Tags, not Folders — A New Idea of Organizing Email

The first time I encountered tags was when I got my hands on my very first Gmail account (and that was when Gmail accounts were on a per-invitation basis only, and they were quite rare). Google called them labels, and it didn’t make sense to me because I had gotten so used to Yahoo! Mail‘s folder system that I found it quite unnecessary to have to file an email to more than one “folder” at any time…

 

Gmail's "Labels" feature at work
Gmail’s “Labels” feature at work. Courtesy of nhighberg

Regardless of the term, tags (labels) allow one to sort his/her emails under more than one topic or subject. In fact, this concept can be applied not just to emails but also to blogs and advertisements online. Back then, I could have organized my emails into family, college email, high school friends email, work email, etc., but there would be times when I would get into a dilemma as to where I will place an email just because it overlaps with my family and say, college-related email (i.e., UPCAT passers, congratulatory messages, the like).

With tags, it’s easier. You just pick out the “terms” you want to associate with the email items — no more need to decide under which will each item fall exclusively. And when it comes to having to look for certain email under a certain topic, you automatically have different sets of email that show up depending on the tag you chose, even picking out a couple of tags in several combinations to make the filtering easier! In fact, this is one way of going through blogs (like this one), where you would usually see “tag clouds” around (look at mine on the right side).

It’s great to see whenever email clients support tagging, especially nowadays when the folder system seems so outdated. I would have appreciated Outlook to support tagging in its earlier versions (like the 2000 version we used to have at the office). Good thing that our replacement mail server, Zimbra, has such capability, that allows it to interface with our [likewise new] email client program, Mozilla Thunderbird.

 

Mozilla Thunderbird screenshot showing tagging with the Zimbra mail server
This email isn’t filed under a folder named “zimbra”; instead, it’s TAGGED under “zimbra”!

It allows a user to have virtually countless folders without the clutter that will usually line up on the side pane. Although, one queer characteristic that Zimbra has is that it can only store a maximum of up to 63 tags only, a problem some people report that looks like this screenshot. This is a long-standing bug according to the Zimbra support site; unfortunately, I, along with a couple of other people who have more than 63 tags, have to live with it for now. Hope they get to resolve that soon, because personally, 63 tags is quite limiting once you get the hang of using tags.

This is a (not-so) new way of organizing your email. Change might be difficult, but this might help you organize your email better.

2 thoughts on “Tags, not Folders — A New Idea of Organizing Email

  1. Yep. Labels/tags/whatever-you-want-to-call-them are vastly superior to folders.

    But gmail needs to support the following type of functionality (which basically emulates sub folders):

    when applying tagA, apply tagB by default.

    you might have a ton of emails marked as “bills”
    and you might also mark each “bills” email with a more specific tag “electric” or “rent”

    this way you can filter “bills” to see all bills, or filter “electric” to see all electric bills.

    right now the only way to do this would be to add the tag “bills” FOLLOWED by adding the tag “electric” or whatever.

    if you could chain tags by default, it’d emulate all possible useful functionality of a folder structure in addition to all the added “tag logic” functionality.

  2. It would be great if this caught on more. It would be way more efficient if you could upload an email to the server (when you’re restoring lost emails, for instance), just once, and then tag it multiple times, almost immediately. Copies to different folders would be just as quick.

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