I have a lot of assorted email being sent to my pobox.com address for various reasons. I want to find a way to continuously filter the incoming messages, so that the ones from news services go to a News folder, the ones about my bank accounts go to a Financial folder, etc.

The primary motivation for doing this is my smartphone, i.e. visibility of new personal email messages soon after they arrive. I want to know when personal messages arrive, by means of the number ticking upward on the live tile of my Inbox (Windows Phone). But I don't care about all the automated email and newsletters that are sent to the same Inbox.

The most powerful way to do this is to manage an address book for each subfolder: News, Financial, etc., and enforce a rule for each folder: "If sender is in my address book X, then move the message to folder X".

By implementing my rules this way, I am keeping personal email in my top-level Inbox folder, while relegating all non-personal email to subfolders for later review. It's a process of elimination. If a person I haven't heard from in 10 years contacts me, their message does not get moved away to a place where I might miss it. By the same token, if I subscribe to a new newsletter, it is easy to add the sender's address to my News address book.

However, the only way I have found to implement this type of rule is Thunderbird filtering rules. When I subscribe to a new newsletter, it is simple to add the sender's address to my News address book.

The downside to this approach is that I have to keep Thunderbird running at all times. When Thunderbird goes down, all the unimportant messages clutter up the Inbox on my smartphone.

So I'm asking for alternative solutions. Possibilities:

  1. Direct my pobox.com email to a provider that can enforce these rules on the server side.
  2. Run an additional IMAP client on a server of my own. I have a NAS that runs Linux. Is there an application that could poll my inbox for new messages and enforce the filter rules?
  3. Run an app on my smartphone (WP 7.5) that enforces the rules. This is not optimal but it would be interesting to know if an app existed for this.
  4. Something I haven't thought of yet.
  • I currently use GMX as my email service provider, because they have excellent IMAP service. Also, they allow me to disable spam filtering completely (this is desirable because pobox.com has great spam filtering already). – Jacob May 15 '13 at 15:43
  • I think that IMAP is a requirement (as opposed to POP3), because it works very well with Thunderbird. That's where I usually read all my email including the subfolders. I've considered migrating to Outlook.com as a provider, but they only support POP3 and of course ActiveSync. – Jacob May 15 '13 at 15:49
  • It is not necessary for the address books to be stored locally. Ideally they would be stored on the server that does the filtering, and be easy to update. – Jacob May 21 '13 at 14:31

I've been quite happily using SaneBox.com to accomplish this for many months.

  • Sanebox is a great idea but I'm cancelling my subscription after using it a month or so because it's causing problems, especially on my university IMAP account (e.g. the webmail search no longer works because the +SaneTomorrow folder is apparently a remote folder that the search engine can't access and therefore fails. I have other issues that I cannot prove to be caused by Sanebox but which never occurred before in 20 years of email use, the worst one being an email email vanishing. -- Long story short: I'm still looking for the kind of solution described in the question - other than sanebox. – Christoph Sep 5 '14 at 18:48
  • I've renewed my SaneBox subscription for another year. I also upgraded my Pobox subscription to MailStore, so that I could stop using the free service on GMX. GMX was the source of all the glitches I experienced. Paying for IMAP service from Pobox's MailStore service seems to work really work. – Jacob Sep 5 '14 at 22:06

I have been exploring this question a bit myself and I found POPFile an interesting solution. Especially in combination with its IMAP module, it seems to be providing very similar features as Sanebox for free.

Although the project doesn't seem to be actively developed any more, I found it easy to install the program testwise on my Windows 7 PC. While I have not gone further than this myself, I can imagine that installing this on some server that is on 24/7 could work as a free sanebox replacement, at least for the technophiles amongst us.


DISCLAIMER : (message from Cleanfox's CEO)

You can also use Cleanfox.io (www.cleanfox.io/fr). What Cleanfox does in comparision to other mail cleaning app is to show you your open-rate for each newsletter you receive (so you can easily spot the ones you do not read).

Cleanfox also shows you how many kg of Carbon Dioxide you saved by cleaning your inbox.

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