broken old mailbox with newspaper

How get Hey’s cool email features in Fastmail

Feeling jealous of Hey email's clever tricks? Here's how to add almost all of them to Fastmail.

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Basecamp’s Hey email service is pretty good, although it still lacks some basic features like a proper app, or support for using your own domain name. Last week I linked to a post about replicating Hey.com’s features in regular email apps. Today we’ll see how to do this in Fastmail.

Fastmail is a regular old email service, with folders (or labels), and none of the fancy new features of Hey. Or rather, it has none of these features by default. But you can easily make your own with mail rules, and by using Fastmail’s built-in tools. And it all works surprisingly well.

Hey’s cool new features

Here’s a list of Hey’s best features, most of which are implemented by clever design, rather than being completely new ideas.

  • The Screener, a holding bay for mail from new and unknown senders.
  • The Feed, a place for newsletter and other non-urgent mails.
  • The Paper Trail, automatic collection of receipts, order confirmations, invoices, and so on.
  • Reply Later, a temporary stack of do-later emails.
  • The Clipper, clip snippets of info for easy reference.
  • Change the subject line of an email to something more useful.
  • In-line, private, sticky notes.

Fastmail — and any other email system with rules — can easily replicate the first four of these. Changing the subject line is harder — you have to reply to yourself and edit the subject before sending, which gets messy.

On the other hand, Fastmail has a bunch of features that Hey does not:

  • An integrated calendar.
  • Complex, user-configurable rules.
  • Snooze your emails.
  • Custom domain support.
  • Built-in notes, which sync to the Notes app on any Apple device.
  • File storage.

It’s easy to save any attachment to your file storage area, right from the email itself. But notes are in a silo. You cannot highlight a section of an email and clip it to your notes, which seems crazy.

Now, how to set things up? First, create the appropriate folders, and give them colors if you like. then we will set a few rules. Mail rules are filters that are checked against every incoming mail.

The Screener

Simple.
Simple.

A screening rule is easy. If the sender is not in your address book, then that email is moved to the Screener. Then, set the folder to show up in the sidebar only when it contains unread mail. When you check this folder, you can either add the sender to your contact list (click or tap on their name at the top of the email), delete the mail, or block the sender entirely (click on the More button, and choose to block the sender).

Hide the folder when it's empty.
Hide the folder when it’s empty.

The Feed

The Feed rules grab anything from a mailing list.
The Feed rules grab anything from a mailing list.

There are several ways to set up the Feed. I opted for a rule that identifies emails that are from a mailing list — if it has a header entry that contains “list-id,” and also has the word “unsubscribe” somewhere in the mail, then into the Feed it goes. This simple rule is surprisingly effective. And if you receive a mail that you want in the Feed, but which doesn’t match these criteria, you can just make a quick rule just for that sender/subject line/etc. To create a new rule while viewing a message, just click More, then Add Rule from Message… Then check that the automatically created criteria make sense, choose The Feed as the destination, and save.

Hey’s best features are implemented by clever design, rather than being completely new ideas.

Consider keeping the Feed’s folder visible in the sidebar even when all messages inside are read: You might want to come back and finish reading a half-read newsletter, for example. You can also use the rules to snooze any Feed items until later in the day, hiding them until your last hour in the ‘office.’

Paper Trail

Auto-file your paperwork.
Auto-file your paperwork.

Another simple rule. Just set it to match email with the subject line invoice OR shipping OR shipment, or whatever works for you.

Reply Later

The easiest way to make a Reply Later folder is to just pin, or flag, these mails. Then, you can leave them in the inbox, and unpin them when you’ve dealt with them, or — in Fastmail — you can snooze them until a convenient later date.

The other way is to create a Reply Later folder, and drag emails into it.

Tying it all together

That’s it, really. The only other thing to do now is to set the view of your inbox to only show unread mails. This is done with buttons or a menu item at the top of the inbox. This way you can keep things clean, but be able to see all the other stuff in your inbox easily by toggling on the regular show-everything inbox view.

Also, these rules are just a start. You can easily modify them, or create new ones. And because the destination is just a regular email folder, you can drag any mail into them, manually.

This guide is specific to Fastmail, but it also works for Gmail, or any other email service, or app with rules. You can use the Mac’s Mail app to do all this, for example, but the advantage of doing it on the server is that you don’t have to leave your Mac on all day to make it work. Try it out.

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