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Navigating the Email Jungle: An Offline Guide with Thunderbird (or How to Create a Screener in Thunderbird like Hey)

Picture this: you're in an offline world, yet you require constant access to your emails, much like needing a lifeline in the wilderness. Additionally, you're an avid reader of at least two unique "The Feeds". Now, imagine navigating this landscape with Hey – it can feel like trekking through dense undergrowth without a compass. For me, the way out was a detour back to the familiar paths of Fastmail/Gmail, using Thunderbird as my trusty guide. However, I soon discovered this guide lacked an essential tool – a built-in screener, leaving me to devise one manually.

Consider this post as your map to crafting your screener with Thunderbird's built-in filters, enabling you to auto-sort incoming emails into appropriate "buckets" based on their matching address book. Think of it as if the email sender's address is your secret decoder ring, pointing you towards the right folder.

Embarking on this journey requires careful preparation, so here's the step-by-step guide:

The Home Base: In the wild, an organized home base is vital. If your inbox is a thicket of more than 200 emails, it's time to declare email bankruptcy and archive everything in your inbox, creating a fresh starting point. Star the crucial emails - consider these your survival gear - so they're not overlooked amidst the general clearing. Now download and set up thunderbird for your email address.

Step 1: Export your address book from Hey, your original kit bag of contacts. Import that address book into Thunderbird.

Step 2: Imagine you're packing different compartments in your backpack, each holding specific items. These compartments are your address books in Thunderbird, categorizing your emails into specific 'buckets' for me: Screened In, Screened Out, Newsletter Feed, Low Interest Feed, Paper Trail.

Step 3 (Optional): Carefully sift through your Hey email address book, shifting the email cards, your navigation aids, into the correct compartments - the correct address book.

Step 4: Set up labels/folders (our beacons) in your email service corresponding to your address book categories. I added leading numbers to your Gmail labels to simplify sort order.

Step 5: Designate a special holding area for emails that don't match any category - your wilderness, if you will. I chose to name mine "The Screener" to remind myself of my favorite Hey feature. Make a label/folder for that in your email service (Gmail/Fastmail).

Step 6: Start laying out your trails by creating filters in Thunderbird. The first filter should funnel emails into your wilderness - 'The Screener'. Important details to notice are: “Match all the following” and “isn’t in address book”, also I added a date, so that I wouldn’t be overwhelmed with old stuff being sorted into the screener.

Hi music friends!

Step 7: Craft filters for Screened Out and other Feeds. For categories that may overflow with time like a creek after heavy rain ( like the Low Interest Feed and Screened Out), consider tagging them as "ephemera", marking them for future cleanup.

Hi music friends!

Hi music friends!

If you have multiple email accounts, you'll have to duplicate these steps for each service.

Refining your Survival Kit (Thunderbird Settings):

I've made some changes to the default Thunderbird settings for optimal organization:

Gmail Specific Settings:

Braving 'The Screener' Wilderness

For the final stage of your expedition - screening emails in 'The Screener', look for a little grey/blue circle, your 'friend-or-foe' indicator, next to the sender’s email address. Clicking this circle lets you change its allegiance, ensuring future emails from that address follow the right trail into the correct folder. First click it to turn it blue, and then click it again to assign it to the appropriate address book. Now emails from that address will sort properly. Now drag and drop that email to the location you would like it to be. That’s the last time you’ll have to sort that email address from the screener. 

Hi music friends!

Hi music friends!

 Screener Overload: If you ever go on a vacation/go offline for weeks - you might have lots of emails in your screener - don’t worry about it! You don’t have to screen them. Just sort the ones you want and then archive them. Next time they show up in the screener you can sort them.

There you have it - your survival guide to managing offline emails using Thunderbird and having a screener. Though the initial preparation might feel like gearing up for a major expedition, the rewards you reap - an organized, accessible, and efficient email system - are comparable to discovering a beautiful oasis in the middle of your email desert. Happy trekking through the email jungle!