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mail filtering

Created by dave. Last edited by dave, 12 years and 103 days ago. Viewed 4,788 times. #3
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I want an iPhone. This would be to replace a Blackberry. Through our plan I can buy a 8GB iPhone for $99; the Blackberry I would want is the new 9700, which is $250.

The problem is the way my work email flows.

I receive on the order of 200 to 400 pieces of mail per day. Of that, I care about approximately ten pieces enough to pay for immediate over-the-air delivery (if not notification).

A few of these pieces of email are rather large, up to 40 MB each.

You combine both these issues and you arrive at a potential data plan usage bomb looking for a place to happen.

With my Blackberry, I am protected two ways:

  • the BES permits me to aggressively filter my incoming mail so that the odds of unwanted email making it to my blackberry are substantially reduced without eliminating much in the way of mail I want to see on an immediate basis.
  • the blackberry only receives the first (2K?) of a message, and can retrieve more on request.
My problem is that the iPhone does not appear to have either means of protection. ActiveSync downloads the entire message; it downloads all of the messages. And after asking several iPhone users, no one has been able to come up with a theory that would let me use an iPhone in this manner.

Yes, I can mitigate this risk somewhat by joining all the wifi networks at my customers; in fact this is a great idea. But I would rather not have to worry about data plan explosions.


The Blackberry 9700 is $149 now. Ah well, the iPhone would have made a much better toy.

Solution, July 2011:

So the solution turns out to be ridiculously simple:

Use Outlook (or more accurately, Exchange) filters.

It works like this. I have some filter rules set up on my inbox so that messages I don't want on my handheld get moved to a second folder which I call Inbox-Filtered-Out. Anything left gets sent to the handheld by default.

The filtering rules had to be written differently, since the Blackberry can be set to not-forward by default. I basically have to write my rules so that things get filtered out by default, which is difficult; I have settled for a rule which catches the vast majority of messages and then exceptions them.

So my rule is: For all messages with normal priority:

  • EXCEPT messages that are To: or CC: me; OR are from (explicit list of people);
  • MOVE to Inbox-Filtered-Out.
If I find people are abusing the LOW or HIGH priority, it will be a straight forward matter to copy the exceptions to the other priorities.

I'm sure this will require some tweaking, but with this set up I can probably have an iPhone without too much risk of blowing a dataplan. Only problem is, my new 9100 will be with me for another 18 months or so before I am eligible for a new phone.

I'm really just embarrassed that it took me this long to figure it out.

(Update, November 2011: See Revised Mail Filtering for details of how it works.)

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