Wanderlust Folder Filters

I’ve been using Wanderlust as my email client within Emacs for a while now and it now has become pretty natural. Whenever I go back to using the gmail interface it always feels so slow. While working in Wanderlust is not the fastest thing, I’ve noticed that being able to do things like moving mail messages and working through my inbox is much faster than doing it on the web page. The reason is that in Wanderlust (WL) you simply mark messages and then execute the marks. Obviously, if you have to execute a ton of marks, it takes a while, but that is something you can run and walk away from.

What would be nicer is if I didn’t have to mark so many items. For example, I get error emails for our applications at work. Some are really important but many are just notices of some small user errors or attempts to use incorrect information. There is a ton of mail that comes in from this (even though we’re trying to reduce it) and it can be a pain to manage.

Enter virtual folders! WL has a concept of virtual folders, which when I read about it, seemed to be about making meta folders that included other folders. This seemed sort of helpful, but I wanted to filter a single folder into more specific messages without actually having to make new folders. I found out this kind of thing is really easy to do! I’ve been able to now create a filter for the error emails I get from different data centers:

/subject:othapp1|subject:othapp2|!subject:thisapp/%error-emails

I can further filter on date or flags (unread/read) and get a really concise overview without much work at all.

Now, I know this is possible in other email clients and there is nothing revolutionary here. The thing is, most other clients that I’ve tried do a horrible job with this. Evolution, for example, was always extremely slow and would always managed to peak the CPU when using this feature. The benefit is that I’m getting something closer to Gmail without having to actually use Gmail. After all, most labels I use tend to be linked to a filter based on a pretty simple search.

Again, I know none of this is revolutionary. But, when you use alternative tools it can be eye opening. I have tried to be more efficient with email in the past and it never really worked out. The interfaces always caused problems and seemed to need too much attention. I never wanted to “work” on my email. With Wanderlust, it is now a function of my editor and more importantly my overall environment.

Checking email is the same as using the terminal, irc or writing code. Finding virtual folders makes things more efficient as well as provides a little excitement that once again your environment has been customized to fit your own needs and not the other way around. Of course, it is kind of a silly quest to always be adjusting your environment, but that is partially why programmers are different from other folks.