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Free program simplifies e-mail integration

EmailTray automatically prioritizes and filters mail from POP3 and IMAP accounts as well as Webmail services, all in a streamlined, easy-to-use interface built for quick replies.

People may be spending more time than ever on the Internet, but many of them--especially young folks--are spending less of their time using e-mail.

That's the conclusion of a comScore survey Matt Richtel wrote about recently for the New York Times. Teenagers in particular prefer to do without subject lines and other e-mail elements, and they tend to stick with short messages they can send quickly. I think they're on to something.

I noticed a sharp decline in the number of messages in my inbox after I created filters for non-priority messages; in a post from last month I describe how to integrate all your e-mail accounts and apply filters to cut down on inbox clutter.

The free EmailTray program from Web CEO goes one better by automatically prioritizing e-mail sent to multiple POP/IMAP and Webmail accounts. EmailTray (formerly called SenderOK) is designed for simplicity, and in a nod to the future, the program makes replying to a message nearly as quick as texting.

Let EmailTray do the prioritizing for you
When you install EmailTray, the program analyzes and indexes the e-mail on your system. The process takes only a few minutes, and the program recommends you pass the time by viewing a seven-slide presentation describing how EmailTray operates. Once the program had created my "network of trusted senders," I was prompted to download an update and to set EmailTray to update automatically.

EmailTray automatic update prompt
After indexing and analyzing your mail for the first time, the free EmailTray program prompts you to download an update and to enable automatic updates. screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly/CNET

EmailTray's automatic prioritization places your new mail in one of four categories: Top Priority, Low Priority, No Priority, and Spam. The program does a good job of auto-filtering messages, but some manual tweaking of sender priorities is required.

For example, EmailTray identified as a Top Priority a message from a friend who had passed away 10 months ago. As you can imagine, the message contained a very suspicious link. Obviously, my late friend's account had been compromised. Fortunately, resetting a sender's priority is as easy as clicking the drop-down priority menu in the top-right corner of the main EmailTray window and choosing one of the three alternatives.

EmailTray main window and sender-priority drop-down menu
To reset the priority level of a sender, simply click the priority drop-down menu in the top right corner of the message and select one of the three other options. screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly/CNET

EmailTray automatically detected and indexed the Outlook 2010 account on my test laptop. Adding Webmail accounts to the program's integrated inbox takes only a few clicks. Start by choosing the wrench/screwdriver icon in the top-right corner and selecting "Add account." Enter the e-mail address and password and click Next. EmailTray will attempt to connect to the mail server, and once the connection is made, click Add to have the program begin its analysis of the mail in the account.

EmailTray checks each account for new messages every 15 minutes by default, but you can reset the frequency by clicking the wrench-screwdriver icon in the top right and choosing Settings to open the EmailTray Settings dialog box. Click "Tracked accounts" in the left pane, select the account you want to change, choose one of the eight increments (from 5 minutes to 120 minutes) on the "Check for new messages every" drop-down menu, and click OK.

You can check all accounts for new mail at any time by clicking the "Get new mail" button in the top right of the main EmailTray window.

Two EmailTray default settings worth changing
By default, the program is set to start automatically with Windows and play a sound to announce the arrival of new mail. To change the first of these default options, open the Settings dialog box, click Options & Connection in the left pane, and uncheck "Run EmailTray when Windows starts." Disable the audio alert for new mail by clicking "New mail alerts" in the left pane and unchecking "Play top-priority.wav sound" under Top Priority.

EmailTray Settings dialog box
Silence EmailTray's audio alerts for new messages by unchecking this option in the program's Settings dialog box. screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly/CNET

In the same dialog box, you can change the audio alert that announces the arrival of mail in each of the four priority categories, and disable or change the frequency of the new mail alerts that pop up from the taskbar.

The main EmailTray window lets you reply to the selected message by entering text in the box below the message itself and clicking Reply. No new windows required! A button above the message lets you open it in Outlook or other POP3/IMAP account, or in the appropriate Webmail app. The EmailTray interface is otherwise refreshingly free of the many options that clutter other mail programs.

The mail app promises added benefits to people who register, including improved message prioritization, easier reinstalls, and the ability to access mailboxes from multiple PCs. However, I was satisfied with the program's performance without having to create and sign into an EmailTray account.

The company also promises to improve mail sorting by sending invitations to try EmailTray to your contacts. Clicking the "Improve mail sorting" link at the top of the main window or the button of the same name under "Mail sorting improvement" in the Settings dialog opens a canned message that will be sent to every address in your inbox. The message asks the recipient to browse to the EmailTray site to download the program.

Apart from the irony of a spam-filtering program sending spam that includes a URL, it's difficult to recommend a program that attempts to market itself under the guise of improving its performance. However, EmailTray does a good job filtering and prioritizing messages sent to multiple accounts without having to register or spam your contacts.