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  1. #1
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    Using rules in Thunderbird, you can't manage messages in one pass

    I've run into an interesting problem in managing email from my clients with Thunderbird:

    Each time I get a new client (not a high-volume thing), I set up a mail folder for them, then add a rule for "To, From, CC, BCC" to move related mail to the folder. This worked fine, until I recently sent a message to "Distribution" (me) with a group of clients blind copied. The problem is that the message is moved by the first applicable client rule and none of the other clients get a copy.

    So, I replaced "move" with "copy," which will work, but that leaves the original message in the "Sent" folder, meaning I have to go back and delete it later.

    I tried adding a tag of "Filed" to the message and adding a new rule to move "Filed" messages to the trash, but it applies the tag before the copy is made, which introduces the horrific possibility that all "Filed" copies of all client emails might one day be erased by accidentally running the cleanup rules on the wrong folder. For some reason, Thunderbird insists on applying the tag first instead of giving you a choice in the order of the rule's components.

    I'm used to having to manually display "Filed" messages in my Outlook's "Sent" folder, so this isn't a huge problem, but I was hoping to make it completely automatic. Any ideas? Thanks!

  2. #2
    Silver Lounger RolandJS's Avatar
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    I'm going to learn lots from you; I never did the good stuff you're doing! I'll be watching this thread and learning.
    "Take care of thy backups and thy restores shall take care of thee." Ben Franklin revisited.
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    Well, then, here are a few points to consider and gotchas to avoid:

    1) Thunderbird's rules default to the option of "Match all of the following" (conditions) so if you are trying to create a rule with more than one clause to include multiple people, be sure to select "Match any of the following" instead. If you don't, you will get zero results.
    2) The easiest way to build a client-based rule is to use "From, To, Cc, Bcc" contains and then use just the client's email server as the text to match, if they have their own. If they are using common mail services like gmail, comcast, etc., you may have to build a long list of email names (using the "any of the following" option).
    3) Thunderbird does not always seem to run its rules when you send message—not sure why. You may have to open the "Sent" folder and use Tools> Run filters on folder to file your outgoing mail.
    4) Using "Copy" instead of "Move" as the action leaves an outgoing original in the "Sent" folder, which is a problem if you don't then delete the original, since it will get copied over and over if you run the rule manually.
    5) You can also do client and project-oriented management by prefixing the subject line with a short code surrounded by symbols: "[SMITHCO] This is some info about the Smith Project." The original message and all replies that dupe the subject can then be filed with a rule looking for subjects containing the code (with the symbols, to make false positives harder). If you can get your clients or co-workers to include the code in their own outgoing messages, so much the better.

    Hope that helps.

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    I've been using T'Bird for a very long now and while not an expert I could certainly be called a Power User. Have you tried adding after all of the copy rules as the very last action a Delete action? Be very careful to restrict this to the Sent folder.

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    Silver Lounger RolandJS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheRedBaron View Post
    I've been using T'Bird for a very long now and while not an expert I could certainly be called a Power User. Have you tried adding after all of the copy rules as the very last action a Delete action? Be very careful to restrict this to the Sent folder.
    This sounds very good, I think I can do this if you will tell me exactly what & how to add after copy...sent folder. Thanks!
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheRedBaron View Post
    I've been using T'Bird for a very long now and while not an expert I could certainly be called a Power User. Have you tried adding after all of the copy rules as the very last action a Delete action? Be very careful to restrict this to the Sent folder.
    I tried adding a "Copy Message to" (a subfolder of a folder called "Clients" that I created at the top level) and followed that (in the same rule) with a "Move Message to" the trash folder. I tried adding a "Delete" after the copy, but for some reason the copy gets marked as "Read" which is exactly the wrong behavior. Copy followed by move to trash leaves both the copy and the moved original as "unread," which isn't perfect but much better than missing an email from a client.

    The alternative would be set all the rules to only be run manually. That would allow client mail to come in as new mail in the Inbox. Then, at the end of the day or first thing in the morning, you run all the rules on the Inbox and Sent folders to do your filing.

    Thunderbird's rule logic has a serious deficiency in that it ignores the order of the rules and does any marking action before it does any copying or moving (a warning appears if a rule is added below one of these commands). This means that you can't tag an original (as "Filed") after copying it to the client folder. tagging something as "Filed" would allow you to process a message multiple times (as each client's rule fires) and then end with a final rule that deleted "Filed" messages. However, because it tags the message prior to copying, both are marked as "Filed" and that leaves you exposed to accidentally deleting all the messages in a client folder if you ever ran all the rules on it.

    In the end, I'm going back to the simple "Move message to" the client's folder. This works best for normal messaging. Since my original problem was that I wanted a way to track which clients received a general distribution email on which they were blind copied, it may be easier to set up a rule that moves messages sent to "Distribution" into a special folder. That way, I know exactly where those messages can be found and I can check the original list of BCCs to see who was on it.

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