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Putting Emails In Folders Is a Waste of Time, Says IBM Study 434

Posted by timothy
from the perhaps-the-sorting-process-is-useful-though dept.
An anonymous reader writes "There are two types of office workers in the world — those who file their emails in folders, and those who use search. Well, it looks like the searchers are smarter. A 354-user study by IBM research found that users who just searched their inbox found emails slightly faster than users who had filed them by folder. Add the time spent filing and the searchers easily come out on top. Apparently the filers are using their inbox as a to-do list rather than wanting to categorize information to find it more easily."
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Putting Emails In Folders Is a Waste of Time, Says IBM Study

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Because I'm sure that wouldn't skew the results from people gouging out their eyeballs.

    • by Nursie (632944)

      They ought to at least give the damned souls that work on Notes access to this research.

      I'm a filer, because search in notes is both painful and useless.

      • With office, I was glad to use the search function. With notes, I was FORCED to change to using folder for my projects. With Outlook, I can get away with searches without a problem. Note's search is very picky. Sometimes the search appears to be case sensitive, or doesn't deal with extra spaces, ect. The search function is not worth bothering with in Notes. In fact, it's not even JUST the synatx, it's the search itself. It seems to take FOREVER to get search results. Creating rules in Notes does take
    • by geekprime (969454)

      Ok, that actually made me laugh out loud, then I had to try to explain notes to my wife.

  • Except that... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Trip6 (1184883) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @11:15PM (#37658652)

    Your inbox gets too unwieldy.

    • Re:Except that... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Joce640k (829181) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @11:18PM (#37658678) Homepage

      Yep. Scrollbars become unusable when one scrollbar pixel equals several pages of what's being scrolled.

      Plus...ummm, doesn't "search" work on folders too? Ooops!

      • Says the person that must have never used IBM's mail solution....

        If you're using IBM's Lotus Notes, unless you specify the "All Documents" view, Lotus only searches in your currently selected folder.

      • "Plus...ummm, doesn't "search" work on folders too? Ooops!"

        Not everyone wants their email in the cloud. If you have a LOT of email and are downloading email to your desktop folders definitely make sense since many kinds of email are already sorted by topic or sender. Especially if you are mailing lists you can put those emails right into a folder so if you want to say search "programming discussion list" you can search JUST those emails. So you can have the search function ONLY search a limited number of

    • by KhabaLox (1906148)

      Archive 2010-?

    • by mdf356 (774923)

      This is why I have one folder called "work stuff" where everything I save goes. If it's in the Inbox I probably still need to deal with it in some way; if it's in "work stuff" I may need the info again later, and everything else is in the trash and deleted weekly.

      So... does this make me a filer or a searcher?

      • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Monday October 10, 2011 @12:02AM (#37658978) Homepage

        This is why I have one folder called "work stuff" where everything I save goes.

        Mine's called 'Trash'. Works really well.

        • by fwarren (579763)

          We had a store manger who saved several years worth of email in his Outlook "Trash" folder. He took the day off and a manger from another location was covering for him and emptied the trash in Outlook. The next day when he got back to work he was VERY freaked out.

          I was able to "damage" the first 8 bytes of the pst file and run fixpst to get all the mail back. At which point he was lectured on creating a folder not named "Trash" to keep email in.

      • by ShakaUVM (157947)

        >>This is why I have one folder called "work stuff" where everything I save goes.

        Heh, I have one for "receipts" and then one for everything else called "old". It actually works reasonably well.

        Besides my junk mail directory, I also filter out one of my relatives who always forwards chain letters to me into his own special directory, and some mailing lists get their own filters, but keeping all my email in one directory seems to work a lot better than sorting people into folders.

    • by lakeland (218447)

      The way I handle this is having 'inbox' = things I haven't dealt with yet and 'archive' = backup of all email received.

      That way at the end of the day my inbox is ideally empty, or at least at the end of the week.

      And I never open the archive folder, it just gets accessed using search.

    • by meerling (1487879)
      Yes, and besides that, what if you don't remember enough about the email to get a reasonably short result list from a search, but you had filed it in a reasonable fashion that made finding it much easier.

