SaneBox vs Really Great Mail Rules

Like many MPU listeners, I signed up for SaneBox and tried it for a year.

I did not re-subscribe.

I think I was hoping that Sanebox would do a better job of filtering email than I would with a bunch of mail rules. I was never really that satisfied with it, and never used the reminders features either.

Since non-renewing, I have decided to take 4-5 hours and create a bunch of rules and folders. Yes, it’s manual. Yes it’s tedious. But it’s accurate. Every time. No more guessing whether an email is in the @SaneLater Folder or the @SaneBulk Folder. This time I am telling, not asking.

This is no knock on SaneBox at all. This is a knock on me and my own laziness.

FWIW, I use Airmail and the rules dialog box is mega-powerful! Attached is my newly-updated folder structure in AirMail. All of my rules are simple too: Either the “sender contains” or the “message subject contains” handles everything.

Anyone experience the same thing? How do you wrangle email?



I tried sanebox as well but I did not re-subscribe. It is a good service but I have also created rules, filters, and smart folders. It works perfectly and there is no need for a subscription. I did use the reminders feature but that is also available as an extension in Apple mail. However, I have a simpler solution that I have implemented. I created a flag called “waiting for.“ I tag messages that I’m expecting or needing a reply from and then periodically check the flagged folder. When I receive a reply I simply clear the flag for the message and it disappears from the rules-based folder. It’s quick, easy, always accurate, and completely free. :slight_smile:


A lot of rules (running on a Mac mini)+spam filter. Tried SaneBox, didn’t find it better or more useful.

I create all my rules on the iCloud server so the mail gets sorted before it shows on my devices.


Glad you asked this question. Thanks.

I’ve been asking myself this for a few weeks. I have sanebox and a few months on the subscription, but it seems to me that so much of what it does could be done with rules, and possibly more accurately. My mail app (Airmail 3) sometimes seems to override the sanebox trainings and ends up putting messages where I don’t want them.

Going to be keeping an close eye on this topic.


Since you asked, I use Sanebox and it makes me happy. The job it does is pretty good and my use is a better match. I use Gmail and slide from macOS to iOS to Windows at work. I don’t want my desktop Mac filtering mail with rules and Sanebox just makes sense to the way I work.

That said, I do have a set of rules and filters in Gmail. :slight_smile:

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I have debated this option over the last couple years, but every time my renewal comes up for Sanebox I decide to keep the service rolling. My issue is that the rules I have experimented with have been good, but being in sales and being on the road all the time, I’ve found that since it’s not “server side service” my rules I create don’t clean out my inbox enough. I can totally see the advantage of the DIY rules and the saving of $ but for me switching from iOS to MacOS and back all the time while my laptop isn’t always connected/on, I end up getting all cluttered. That’s awesome that it works for you and I’m a tad bit jealous!! :smile:


I am also happy with Sanebox.

I’ve been wanting to try Sanebox but I might sit down one Friday and hammer out some rules.

I use FastMail’s Sieve Scripts (server side), but mostly to automatically put next actions in my task list, since I “pile, don’t file”… (so far occasional searching in one big “Archive” folder works fine for me)

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I’m considering moving from SaneBox to rules, as welll.

It’s not hard to see how I could set this up for filtering out certain topics or senders to read later or whatever.

Do any of you have thoughts about how to snooze email with folders / rules?

I think the snoozing would be the SaneBox feature I’d miss most.

Thanks much.

The thing SaneBox does so well for me is filter new senders. It is fairly accurate in determining who’s a person vs a marketer/bot. People go to the Inbox, marketing and everything else to SaneLater. Not having to write a new rule or modify an existing one for each new sender makes SaneBox worth it to me.

I turned off SaneNews which makes all non-essential mail go to SaneLater. I don’t want multiple folders of non-essential mail to manage so this makes a more sensible default for me.


I thought for a long time about not renewing my subscription. In the end I kept it because I’ve never had that much success with Mail Rules. In fact, at the renewal time I didn’t know you could set up the rules in iCloud so perhaps next year I’ll think again about not renewing.
Thanks for the tip about SaneNews – I don’t really feel the need to keep newsletters separate. I have this working on two email accounts so I have two news and two later folders at the moment.

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I’ve just subscribed to SaneBox for the first time. Previously I have always used server based mail rules - first on Gmail, now on Fastmail - but it was a pain to continually keep creating them.

I actually don’t get oodles of mail, and I’m a diligent GTDer, so I don’t even have a real problem with an overflowing mailbox.

The main reasons I have subscribed is partly for the fun of it, partly for workflow optimisation, partly for less disruptions through the day, and partly because they advertise on so many podcasts and websites I enjoy, I feel like I’m paying back the community.

I went all in on Apple Mail rules. Is it possible to back these up somehow so that all the work isn’t lost in case of a crash or moving to a new Mac?


A couple weeks in, some reflections…

  1. Mail rules are more accurate but more work. I can see why people don’t even bother and just use Sanebox instead. So much simpler.
  2. The other major bummer is that the rules don’t run unless my mail app (I use Airmail) is on and running somewhere. This wasn’t needed with Sanebox.
  3. There is probably going to be a couple months of updating rules, i.e. adding new senders to my rules every time I check my email. I think it is kind of fun, but many people would get frustrated.

All told, I am glad I tried Sanebox and I am glad that it exists to serve the community. For those who want more granularity, and are willing to put up with the work involved. mail rules are far more accurate and allow you to organize and power through email WAY faster than before.

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I create rules on the iCloud server so the mail gets sorted before it’s pushed to me. Doesn’t matter if my Mac is on or not.

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How’d you do that? I’m doing the same as others - keeping my Mac (and Mail App) running at all times.

I have to use the iCloud web interface. Any rules created in mail there stay on the server. Bunch of rules but just 5 mailboxes that they move messages to. My inbox then has mainly messages I want to see now.

I moved about 18 months ago. I had an email address for my old isp (Cox) that I was losing. I had all the mail there forwarded to my iCloud address. I created a rule so and mail sent to would be put in its own mailbox so I could change those contacts. Made it much to manage the transition.

Sanebox might be of interest to me if I could use it for both personal and work. Unfortunately I work for a company where there is no way an outside service like this would be entertained, so I become more and more expert with Outlook rules. Over the years I’ve gone deep with rules trying to sort everything, but now I tend to stay shallow.

  1. Mark everything low priority
  2. Filter any distribution lists into a later folder
  3. Filter known and easily recognizable spam
  4. If I am in the To line mark it normal priority (oh that everyone would use To/CC responsibly)
  5. If It is from CEO, Boss or Staff, it goes in high priority

This lets me do rapid triage where I have actions to mark it urgent, when possible, waiting, etc.