter! There is an automatic function to clean up your inbox or your whole Email system. These functions normally use things like size of attachments, senders, and age of Emails to select which messages to delete. Clean up the rest manually. Try to do a cleanup once a week. If you can't manage that, strive for at least once a month.

    Remember to perform regular backups. Don't forget to safeguard your Emails! Automated backup systems do it for you.

Office Tools Management

This series deals with some beginners or users problems of every day business when using computers anyway. Have alook at it to get some idea on how to reduce trouble you may suffer from every day.
  1. Organizing your Inbox
  2. Tips for Managing Your Inbox with Filters and Scanners