      I use both, but the folders give me categories that make it easier to filter my searches. It could be even better if I were able to attack multiple tags to email, then it would be much easier to find what I wanted, but at least folder/label is better than nothing.
    • by icebike (68054)

      Search works across all folders too.
      Plus, any competent mail package, will file things for you. Nobody i know manually files email.

  • by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @11:16PM (#37658662) Journal

    The right conclusion, is that people suck at organizing emails into folders. Therefore, for most people putting emails in folders is a waste of time.

    • by hedwards (940851)

      I find it to be a waste of time, I have a few things that are automatically labeled for me. Usually I'll have mailinglists and ads specially labeled, pretty much everything else goes into the main inbox uncategorized. A mail client with a proper search feature makes quick work of finding things when I need them, certainly a lot faster than thumbing through folders.

      Also, folders don't really handle cases where a piece of mail belongs in two different categories very well. Labels OTOH handle that quite a bit

    • by JWSmythe (446288) <jwsmythe&jwsmythe,com> on Sunday October 09, 2011 @11:41PM (#37658840) Homepage Journal

          Shouldn't that be, people in the small sample set, suck at organizing emails?

          I think some of us do pretty damned well. I have a dozen primary folders, and dated archives (year and month). Searching one huge box for say resumes that came in regarding a position we were hiring for in April. Despite how nice it may be to search by message content, applicants suck. You might think it's ok, because applicants who can't write a cover letter aren't worth finding. That's ok, except for when a superior wants to audit the hiring, and see all the applicant submissions. So the better option is to read all the mail that came in during that period? Great. That'll take a while.

      • That was pretty much my thought, except worded as "students suck." It's hard to search for content or have reliable filtering when you get random gibberish or nothing explaining that file attachment. And user names are useless when they're crap like jabarjamshard_2000 or sexyprince411. So I have hot keys to throw things into a teaching folder, which I can then scroll through by date. Yes, it blows. But it's the way it has to be. I don't know where the "getting things done" types work that they can delete e-
    • Agree. I have 6 offline email folders with 6 Gb of emails up to 5 years old. My corporate inbox falls over with 100MB in it. I use search of course but also archive by project. My email is a knowledge base that amplifies my memory in my technical role and is a productivity boost that most corporate IT and HR (delete all old email in case we get taken to court - by patent trolls & similar parasites) regard as a problem. Search alone does not give me context. The article is flawed if you use it to extend

    • by JoeMerchant (803320) on Monday October 10, 2011 @08:14AM (#37660784)

      for most people putting emails in folders is a waste of time.

      Many (most) people I know spend most of their work day on various wastes of time - sorting your mail not only makes you look busy while you do it, it also produces a tangible product of your labor, and gives you something to act overwhelmed about after you've been out for 3 days at a trade show: "I'll be working through my Inbox all morning."

  • by mehrotra.akash (1539473) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @11:17PM (#37658664)
    If you have 100+ mails coming in on a daily basis, and have 6-7 years worth of mail to search through, folders can be useful for cutting down the search time atleast, esp. if you are able to setup rules to route the mails to folders automatically (Even with indexing, sometimes it takes a few seconds to complete the search)
    • by snowgirl (978879) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @11:25PM (#37658728) Journal

      When I was working for a Particularly Large Software Company, I received a large number of automated emails every day from automated build processes. These emails were automatically filed into a special folder, so that they didn't clutter my inbox, and ping my smart phone every single time I got one of them. This followed through later for "Out of Office" emails, and a few others.

      Of course, as such, the only reason why I had folders was to keep a particular set of emails from pinging my smart phone, and bugging me all day, every day constantly with email build progress updates.

      • by Ocker3 (1232550)
        I'm subscribed to a huge number of discussion lists, and there are a number of automated systems that e-mail me as well. I only want to read those e-mails at certain times, if they're auto-sorted into folders then I'm not wasting time doing it myself. An obvious failure in the study was not looking at people who use rules to auto-sort. I may not know what a relevant keyword is, I may only have a general idea, or a time. Much faster to find the right folder and start scrolling. A mega-inbox and search is No
      • Email Noise is almost as bad as spam. All those automated emails do no "communicating" at all, even though that is what they are supposed to do. The signal to noise ratio is too much. I am reminded of the big grandfather clock we had in our house, the thing was noisy as all getup, but we didn't even hear it after awhile. Our guests sure noticed it though. Usually drove them to distraction.

