SaneBox is a software which shifts email in and out of your Inbox depending on certain rules. Most directly, SaneBox filters less essential incoming emails into SaneNews and SaneLater mailboxes but it can also do other useful tasks.
Let me start with explaining why I prefer to manage my Inbox by SaneBox rather than by Google’s ‘Important’ or my own Apple Mail rules. The main reason is that it is very fast and smooth to train SaneBox. I have a shortcut ^N which shifts an email to the SaneNews folder. Once I’ve done that, SaneBox is trained and similar emails never end up in my Inbox again. About 50 emails a day come to SaneNews, which, frankly, I rarely look into (do you hear, newsletter enthusiasts?!) Doing the same through Apple Mail would result in hundreds of additional rules which I would probably be too lazy and busy to define. Moreover, for some emails SaneBox does not even need training to decide that they belong in SaneNews, not in my Inbox.
SaneLater box which is intended for less important emails which are nevertheless not mass-mailings works less well for me. About 70% of emails that end up there are still “news” (so send them to SaneNews by pressing ^N) or even junk (⇧⌘J). The remaining are mostly emails that I need to deal with and thus they belong to the Inbox (see an older post explaining my email workflow). Once again, I avoid pointing, clicking and dragging by using a good Apple Mail shortcut ^⌘1. I don’t like the idea of having two Inboxes – one more and one less important – because it goes against the GTD philosophy, although sometimes I am grateful certain emails do not clutter my Inbox, at least initially.
In addition to sorting incoming email I found a great use of SaneBox which is actually the main reason I keep this software. SaneBox allows to create and maintain mailboxes for temporary storage of email which after a period of time comes back to your Inbox. For example, if a message is moved from Inbox to SaneTomorrow, it will be back in your Inbox on the next day. You can create mailboxes for SaneTuesday or SaneNextWeek. Sometimes I have very limited time to process email and I just want to get out of my way those messages which can wait until tomorrow (or until next week). This is a proxy for maintaining Inbox zero under severe time-constraints. So when I do emergency scanning of my email I often move messages to SaneTomorrow by pressing ^S.
I also try to deal with certain areas of my work on defined days (e.g. teaching on Tuesdays and research on Wednesdays). SaneBox comes very handy if you want to postpone dealing with a particular“research” email until, say, next Wednesday, but you don’t want to see it in your Inbox until then or clutter your OmniFocus. It is possible that a combination of MailTags and Mail Rules can achieve the same effect of postponed emails popping up in your Inbox on a particular date, but I am not quite sure how to do that so I am very glad SaneBox makes this process painless.
I also use SaneBox to remind me to follow up on emails. For example, by bcc’ing firstname.lastname@example.org I will have the email I am sending to appear in my Inbox in one week if I don’t receive a response. This is useful for communicating with people or organizations who might need reminders to respond. By bcc’ing email@example.com I will have the email in my inbox even if I receive a response. More details on how to use reminders with SaneBox are described here.
Finally, I owe an apology to my some of my Facebook friends who have recently been irritated by SaneBox posting on my timeline. These ads allow me to keep a discount on my SaneBox subscription. Please use filters on Facebook if you do not want to see them.