The basics of how email works hasn’t changed much since its invention, but even forty years later, there are still tiny features and enhancements that can make dealing with large volumes of email easier. Your email client already provides message attachments, filtering, HTML email, auto-fill contacts, spell-checking, folders or labels, keyboard shortcuts, search, and an advanced spam filter. What else do you need? Well, as people rely on email as a primary means of communication, and everyday users deal with a mounting level of new messages per day, even more advanced features can help all of us keep our inbox under control. In honour of Mozilla Thunderbird 3’s latest alpha release, let’s take a look at some email innovations—some concept, some already available in various clients and plug-ins—that you want in your inbox.
Undo Sent Message
Snooze This Message
Reply to Selected Text
(Available in Apple Mail, Eudora and coming in Thunderbird 3) This one's less an innovation and more a dead simple feature every client should already have. When someone sends you an email with a question or a comment buried in the body, "Reply to Selected Quote" is the feature you want. Just select the quote you want to respond to and hit "Reply to Selected Quote," and your email client clips that text and quotes it, and only it, in your reply.
Smart Reply Templates
Faceted Search/Related Messages
(Available in the Seek extension for Thunderbird, RelatedMail add-on for Mail.app, Xobni for Outlook) Your email inbox and sent mail archive is basically a huge personal database of communication over time, and smart search can help you slice and dice it by topic and sender. While Gmail is ace at helping you pinpoint that one message you're looking for, a few other add-ons offer "faceted search" and statistics about your email relationships. The free Xobni add-on for Outlook is probably the most developed and feature-rich of the current crop of advanced email search products; see how it works here.
Now that you've seen just a few possibilities of the evolved email client, tell us which one you want the most (or have and love).
What did we miss? If you were designing the latest iteration of Thunderbird, what feature would be highest on your list to build in immediately? Let us know in the comments.
Gina Trapani, the editor of Lifehacker, wants her inbox to be like Kanye—better, faster, stronger. Her feature Geek to Live appears every week on Lifehacker.