      • by Rich0 (548339)

        So, if you're archiving list traffic, by all means filter on the headers - that is just brain-dead simple.

        However, in general if your search routine struggles with 100 emails/day * 7 years, then you need a better search routine. I think that is the biggest problem with most email clients - the search indexing is pretty lousy. If Google can index half of the Internet and retrieve results in milliseconds, then my email program should be able to sort through 200k emails in less than 10 seconds.

    • by iluvcapra (782887)

      if you are able to setup rules to route the mails to folders automatically

      For any filing rule predicate there exists a search predicate you can run later.

  • 345 users, and still statistically insignificant.
  • by rubycodez (864176) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @11:19PM (#37658686)
    Project folders are superior, especially as time passes one can't remember proper keyword to bring up all relevant emails. Yes, I've used e-mail systems that were folderless and only search was possible, not quite as useful.
    • Yeah, that's my experience as well. I'm sure you can use the automatic search function faster ... provided you have the exact string to search on.

      But thinking back even 2 years to what happening on a minor project and how to search for that? When there have been a dozen other projects using those same terms?

      Project folders are the way to go.

      • That depends on how powerful your search terms are.

        If you're looking for "every email for X project" then yeah, folders might be better, but if you're trying to find a piece of information from any particular project, you can almost certainly devise a set of search terms that specify what you're looking for more precisely than "it's in the folder."

        Only primitive email software won't allow combinations like "and, or, and near," wildcards and assertions like date ranges, senders, recipients, subjects and the

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      Yes the headline is quite counter intuitive when you read the summary.

      Apparently the filers are using their inbox as a to-do list rather than wanting to categorize information to find it more easily.

      So users dual purpose their inbox and yet are apparently wasting their time right?

      I agree with you folders are incredibly useful when used in a job context, not only for finding your emails but also for longterm project documentation. Our work policy is that when a project is finished all the emails relevant to that project get filed in the project folder on a harddisk somewhere. Good luck doing that if they are spread amongst the 100 oth

    • Plus, with a dedicated folder one gets an uncluttered overview of a specific topic.
    • Project folders are superior, especially as time passes one can't remember proper keyword to bring up all relevant emails.

      Especially since searching assumes that all your correspondents have been kind enough to use the appropriate keywords in their messages.

  • As a sys admin I file some things like software feature enablers, communications with vendor support and documentation of the sys admin things I do (for the yearly review). But I also search the inbox for things of a more transient nature.

  • by proxima (165692) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @11:24PM (#37658720)

    I let my inbox fill up for 3-12 months and massively archive it in one swoop to a small number of folders (about 15). I actually use search quite a bit to help do that sorting faster. What this cleanout process does is force me to delete messages that I'm 99.999% sure I'll never want to see again. They can just clutter up search results and casual browsing.

    As messages come in, I use flags to ensure that messages I need to eventually respond to don't get lost in the shuffle. Some frequent, automated stuff gets automatically archived (e.g. amazon purchases), just to help keep the recent inbox low on clutter.

    Archiving has advantages and disadvantages. On my personal email account, archived messages are offline; this makes search (or re-indexing) faster but leaves me without those messages when away from my laptop. But more than anything I archive because a single inbox with X years and tens of thousands of messages is pretty cluttered, and I know that eventually I'll want to sort through them to eliminate messages that will never be useful. Fortunately, that's rarely true spam in my case. There's also the odd email I've forgotten about that I have to follow up on, if I forgot to flag it appropriately. What's the cost? Maybe 4 hours a year.

    • by swillden (191260)

      On my personal email account, archived messages are offline; this makes search (or re-indexing) faster but leaves me without those messages when away from my laptop. But more than anything I archive because a single inbox with X years and tens of thousands of messages is pretty cluttered, and I know that eventually I'll want to sort through them to eliminate messages that will never be useful.

