Dear lazyweb – what should I do with all this email?

I get a lot of email. I currently have 9 different email accounts spread across work and personal stuff, the important email all is IMAP (on my own server) with list mail being spread across gmail accounts and some POP accounts on my server.

Not only do I get a lot of email every day, I have a lot of email going back many years. I have an IMAP folder for each client of and some of those folders have now got so big the only mail client that seems able to cope with them is KMail on KDE, on OS X gave up some time ago. This is a problem as I need to be able to get into that mail, but I don’t want to download it all from IMAP as I like to be able to get at it from numerous locations.

My other problem with archiving my mail is that I have a curious memory for where things are. My email structure is a bit like my bookcase. If I’m writing something and need a quote from a book I will know exactly where on the bookcase the book is, and where in the book the line of text I need is. This works just fine until someone moves a book and I start to wonder if I’m going insane! Email is the same. If a client phones up and asks me about some project that happened 2 years ago, I know where in my folder structure and how many messages into the mailbox that email will be … I can see it. I’m afraid that moving the messages could throw my peculiar mental systems into disarray.

However I need to do something about the situation, as it has got to the point where I can’t open some of these mailboxes. Knowing the location of individual messages within them isn’t helpful if I can’t view the things. Also I would like to be able to give Drew access to the back history of clients prior to his joining the company last year, and much of that is tied up in my mail.

I can’t be the only person who has found themselves with this problem, so I ask the lazyweb – what should I do with all this email? My requirements are:

  • To be able to create an archive of the email in a format that still resembles the email structure so I can find things as I do now
  • The archive needs to be stored centrally on a server so I can get to it wherever I happen to be working
  • I would like Drew to be able to read and search this archive without needing to download it all
  • I don’t want a single platform solution, I work on a Mac at home and Linux in the office


David Joseph March 24, 2008 Reply

The ideal thing to do would be to think of an XML format for it (or find one) then get the mail out to some text format, parse it and spit it into a Database, then have it write out to the XML format, then write some XSL to display it. Those steps would be ok apart from the first because you’ll either need to get at the binary email or write some macro to loop through the mails in whichever client can display them, but if you could do it you need never worry about this issue again 🙂
Or you could import all of the accounts to a Gmail account…

David Joseph March 24, 2008 Reply

Ps forgot to say but both solutions could be arranged to give you the same structure as you have now – XML: just change the XSL to however you want it, Gmail add Tags.

Dennis April 10, 2008 Reply

GMAIL is the way to go – mail search is great – accessible from anywhere you can pull up a mainstream bowser – tons, or if you prefer, tonnes of storage space.

Here’s a link to a mail uploader that is suppose to work with any IMAP enabled mailer:

I haven’t tried it myself …

Now for my real reason for posting here – I LOVED your book “The CSS Anthology” and will purchase “Designing Without Tables Using CSS”.

Thank you for writing such a great book.

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