There is one group of Americans that has found a simple way to manage their e-mail messages — the employees of the Internal Revenue Service. For years, it has been IRS policy to just delete their archive of old messages every six months. It makes life a lot simpler, especially when pesky congressional investigators come calling.
As for me, I’ve got e-mails dating back to the Bush administration, and there’s a good chance you do too. My big problem isn’t storing e-mail, it’s managing the stuff. Any e-mail program will deliver important messages; what’s needed are better tools for acting on them. It’s too much work copying e-mail messages into other programs, sorting through file attachments, or adding e-mailed meeting suggestions to your personal calendar.
So I’m always on the lookout for software to help me out. These days, some of the best can be found on a smartphone. I’ve been checking out two of them, CloudMagic and Acompli, with a mixture of delight and irritation. Each app has excellent features, just not the same excellent features. I wonder if they’d consider a merger?
I wrote about CloudMagic a year or so ago, in a different context. Back then, the company offered a service to help people manage the data they kept in different cloud storage services, such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft Corp.’s OneDrive, and their e-mails. But then the company noticed that its users spent 80 percent of their time just sorting through their e-mails. So CloudMagic dropped its other features and relaunched itself as an e-mail management service.
You access CloudMagic through a free app for Apple iOS or Google Android devices. Once installed, you punch in the usernames and passwords of your various e-mail accounts. It works with Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, and the Microsoft Exchange service used by lots of businesses. The app can handle up to five e-mail accounts at a time.
Sometimes you get an e-mail that deserves a response, but not just yet. Leave it in the inbox and you might forget, unless you use CloudMagic’s reminder feature. A star icon appears on every message. Tap it and CloudMagic will ping your phone in 2or 4 or 24 hours, with a reminder to write back.
Apple says its pending upgrade to its iPhone software will let apps talk to each other and share information. CloudMagic already does something like this, using a feature called “cards.” Say you’re one of the millions who use the note-taking app Evernote. With CloudMagic, you can instantly convert an e-mail into an Evernote entry. Just tap the screen to open the Evernote card, then tap again. Next time you open Evernote, the message will be waiting.
It also works with the Web page bookmarking app Pocket. When somebody e-mails you a Web link, activate the CloudMagic card for Pocket and file the link away. The whole thing happens inside CloudMagic, so you’re never distracted.
CloudMagic fixes several of my e-mail problems. But Acompli solves a different set of problems. It’s a free app available for now only on Apple devices.
Acompli solves a major nuisance, by letting you turn e-mail messages into appointments. I’ve wanted something like this for years. Say your best friend writes to suggest a Saturday night get-together. Till now, there’s been no easy way to check your calendar, find a good time, and lock it in. With Acompli, a calendar icon pops up inside your reply to let you do all these things without running a separate calendar app. It even lets you include a map of the meeting place with your reply.
Acompli is also brilliant at managing file attachments. It sorts them by file types, so you can see all messages with attached photos, text documents, or PowerPoint slide decks. And it generates a list of the people you e-mail most frequently. This lets you immediately see all your recent messages to these people andany files you’ve exchanged.
Both of these apps are much better than the generic iOS or Android mail programs; indeed, they’re good enough to rival desktop e-mail software such as Microsoft Outlook. I just wish I could get all these features in a single app that runs on both my iPhone and my Android. It might happen; CloudMagic tells me they’ll soon add an integrated calendar, while Acompli is hard at work on an Android version. Good luck to them both. And when they’re done, perhaps they should reach out to the IRS, which has even more trouble dealing with e-mail than I do.Hiawatha Bray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeTechLab.