Some (long) thoughts on emails, filtering, and Sanebox

You can almost get some variant of the first example going. Fastmail can run regular expressions on filter conditions, for instance.

What won’t work is anything that happens after a message has been received. Neither “message is more than one week old” nor “If I move a message to this folder” can be achieved via filters, because filters only act on incoming messages.

I suspect that this is a limitation of serverside rules.

Other clients also offer post-incoming filtering. Postbox has a great filters system. But I have heard that Mailmate’s the one to beat.

Right. And oddly enough, that’s true with MailMate as well (unless you run things manually) - but if you use a smart mailbox “received” technically happens when the message arrives in that mailbox. And since smart mailboxes can have conditions like “more than a day old”, the messages “arrive” automatically as soon as they meet the criteria.

One of my more minor gripes with Fastmail filters was that there’s no way to even manually run the filters after the fact. So if I realize I should have a filter to deal with a couple hundred messages, I can try setting up the filter and hoping I have it right for next time. Whereas with MailMate I can just test it immediately and identify any problems.


I have used Kiwi for Gmail in the past. It’s a Mac app. Pretty sure it’s Electron – at least, it doesn’t feel like a “Mac-assed app” to me.

But it’s a standalone app, it lets you use multiple accounts, Gmail keyboard shortcuts, snooze outgoing email, etc. etc. At least a few plugins work as well (including Boomerang, though I haven’t used it).

I preferred it over Gmail in the browser because I already often have 3-5 browsers open at any given time with multiple windows and many tabs in each window. No way do I want to have to dig through that to find my email all the time.

I ran into very little, if anything, that could be done with Gmail in a browser that couldn’t be done in Kiwi. I suppose it’s just a very good wrapper for a browser window, but it worked for me.

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Mimestream is getting a lot of the hype from Gmail users.

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Unfortunately, Gmail’s API doesn’t support all of those features, according to Mimestream’s roadmap.

That fact and the lack of an iPadOS client are why I’m on Spark. Spark works really well, but I prefer Mimestream’s aesthetic.

If only Spark would implement Gmail’s keyboard shortcuts on iPadOS…


Great overview. I’ve used SaneBox for many years, and somewhat grudgingly. Aside from the very high cost, my main problem is the rigid filtering based on email address.

Unfortunately, the other solutions aren’t any better. Local filtering won’t cut it as I live on multiple devices, and maintaining a massive handmade filtering system is a PITA that I won’t return to. These options are cheaper financially, but either would annoy me on a daily basis or would suck up a lot of my time.

Anyway, good to know that I’m not alone!


Yeah, there has to be some central filtering to make things dance properly on a multi-device setup. For me though, I can run that on a spare Mac Mini I have that acts as a server.

Regarding maintaining the separate filtering system, as long as MailMate doesn’t break somehow I’ve found there’s not a lot to actually maintain. No more, anyway, than constantly screwing around with dragging messages around in software like SaneBox.

And at Sanebox’s top tier, one could actually get a Mac in the cloud for the same monthly price that could run filtering software. :slight_smile:

Either way, if it works for you, don’t change what ain’t broke. :smiley:

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I agree with everything that’s been said here, but the fact is that I can’t find a single service that can do ML-based filtering and categorization without being creepy.
So SaneBox plus simple filters based on keywords (preferably in the title) is the best I’ve found…

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Email by design is “creepy”. Might as well pick the provider with the best features.


Sure. Which I did.
Well… I think I did ;p

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I know this thread is around two years old, but as someone currently working with the SameBox trial, and encountering the same frustrations that were so well written about here, I thought I would see if anyone has come up with any different strategies in the interveining two years? I too was hoping that SaneBox would learn over time and that it would implement some sort of more advanced logic for filtering, but no, it seems to still be filtering mainly by sender, certainly not by content. I’m honestly a little surprised that the same issues that seemed problematic two years ago, still exist today. Only reason I haven’t totally given up yet is that like others, I’m using multiple Email clients and creating server-side rules, especially on the fly, can be a definite pain. Anyway, would definitely be curious if anyone has looked into this topic recently or if anyone has any thoughts.

My solution is a copy of MailMate running on my Mac Mini “server.” MailMate will allow me to, for example:

  • If [sender] is in folder “skip,” move message to folder “trash.”
  • If message is more than 1 day old and is from [my bank], move to “financial archive.”
  • If message is more than 7 days old and is from [a delivery company I don’t need the receipt for] move to “trash”

I have lots of rules that route things around in various ways based on senders and subject lines. And by using the “if sender in folder” logic, I can quickly apply logic sets to new senders.

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You have “multiple email clients” but only one email account? Without knowing your email provider I’ll tell you a few things that I do on gmail to keep my email under control.

I have 1 free Gmail account, and two private domains hosted on one Google Workspace account. Server side rules forward Gmail messages from specific senders to my GW account. So dealing with all my email is the same as having only one account.

I have one suggestion, let each server side rule deal with as many senders as possible. For example, I have one rule that looks for the word ‘unsubscribe’ and labels (files) everything that matches as Review. That one rule takes care of a large amount of my email.

I have a second rule that looks for multiple senders ( OR @sender.two . . . ) that flags those messages with a star before labeling them as Review.

A third rules adds a Star to a half dozen addresses

A fourth deletes anything sent from a few addresses

And a fifth archives, and marks as read a few message that I haven’t decided what I want to do with them.

Variations of this (and @webwalrus suggestions) should work in Apple Mail depending on how many “If any of the following conditions” are allowed.

My Trash folder, that automatically deletes message older than 30 days, usually contains around 250 - 300 messages. So, IMO, that’s probably how much email I receive each month.

Using the above rules I normally receive five or so messages in my Inbox each day. I look at everything else when I’m not busy.


I’ve been taking another look at Sanebox after started to use Superhuman last year. I was hoping their ‘Splits’ feature would serve that purpose of ‘creating rules on the fly’ but I’ve run into limitations so what I’ve decided to do is just implement my Outlook/Exchange server-side rules in a more organized way.

Re. Superhuman - It doesn’t have a way to manage rules and the ‘Splits’ are just searches that run on your inbox. Useful but not a replacement for rules.

Also to add I currently use Sanebox on their lowest single-feature plan specifically to use their SaneAttachments feature that saves attachments to my Dropbox and inserts a link to that file. I’ll probably keep this one going until I find a better replacement.

I started using it again and am pleased by a number of features not there last time I looked.

Email Deep Clean is worth it all by itself - it is extremely laborious to do that manually.

Custom Snooze Folders are extremely easy to use; it takes notably more effort to use “Remind Me” in Mac Mail.

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Ah that’s cool. For that time being I’ve decided to stay on their snack (or is it appetizer?) tier with just the one SaneAttachments feature and focus on using Superhuman coupled with thoughtful Outlook server-side rules.

I felt there was quite a bit of overlap Sanebox/Superhuman with reminders, splits, etc. Will assess as I go along.

That email deep clean seems to be a free feature though for any tier? I had it do a scan but didn’t find the interface on the web immediately intuitive so I’ll spend some more time on it later. It did seem very appealing though for my stuffed mailbox.

Any other new features that you think are worth trying? I did notice they seem to have added others in the couple of years since I’ve looked.

Also to add an obesrvation: SaneAttachments won’t work on emails that are moved by Outlook rules before they hit my inbox. That’s a bit of an annoying limitation but not a dealbreaker but just in case it helps anyone.

The best “feature” was actually a surprise - I set up lots of training rules by moving messages into or out of the Inbox. In a few cases it automatically and unsolicited sent me a "Reminder to Review Your training… you set up a training to move emails from [xxx} to {destination] but we think [xxx] is someone important to you.

Each time it was spot-on. I had inadvertently moved a messsage from an important client or family member or employee out of Inbox; based on my past pattern, Sanebox guessed correctly that was not something I really wanted to do.