      Not me. In my personal e-mail account I have every non-spam e-mail message I've received since 1996, and I see no reason why I should ever take the time to sort through them and eliminate useless cruft. Why should I? Decent search means I can always find what I'm looking for, and keeping everything means there's no chance that I deleted it just because at one point in time I thought it would be useless. Heck, I've even at times gone through old e-mails which are in and of themselves useless, but collect

      • Given the way storage capacities keep growing, I see no reason to ever delete any e-mail (spam aside).

        this should NOT be a reason. but this is 2011 and it is a reason.

        two words:

        search warrant.

        it changes a lot of things. logs, files kept - which includes emails. encrypting is not safe but deletion is.

        welcome to 2011. data 'lying around' can and will be used against you. if not for this, then for that.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @11:25PM (#37658730) Journal
    People are actually using email in two quite distinct ways; but one way is faster at doing what we thought everyone used email for, and is therefor better? Cool.

    Frankly, this sounds like a challenge for team search: computers are very good indeed, even with the quite basic desktop search mechanisms, not the fancy search engine stuff, at assorted glorified greps. You want all the emails that mention project X, or were sent by Mr. Y? No problem. You want to know when project X needs to be finished? Well, get all emails mentioning project X and start exploring the exciting universe of different natural language ways of suggesting that project X needs to be finished. Search isn't completely useless; but you've basically gone back to filing...

    I've seen a few hints of this in Gmail, which will pick out emails that appear to obviously be appointments or date/time combinations and offer to add them to your calendar; but further expansion would be nice. Aside from the people who are just conceptually crippled, it seems unlikely that users are sorting their emails into folders just because doing electronic shit work is all fun and giggles. They are likely doing it because search can't(or the advanced search features that can, they can't use) organize their email for them in the way they prefer it to be. Let's see a software agent that starts picking out salient topics, and piecing together a slightly creepy knowledge of it by watching your mailstream(and FFS, let's make it client side, or based on servers you control, not some you are a peon in the cloud plantation shit...)
    • Frankly, this sounds like a challenge for team search: computers are very good indeed, even with the quite basic desktop search mechanisms, not the fancy search engine stuff, at assorted glorified greps. You want all the emails that mention project X, or were sent by Mr. Y? No problem. You want to know when project X needs to be finished? Well, get all emails mentioning project X and start exploring the exciting universe of different natural language ways of suggesting that project X needs to be finished. Search isn't completely useless; but you've basically gone back to filing...

      You touch on the real reason to use folders: even you don't always know exactly what you're looking for. Human memory doesn't work like a computer's memory. So if you are in a busy work environment with thousands of emails flying around, and you suddenly remember that you got an email that might be relevant to something to do with a particular project approximately 4-5 months ago from one of a half-dozen people, how are you going to search for it?

      Nicely organised folders are superior for this task. Inste

  • by Greyfox (87712) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @11:25PM (#37658734) Homepage Journal
    They're not what I'd call "Experts."
    • And please stop referring to Lotus Notes as 'enterprise ready' software. It should never be deployed to any organisation, regardless of size.

      To answer the question, if you use Lotus Notes.. you HAVE to have folders. The search is so horrible that if you don't.. then you won't find anything.

      Example: You are looking at 'all documents' folder in Lotus Notes, or the Inbox, and you see 5 emails with key words in them and you think "I'd like to see all emails with those key words". So, you open search and type th

      • by Greyfox (87712)
        The hell of it is, Profs (The mainfraime-based text-only E-Mail system they used before Lotus Notes) was a much more functional, intuitive and just plain *better* E-Mail client, and they threw that shit out. I guess they had to justify their $3 billion purchase of Lotus which, in the end, gave them NOTHING. Nothing but a shitty E-Mail client they inflict on their users to this very day. I bet it's cost them another $3 billion or so in lost productivity, having to use that piece of garbage.

        Funny Story, I s

    • by kaoshin (110328)
      Amen!
  • Add the time spent filing...

    Ever hear of this amazing technology called a "filter"? It lets you program your email client to do the filing automatically.

    Every email client I've used lets you search all your folders at once, so there is no difference in the amount of time it takes to search with either approach to email management.

    Did Google pay IBM for this "study"?

    • In the future, your primitive "filters" will be replaced by an IBM Watson site licence...
    • by arth1 (260657)

      The main problem with filters is that they act when the mail is received, not after it's read. So you have to go into umpteen different folders to read your mail.

      I sort into folders, and I keep everything. One problem that single inbox users frequently have is that they delete e-mail in order to keep the inbox manageable, and because they tend to use Exchange and fill up their inbox quota.
      So when they need something that is a few months old, they ask us others who actually file our e-mail whether we still

      • The main problem with filters is that they act when the mail is received, not after it's read. So you have to go into umpteen different folders to read your mail.

