TECH FOR THE TIMID: Aiming for ‘Inbox Zero’

OVERLOAD: Nail that mail Photo: Shutterstock

TOO much e-mail is not a technical problem. It’s a people problem. You can’t fix people, but you can fix your e-mail.

Particularly when, like my friend recently, your Inbox is struggling under the sludge of thousands of e-mails. Yes I know, she should have created a selection of nice pretty folders and dragged each e-mail into one, but perhaps she preferred to have a life.

You could of course just leave your e-mail overload where it is. That nice Google company gives us 15 gigabytes of e-mail storage free, which would hold, oh I dunno, several squillion e-mails. But good luck trying to find the specific one you want one day.

In principle you don’t have to go through all your thousands of e-mails one by one for the mother of all spring-cleans. You can in fact delete the lot with just a couple of clicks – if you really want to. Beware.

Let’s first be clear on one vital bit of e-mail housekeeping: savvy e-mail users don’t work with their e-mail directly in the Gmail (or other provider’s) website. It’s clunky, it’s inflexible, and it gives you little control.

It is a far, far better thing that you do to install an actual dedicated e-mail program (called a ‘client’ in the jargon), and access your e-mail that way. The added advantage is that the website still keeps all your e-mails archived in reserve, in case things ever go wrong on your own computer.

There are plenty of (free) e-mail programs available for the taking. Thunderbird is a classic, Windows comes with the very basic Mail app, or you can move up a rung to Outlook for more features. Other popular programs are Mailbird Lite, eM Client, Opera Mail and Incredimail.

Another tip if you’re facing a giant clean-up is the possibility of moving to a ‘universal’ e-mail address.

If you’re simply using the one your ISP provides, you’ll lose it when you move or switch providers and you’ll have to start again from scratch. But if you use Gmail (or Yahoo, GMX Mail, Zoho Mail, Apple’s iCloud or even the rather mysterious Elude beloved of people paranoid about their privacy) – you can keep it for life. Yours, or perhaps just the life of the company providing it.

So: install your dedicated e-mail program, route all your e-mail to it, create specific folders below the Inbox (family, friends, enemies, junk, Nigerian princes, your call), then drag and drop whole batches of e-mails into their appropriate folders. Job done and a happy 2019 to you too.

Did you know that if you still have a Hotmail address, some of the folks you deal with online will automatically assume that you are (a lot) older, you’re not very tech-literate, and according to one UK car insurer, you’re more likely to crash.

Hotmail ‘retired’ in 2013 – time to move on gramps.

If you don’t want the ubiquitous Gmail, Yahoo now offers anyone a free account, with 1,000 gigabytes of storage. Will that do nicely, given Yahoo’s insistence that this ‘can handle 6,000 years of inbox usage for the average user’?

And remember: these days, one’s not enough. Use a main e-mail address for trusted friends, family and business, and a secondary one for all those merchants you just know are going to spam you.

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