Tagging Mail with Events or Tasks

Email idea #43819

I would like to be able to tag messages or threads of messages with calendar events or tasks.

My tagging scheme breaks down into these types: (with examples)

  • Project: thunderbird, evince
  • Discussion: desktop-devel, firefox-journal-devel, moz-bugs
  • Temporal: meeting with david, thunderbird alpha1 deadline, and tabbed interface wiki page task

Project Tags

These are used to tag messages related to a project or group such that when I want to find that message again later I can look into that project category and find the message.  I most often manually apply these tags to messages received because they are important, but not part of my regular discussion framework.

 Discussion Tags

I use filters to create these tags which automatically sort and categorized messages from mailing lists and groups.  There is often a lot of discussion related to these groups and I can’t make progress in my day if all that discussion goes directly into my Inbox.  Therefore I usually have these items filtered out of my Inbox and tagged so I can read them at a point where I’d like to catch up with the discussion.

Temporal Tags

This one I do not have yet.  Very often a thread of mail messages are all related to a meeting I’m going to have, a task I’m going to finish, or a deadline that’s coming up.  I’d like to have that event or task shown as a tag in my mail view such that before the date arrives or the task is finished I can continually access all the messages related to it.  Once the date has passed or the task has been finished the tag can be archived out of my main view, mostly available to search queries.

This would probably also help me to defer messages for later.  If I want to schedule a time later in the day to reply to a bunch of similar messages that I don’t have time for now I could tag them all with “3pm – Sit down and Reply to Messages Event” such that the event would ring at 3pm and show all the messages I had tagged for responding to.

Does something like this already exist out there?

Are there other tag types people use often?

7 responses to “Tagging Mail with Events or Tasks

  1. I’ve been tagging my events according to task, project, meta-project goals, and visions in Calendar. If I could connect my discussions archived in Thunderbird with these events (and also archive my personal documents in a similar schema), then I feel like I’d have my mental map pretty well layed out. Great idea. Thinking of implementation — imagine if a drop down list of events was available in Thunderbird and derived from the events listed in Lightning/Sunbird Calendar.

  2. Dan

    I don’t know if this is what you meant, but I’ve wanted to link disparate objects that are nevertheless related somehow (like a calendar event and an email) for a long time now:

    http://bugzilla.gnome.org/show_bug.cgi?id=218535

    I don’t actually want a tag as such, more like a notepad/sticky note sort of thing where I can jot down whatever I want, including links to other objects (like a todo list, calendar item, web page, file on disk, etc).

    You could parse and index the added metadata and produce tags from that, I suppose. That would be very handy for searching.

  3. Hi Bryan,

    Sounds like you might want to take a look at Chandler[1] from the OSAF.
    I’ve not actually used the software properly yet but from reading Dreaming in Code it sounds like you might like their “siloless” design for “stamping” items with different properties.

    1.http://chandlerproject.org/

  4. I use tags that are:

    – project based (everything in my life is a project and each project is a set of projects)
    – location based (home, work, Worcester, store, …)
    – priority (super important, not very important, could care less)

    It’s interesting to note that like Aharon, my project tags are related into projects and sub-projects. Is it interesting to have tags related to one another with “is-a” relationships?

  5. poelcat

    Wow! Some really interesting convergences here that I’ve been thinking about and watching for a while.

    You seriously need to read (if you haven’t already)
    “Dreaming in Code” by Scott Rosenberg.

    http://www.dreamingincode.com/

    There was a recent post on the Chandler blog talking about integration with Thunderbird. http://blog.chandlerproject.org/2008/01/18/thunderbird-plugin-for-chandler/

    And interestingly enough Chandler explored the GTD email road too: http://blog.chandlerproject.org/2008/03/14/chandler-and-gtd/

  6. Aharon: Right on! I think that’s the direction we need to look at.

    Dan: I think we’re on the same page with attaching calendar events and todo items to emails. Perhaps “tagging” is the wrong term, but connecting the two such that you can search and sort by either.

    Joshua & poelcat: great links! thanks for the pointers, I should spend some more time reading over the chandler projects blog and notes.

    will: i’ve never seen the location based tags before. I’m wondering if the sub tags are like project tasks? The is-a relationship makes sense and it also makes me wonder if a deadline for those tasks make sense as well. Lots to think about!

  7. Murali

    If you want to add notes to the emails, then try Xnote at

    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/thunderbird/addon/3093
    It adds xnote tag to the mail, making it easy to find later.

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This is the blog personality of Bryan Clark. I'm a designer in a world of open source. This blog reflects mostly writing about Design, Open Source, Economics, Beer, Wine, and Dogs. There's more information about me on this site or you can contact me directly at clarkbw@gmail.com.

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