        That's a mail client shortcoming. If using Thunderbird, just set up a search folder for all unread mail - there you go.

      • The main problem with filters is that they act when the mail is received, not after it's read. So you have to go into umpteen different folders to read your mail.

        No, that's the advantage of filters. So that when I'm reading a thread about FreeBSD, I don't have to worry about the thread about mail server outages. Or the one about how my cousin is doing in his triathlon. I can go read them when I have time, and the fact that I have or have not read them doesn't impact on my other folders: I can see if any new mail came in for any of them, individually.

  • I know exactly what I use folders for, and it is not general searching. It is organizing different dialogs and projects so that I can find what the last or last few messages were. Also I have several mailing lists that get sorted into folders automatically on email-save-to-folder. Very convenient.

    I suspect the selection of users was 'special' and not in a positive sense.

  • by drb226 (1938360)
    Use tagging *and* search. Run a global search, and scan the results for the tags you think you most likely applied to the email you are searching for. It doesn't have to be a dichotomy.
  • by milbournosphere (1273186) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @11:39PM (#37658826)
    Clearly nobody in the 354 person study uses Outlook. Worst. Search. Ever. I could see it in gmail maybe, but never in Outlook. I'd go crazy if I had to keep my work emails in the Inbox, or in one folder. In Outlook, organizing my email(filters or by hand) keeps me sane.
    • Tried Thunderbird?
      Inconvenient, slow and buggy. Misses some mails because it doesn't handle headers correctly.
      Yes this is about the newest version.
      • by wvmarle (1070040)

        Mmm... i was just looking at the upcoming Ubuntu 11.10 where Thunderbird replaces Evolution.

        Then I read a review of a pre-release version written in August, saying TB is a great replacement of "the more limited Evolution". That was an interesting remark. If that is so, then TB really has come a long way over the year or two since I last tried it out. At the time I looked at TB as I don't really like Evolution, and it appeared the best alternative. Very soon I ditched TB for simply not working well and to t

    • At my work, the IT department has crippled Outlook e-mail searching because their poor, massively underpowered Exchange server kept crashing under the load. Then, because the XP version of Windows desktop search was slowing boot up times, they crippled that too. Oh yeah, we're not allowed to run any other searching system.

      When I search for stuff in GMail, I find it. I rarely use labels as anything other than marking stuff I can safely delete. In Outlook, because of the crippled search, I put things into

    • by Y-Crate (540566)

      Clearly nobody in the 354 person study uses Outlook. Worst. Search. Ever. I could see it in gmail maybe, but never in Outlook. I'd go crazy if I had to keep my work emails in the Inbox, or in one folder. In Outlook, organizing my email(filters or by hand) keeps me sane.

      I just want the ability to sort invites into a separate folder if they come in for another user for whom I'm a delegate.

      This enrages me every single day.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Yea, searching in Outlook is painful.

      Personally, even if searching is faster than folders, wouldn't searching PLUS folders be better overall? Sounds like the sort of study where a micro manager is going to look over your shoulder and say "ur doing it wrong!"

  • by MikeDawg (721537) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @11:42PM (#37658846) Homepage Journal
    So, I am one of the stupid filers, at my workplace. But to help defend myself, I think the searching capabilities is most email clients is horrendous. If I had a gmail account for all my work related email, then that may be a different story, but unfortunately, I have to stick to the couple of email clients that I am allowed to use at work, and they can't search worth a damn. I am able to quickly find emails, without searching, as most people lag behind, and try to get the search in the email client to work properly.
    • by mjwx (966435)

      If I had a gmail account for all my work related email, then that may be a different story, but unfortunately, I have to stick to the couple of email clients that I am allowed to use at work,

      It's important to note, Gmail does not use folders. Instead you tag emails with various titles and the search engine indexes them.

      I dont use folders on outlook because it does remove emails from a view and some folders are not searched by default (yes I use searches rather then folders on Outlook). To be frank I'm

  • "Reference" folder (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bodero (136806) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @11:43PM (#37658850)
    I once read a Best Practices manual for Microsoft Outlook [microsoft.com] by the Outlook team that changed how I deal with email. The premise is this:
    • Have only two folders: Inbox, and Reference.
    • When an email comes in and it does not need to be acted on, read it, then move it to Reference.
    • If an email needs to be acted upon, leave it in your inbox until the task is complete. This may be hours, days, weeks or months. But everything in your inbox is something that is waiting on someone.

