In this final part, I’ll explore how I set up my Fastmail workflows to achieve automation. I’ll discuss what I was able to replicate, as well as the things I miss from HEY.
My New Setup with Fastmail
Fastmail was there when I thought about leaving Gmail for good. But I opted for Hey in a whim. Starting at US$50 a year, fastmail gave me the same first name address, enabled me to set up 90% of the Hey workflow that I liked, and allowed me to receive and send emails from a lot of the domains I have.
Much like Hey, Fastmail has contacts, and I was able to import contacts that I have screened in. Now the workflow looks like this:
- An email arrives and if the system filters for spams.
- Emails addressed to my addresses in this domain (tengl.net) and powertimer.ca are automatically moved to separate inboxes. These emails are excluded from following steps.
- If the subject or body matches certain search terms, a copy is forwarded to my Parcel app’s inbox. Tracking information are automatically added to my app.
- If I don’t have the sender’s address in my contacts, they are put into “The Screener” folder.
- Emails from addresses in the “Newsletter” contact group are marked as read, and moved to “Newsletter” folder.
- Emails from addresses in the “Updates” contact group are marked as read, and moved to “Updates” folder.
- Emails from addresses in the “Screened Out” contact group are marked as read and moved to “Screened Out” folder. (I may later decide to send them directly to trash, but I’m undecided.)
- Finally, emails that are not triaged from the above steps arrive at my inbox. These are actually important emails or things from real people I care about.
Working with the Workflow
I’ve been using Fastmail iOS client to do contact triaging. There are just a few steps to screen someone in/out and put their emails into the appropriate folder:
- Add them to Fastmail contact. (You can optionally give them a recognizable name. These names can be synced to iOS and macOS contacts and will be used in the built-in Mail app.)
- Add the contact to the appropriate contact group for triaging (Newsletter, Update, or Screened Out), or add them to no group at all to leave their future emails in my inbox.
- Move the message. With HEY, triaging and moving the emails are one move. With Fastmail, I’d have to triage (assign contact group) and manually move it.
Reply later or set emails aside
There is no “Reply Later” alternative.
For “Set Aside” I use flagging. iOS stock mail app doesn’t guarantee cached emails offline but that’s fine. If I need something offline I’d save a copy to Bear (my note-taking app). HEY promises to cache emails in Set Aside for offline access, but doesn’t do that 100%—it’s a bug; a broken promise. I like the iOS mail app approach that there are no promises at all.
I bundle updates such as App Store app processing messages. I sometimes receive a few in just an hour. They never fit “Paper Trails” with HEY, but I’ve categorized them in Updates since I started using Fastmail. I no longer need to bundle these emails anymore.
With iOS Mail app, there are three options to manage notifications:
- You can add a contact to VIP, so that you get notified of any emails from them in the future.
- You can mute a thread, to have upcoming emails in the same thread be marked as read automatically. It’s ideal for when you are looped in a large cc chain for things you cannot care less.
- You can turn on notifications for a single thread, so that you get notified when you receive a reply.
I’ve also been using beta versions of iOS 15. The Focus features are fantastic tools to manage distractions. I’ve turned on notifications for every email and put them in daily summaries. It’s been great. I like this option and I think it will be great for a lot of people when iOS 15 rolls out.
iOS 15 has Mail app widgets. They are clean looking and they work OK. I wish Apple places more emphasis on the subject line instead of the sender. HEY displays the first line to be the subject. Apple seems to waste the first line and shows the sender’s name. I wish I had the option to change that.
iOS 15 has a comprehensive solution for content loading relay. Remote servers no longer know who you are when you open an email. This also blocks pixel trackers. HEY has a short list of pixel tracker blacklist. Apple took their sweet time getting features ready—as always—but they do it right with intelligent tracking prevention and request routing. At this point, HEY is more about the surface work, and it’s infuriating that they attacked Apple’s privacy endeavours pre–iOS 15. Don’t get me started.
Fastmail also allows 600 aliases. I have one specifically for various websites that I subscribe to newsletters from.
Round Up: What’s Missing from Hey?
There are definitely a few things I miss from HEY:
- No integrated “Reply Later” feature. This is basically queueing emails and when you reply, they disappear from the queue. I can achieve something similar on Mail.app on the Mac, or use Spark. But I didn’t bother. I don’t have a lot of emails to respond to anyway.
- Optimized layout for “The Feed.” Newsletters look a lot better in an Instagram-like scroller, so that I don’t have to click in and come back out.
- Renaming a thread. People are terrible at naming things. They write emails, or they build automation systems that send out transactional emails. Being able to rename a thread brings back some sanity in certain situations.
- The hey.com domain. It’s brilliant. It’s joyful. It’s short, and easy to verbally give out.
I’ve never once used HEY’s clips feature. Or the note-taking feature. To be honest, it’s weird to see these CRM-oriented features on a personal service.