Power-User Email with the Sidekick
I bought a Sidekick 3 yesterday and quickly discovered that the device's email functions--is there any nice way to put this?--totally suck. While it supports POP and IMAP, these features don't work effectively.
I've figured out a good email workflow with the Sidekick, however, which integrates my existing email accounts and avoids the shortcomings of the Sidekick. Warning: this is for email über-geeks only. If you've never heard of procmail before, flee in terror now.
Twisted but Effective
For those of you still reading, here's my email setup: I have a couple email addresses that have been public for years, and thus get spammed often. I need to review email that passes spam filtering there, but it's not urgent; I call this my "public inbox." I have another email address where friends send stuff to; this is my "primary inbox."
Now, ideally, I'd just set up the Sidekick to use IMAP with my primary inbox. This doesn't cut it, for the following reasons:
Sidekick IMAP just downloads mail, it doesn't sync with IMAP in the way a real IMAP client does. This makes it next to useless (right alongside POP) for managing email across multiple clients.
Sidekick IMAP and POP appear to only check your accounts every couple hours; reports vary widely on this, some have seen delays up to eight hours. Clearly not acceptable. The tmail.com account you get with the Sidekick, however, pushes mail to the device almost instantly.
Given these limitations, I devised the following twisted but surprisingly effective scheme:
The Sidekick is set up as follows:
- Account #1: tmail.com (the one provided with the Sidekick)
- Account #2: IMAP+SSL to joshcarter.com account:
- "Collect email from this account:" off
- "Copy outgoing messages:" BCC joshcarter.com
- "Primary account:" joshcarter.com
Email going to my joshcarter.com address gets filed in my primary inbox and copied to tmail.com, which delivers to the Sidekick within seconds. I can read the email there and then delete it. I don't bother filing anything on the Sidekick--I just hit menu-x and it's gone.
If I reply to email on the Sidekick, I set the "from" address to my joshcarter.com account. This setting remains the default for future messages. The BCC back to my primary account triggers the procmail rule to file under Sent Messages.
Here's the important part: people sending me email never see the tmail.com address anywhere--they send to my primary account, I get it instantly, they get a reply from my primary account, and I have copies of both the original message and the response on the IMAP server. Furthermore, this solution is entirely push-driven; at no point is any server pounded with queries for new messages.
All filing from the inbox is done through a real IMAP client later, but this only takes a few seconds (see below).
Just Gimme The Procmail Recipes
Here are the important parts from my .procmailrc:
# BCC'd messages from HipTop go to sent mail. :0: * ^(From).*firstname.lastname@example.org ."Sent Messages/" # Not to my primary address? Goes in public inbox. :0: * !^(Cc|To).*email@example.com ."Public Inbox/" # Everything not processed yet goes into to the normal inbox. # Plus, send copies of msgs under 100k to tmail.com account. :0 c * < 100000 ! firstname.lastname@example.org
Other Email Management Tidbits
These tips aren't specific to the Sidekick, but while you're dinking with your mail system, they're worth considering:
Change your primary account yearly. No matter how private you keep your email address, somehow it's going to wind up on spam lists. I use the current year YYYY@joshcarter.com. When the year rolls around, I set an auto-reply on the previous year asking people to update their address book, but I still let messages through to my inbox. A couple months later, I can disable delivery of mail for that address.
Don't bother with fancy filing. The effort required to categorize and file messages into separate folders isn't worth it. Once a message doesn't require further action, I file it in my "Read" folder. If I ever need it again, that's what search is for.
Set up hot keys for filing. I have two hotkeys that will instantly zap a message from my inbox to the correct folder: one to file under "Read," another to file under "Next Action." (Then, of course, there's the delete key for everything else.) Filing needs to take less than a second. I use Mail Act-On to do this within MacOS X Mail.
Other Thoughts on the Sidekick
While I'm disappointed in the Sidekick's built-in email, there are a lot of other things to like about the device. Instant messaging is amazingly good. It seems to make a decent phone. (Oddly, I've hardly used the phone. One day I may forget it's a phone at all.) The flip-screen action is wonderfully done and avoids most of the "key guard" hassle that plagues cell phones. And, speaking of keys, the keyboard is fantastic.
The Bluetooth support is poor. No device browsing over Bluetooth, no synchronization. The cheap BT phones you can get for free (with service contract) will do these things, but not the Sidekick.
But, most important, some of the guys who built the Sidekick are ex-General Magic, so I had to get one eventually. In many ways, the Sidekick is the product Magic was trying to build a decade earlier. I'm overjoyed with the Sidekick's success, and I look forward to discovering all the cool things I can do with it.