Linking to Mail Messages

Archive the message and find it again with a single click.

by Colter Reed
2:07 read (647 words)
by Colter Reed
2:07 read (647 words)

When I was transitioning to digital planning, one of the pivotal moments was when I realized that I didn’t need to find one app that did everything—including syncing. I could focus on finding the apps that worked best for me for tasks, appointments, and daily notes, and let each play to their strengths.

I’ve written before on how to tie OmniFocus and Evernote together. By adding links to the tasks and project support notes, you can quickly jump back and forth. I’ve also found it useful to add links to relevant email messages. This keeps the email in Mail, and I can get to it from the relevant task and project, whether I’m on my phone, iPad, or Mac.

By integrating links to the right email messages, you can more easily get your Inbox to Zero, be more effective in your communication, and relax, knowing that the information will still be available when and where you need it.

You can put links to an email message:

  • In your task list. Do you keep emails in your inbox so you can reply when you’ve completed a task? Instead, archive the message or file it into a Waiting or Action folder and add the message’s URL to the notes field. When the task is complete, the original email is just a click away, and you can report your progress and findings.
  • In a project support note. Add a link to a relevant email thread to a project support note. Unfortunately, Evernote doesn’t recognize URLs that start with message:// as URLs, so you need to paste the bare URL itself into the note. Once it’s there however, you can click on it to get back to the message.
  • In an email to someone else. Because of the way that Mail generates the URL, the URL will work for anyone who has the original message—even somebody else! The first time I saw this, I was stunned. I had no idea this would work. It’s an elegant way to refer back to an earlier message in the thread, to another thread, or to follow up on an earlier email. It won’t always work, but if you can link back to a message, it’s neat alternative to quoting the email.

    Let me be clear: they have to have the original message. You’re not giving them access to your email on your computer, or on a server someplace. Their copy of Mail just looks up the message in what they already have. If they don’t have the message, it won’t work.

There are probably other useful things you can do with a link to a message, but that’s where I usually use them.

Mail doesn’t have a direct way to get a URL for a message, but it’s pretty easy to do with a little AppleScript.

tell application "Mail"
set _sel to get selection
set _links to {}
repeat with _msg in _sel
set _messageURL to "message://%3c" & _msg's message id & "%3e"
set end of _links to _messageURL
end repeat
set AppleScript's text item delimiters to return
set the clipboard to (_links as string)
end tell

To use this script:

  1. Launch Script Editor (AppleScript Editor prior to Yosemite) and open its preferences.
  2. Turn on Show Script menu in menu bar. This turns on the system-wide script menu. I’d also make sure that application scripts are shown at the top (the next option).
  3. Download Copy Message URL.scpt. Or copy and paste (or retype) it into Script Editor, since you have it up.
  4. Launch Mail.
  5. Under the Script menu, choose Open Scripts Folder > Open Mail Scripts Folder. (You can also go straight to ~/Library/Scripts/Applications/Mail in the Finder, but the menu item will create the folder for you if it doesn’t already exist.)
  6. Move Copy Message URL.scpt into the Mail scripts folder.

Now you can quickly get a link to any email message in Mail. Just select a message and select `Copy Message URL` from the Scripts menu. (The Scripts menu is the little scrolled piece of parchment towards the right hand side of your menu bar.)

The power of a digital planning system is in letting each tool specialize and do what it’s good at. Let Mail handle email, and let other apps handle tasks and reference materials. Message URLs will let the other tools in your system integrate with Mail so it can extend your system.

Question: These are the three ways I typically use email message links. Where else would you put a link to an email message? Share your thoughts in the comments, on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.