    I frequently had a habit of reading emails on my smartphone and forgetting about them. Now, I can either move them to Reference on my phone, or do it when I get back to my desk. But nothing slips through the cracks this way, which was a huge problem when I first got a smartphone.

    • by Bourdain (683477)
      I've been doing something very similar to this once I took the plunge into using Gmail.

      I only keep the emails that require some action in my inbox and everything goes into an archive folder.

      The two secret sauces of my email system are this though:

      (1) A series of well written rules to tweak what of a few folders email arrive in such as to tweak my level of attention to the arriving email:
      (a) if I'm only on the "cc" it goes into a "cc" folder
      (b) if it goes firmwide, it goes to a firmwide folder

    • I do the same thing.... but also set AutoArchive and delete options after 30-90 days on the folder depending on importance. Like most people, everything in my inbox is something new, but I use folders because sometimes I need to hone in on a specific project or campaign, and I can't be bothered to wait on search. Besides, isn't there a 2GB limitation for Outlook? I think I hit that limitation once after 9 months of e-mail.... couldn't understand why suddenly, I couldn't delete or do anything with my e-ma
  • The only reason I keep some email in folders is so that I can delete bunches of them when I am done with a task.

    For example, once I am done with a project, and I never have to think about it again, the whole thing gets vaporized.

    It is quite satisfactory.

  • Yes, if you use gmail because search actually works.

    No, if you use Outlook because their search is a dog.

  • With Gmail, I just throw all old email into an 'old' folder and use search since gmail's search is great.

    With Thunderbird I separate into separate folders since T-bird's search is... okay. It works like you'd expect. Quick look in the folder, then search all.

    With Outlook (at work) I separate things by folders since Outlook's search is abysmally bad. Advanced search never works properly.

  • In other news, Google is taking over the world with searching, while Yahoo's original hierarchical directory is so tired it can't find a buyer, 15 years after its IPO launched the Internet Bubble.

    What I need is an AI thesaurus map that can organize my emails into categories to show me topics I've discussed within some category selected by timeframe, correspondents, or keywords.

  • Actually, I do both. I file stuff that I want to separate in folders according to a broad category system, but then I just use the 'search' functions to find anything. I don't bother hunting through the folders. That *would* be a waste of time.

  • The best use of folders is to direct some emails into their own lists before reading them. So they don't clutter up the main Inbox. Automated alerts each in their own folder as they come in are easier to deal with. Especially if I want to delete a whole series of them, and especially if there's a lot of them which would overwhelm the rest of my inbox. Or just a few, which would get lost in my inbox.

    These folders are better implemented as views, rather than actually separate storage. In fact my entire email

  • by bdenton42 (1313735) on Monday October 10, 2011 @12:16AM (#37659048)
    Where I work has absurdly low quotas on the Exchange server, I believe 100 MB. The only thing I keep in my Inbox is the "to-do" kind of stuff, everything else goes into a folder in a pst file on my local drive. It sucks because I end up having to search two places a lot of time because you cannot search both an Exchange and local pst with one search.
    • by jimicus (737525)

      With the added bonus that your employer almost certainly doesn't back up your local hard drive. So if your PC dies horribly, your email goes with it.

  • First, I'll throw out the environment I'm using. Windows 7 Enterprise, Outlook 2010. I've been using Outlook for over two years after we upgraded from Lotus Notes (anything is an upgrade from Lotus Notes) and have not deleted more than a handful of emails since the upgrade. I receive on average about 150 emails a day. I keep the current month's email in my inbox and archive every prior month into a folder - by month.

    This doesn't exactly organize my email - I just end up with 12 folders a year full of around

  • If I were to just keep all of my messages (both sent and received) in the same folder/file/directory (or folders/files/directories) forever, many of them would eventually become too large and inconvenient to work with. So, I wrote a script to file all my old ones away once a year on January the 1st into a directory for the previous year and replace them with new empty ones. Also, this does not stop me from searching (e.g. using grep) through my entire archive to find what I want.
  • The study focused on aspect of folders; searching. Here are a number of other reasons to use folders.

