Mail Act-On 2 Review

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I reviewed Mail Act-On last year explaining it is one of the most useful utilities on my computer. With the recent release of version 2, that hasn't changed. For the uninitiated, Mail Act-On installs itself as a preference in the Apple Mail client. It allows you to assign keystrokes to repeated actions and rules when dealing with your inbox and, with version 2, outbox. For instance, after reviewing an e-mail, there are a limited number of things I will do with it. I will either deal with it and file it, put it in my "action" folder, or delete it. Each of these require me to drag the e-mail over and place it in the proper folder. This works fine if you don't mind taking your hand off the keyboard and using the mouse to drag it over and if you're accurate enough to make sure that you actually drop it in the right folder. For those who use hierarchical folders to sort their Mail, this can be even more difficult. No matter how you slice it, this process takes time.

Using Mail Act-On, I can simply create a rule that takes the highlighted e-mail and files it in a pre-designated folder with a simple key combination. For instance, on my Mac, if you press control F, the highlighted e-mail gets dropped in the "filed" folder and makes a satisfying "plunk" sound courtesy of Mail Act-On. If I wanted to get exotic, I could additionally have Mail Act-On highlight the e-mail green, create an automatic reply, mark it as read and perform a variety of other rule based actions. This is the beauty of Mail Act-On. You can selectively apply user-defined rules with a simple keystroke. You are limited only by your imagination.

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This application has become such an ingrained part of my e-mail system, that when I first upgraded to Leopard, and the developer had not yet released a Leopard compatible version, I felt naked. Suddenly, I had to use my mouse and all sorts of other commands to accomplish what I was used to performing in one keystroke.

With the recent release of version 2, Mail Act-On is cleaner, faster, and sports several new features. The act of creating rules in this new version is much easier. The new interface gives you three views: inbox, outbox, and keystrokes. There are a many options for you to make things as simple or complex as your heart desires. If you use Indev's other excellent Mail plug-in, MailTags, you can create Act-On rules that apply MailTags metadata such as keywords and projects.

Another nice new feature is the F1 key that allows you to, among other things, apply an existing rule, copy, or move an e-mail message even without benefit of a rule. You can pick the destination by simply typing a few characters of the folder name. When using the Mail Act-On menus, a new function allows you to lock them open. This is useful when you're grinding through a pile of e-mail. Another improvement is the application's memory of recent destinations so you can find your most recently accessed mailboxes quickly.

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Perhaps my favorite new function is the addition of "undo." As fun as it is to quickly send your e-mail to a designated folder with Mail act on, it can be a real pain when you accidentally send a message to the wrong place. Act-On now includes an undo memory which allows you to reverse these mistaken actions and get back to the task at hand.

Act-On also now allows you to apply rules to your sent items box. If you like to keep your e-mail organized in nested folders, you can now create rules to automatically move your "sent" items to the appropriate file. This would allow you to keep everything in one place. Frankly, if you are that person, this function alone would make Mail Act-On worth the cost.

With the release of version 2, Mail Act-On now requires a license fee. It is currently at the introductory price of $19.95 but it will raise to $24.95. Having used this application for some time, I believe the price is fair. You can download a 21 day demonstration from the developer. Version 2 only works on OS X 10.5. An older version that is compatible with OS X 10.3 and 10.4 is still available.

If you find processing e-mail tedious, this application is a must-have. Once you set up your rules with Mail Act-On, you will receive immediate dividends of saved time and increased productivity.

You can listen to this review on Surfbits MacReview Cast 186.