This post is part of a periodic series about The Tools I Use.

I’ve used Mozilla Thunderbird and its predecessors for e-mail since the Netscape Communicator days. I’ve tried other applications from time to time, but always come back home to the familiar.

I’ve always organized my e-mail into folders based on either the recipient, the project, or some other criteria. I use my inbox as a reminder of things I still need to deal with, so I file or delete everything I’ve finished with. Sent mail gets filed using the same rules as incoming mail.

Filing e-mail using the mouse is tedious and annoying. Many years ago, I discovered the Nostalgy add-on for Thunderbird and my e-mail life improved significantly.

Nostalgy adds keyboard shortcuts for working with Thunderbird. There are shortcuts for navigating folders and tags, and for moving/copying messages between folders, all with a very nice auto-completion UI. There are also shortcuts for navigating between the various panes in the application.

You can define rules based on Sender and/or Subject to tell Nostalgy which folder an e-mail belongs in to make it even easier to file. There is a statistical prediction feature that allows Nostalgy to guess which folder a message belongs in without defining any rules. Depending on your filing system and the kinds of e-mails you send and receive, this can do a really good job of figuring out the right folder.

If you decide to give Nostalgy a try, beware of the “L” shortcut that hides your folder pane. It’s really easy to accidentally hit that key in the wrong context and not know what you’ve done to yourself. Hitting “L” again will bring it back. If you don’t think you’ll use that feature, then you can disable or change the shortcut.

Nostalgy has been a critical part of my e-mail workflow for many years; I’m not sure how I survived before I found it.