    1. Categorizing: I have several different folders for activities that do not need immediate attention; SCA, chainmaille, clubs, etc. When I have time I will read those emails.
    2. Priority: There are some emails that I want to respond to immediately. The best way to highlight these is to sort them into a folder.
    3. Separate Projects; When I am working on several projects at a time it is great to be able to look

  • I don't do either. I use sorting. Often I can remember a crucial piece of information... the sender.

    It still kills me that gmail doesn't have the way to say show me all email from user X in the order they where sent. I read my gmail alongside my work email in outlook.

    I often find emails where others fail with this simple strategy. Searching requires you to know the word(s) that are in the email or subject. It is usually something completely different than what your brain remembers. Searching works well on t

  • Because if it was Lotus Notes -- IBM's fave -- I can understand why the folks that kept everything in their Inbox were able to find stuff faster. Lotus Notes' search function sucks like a tornado then you ask it to so anything even mildly complex. (And to me searching through a tree of folders shouldn't actually be complex.)

  • From IBM's Oct. 2005 Best practices for large Lotus Notes mail files [ibm.com]: "...you should advise your users to file documents from their Inbox to other folders, to keep it as small as possible..."

  • I do not sort emails because I like to do it, though like another poster mentioned, most is done with rules in outlook. I do it because I work on normally between 20-30 projects at a time. Other people are also involved in my project and need to see the history. How shall they know what is what, when there are 6000 emails in one network folder.
    Plus, dont you need to know what you are searching for? Sometimes you just need to read an email trail before you know what to search for.

  • by peppepz (1311345) on Monday October 10, 2011 @01:17AM (#37659314)
    So, folders are a waste of time. The ribbon user interface is cool. Walled gardens are OK.

    I must be getting very old.

  • Most people don't file mail into folders to make it easier to find. They do this to NOT READ the email that they know doesn't matter (which in a typical corporate environment is close to 90%). In Outlook, users can even set archival and deletion periods for such mail and get rid of it automatically. That's what I used to do when I had Outlook.

  • ...you can keep emails? Seriously. I deal and delete. If it's *really* important or interesting, I might save as a file in a file-system folder. At work, I certainly don't trust keeping things in Outlook.
  • by holophrastic (221104) on Monday October 10, 2011 @02:29AM (#37659616)

    I share an e-mail account with colleagues. The sorting isn't just for convenience, there's information stored in the organizational structure itself.

    As a single user, having read every e-mail, you search only for that which you've already seen. That's quick, no doubt. But imagine searching for something that may not be there.

    How long would it take you to search through someone else's e-mail to answer a simple question? For example, find all of the e-mails discussing a particular project.

    Sure you could search. You could serach for the name of the project, the members of the project, the dates of the project. But unless you read each and every single e-mail, you'll never know for sure that you've nto missed one e-mail discussing some minor aspect of the project.

    But, since each and every e-mail is, necessarily, read -- by the recipient -- it can easily be thrown into the given project's folder. Makes it really easy for someone else to catch-up on the project at any given time. Also easy for me to tell you where to find information on the project.

    That whole concept goes for backups as well. It's easy to drag a folder and have a backup of an important, and maybe completed project. Very difficult to do it with searches -- probably impossible.

    There is information present in structure itself, which is not contained within the data itself, and yet is not meta information of either. The more you can encode into that structure, the more that structure will work for you directly. It adds all sorts of new capabilities, which would otherwise be incredibly arduous to obtain.

  • Those of us who want to *read* our email when it comes in, not just search for it later?

  • Nonsense... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by blahplusplus (757119) on Monday October 10, 2011 @03:01AM (#37659730)

    ... putting emails in folders means you restrict the search to just emails in those folders, if you get a lot of email folders definitely make sense. Especially if you are on a mailing list.

  • by Builder (103701) on Monday October 10, 2011 @03:43AM (#37659884)

    I don't just file for myself, I file in case I get hit by a bus.

    To expect my work colleagues to work out what search terms to use is unreasonable. But if everything is filed by topic and by date, they'll be easily able to jump in and find relevant info and come up to speed quickly.

  • Are those all Lotus Notes users? If so, the result doesn't come as much of a surprise ... ;) Notes must be one of the worst email clients on this earth ...

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