Nov 11, 2015 [this is a complete update to a older Dec 4 2014 post]
As you know, I have two primary recommendations in MYN and 1MTD for keeping e-mail under control:
- Convert action emails into tasks.
- Empty your inbox into a single folder (for speed) and use Categories in Outlook to group your mail by topic when needed.
Unfortunately, none of the native mail apps on either iOS and Android have the ability to assign categories or convert emails to tasks. Nor does Microsoft’s Outlook smartphone app, which is surprising.
But there’s an app that can do both of these on the iPhone or Android: and it’s called TouchDown, and it’s marketed by Symantec. It’s only for users with an Exchange Server (e.g. for those in a corporate environment or for individuals using Office 365 with Exchange).
I’ve been recommending TouchDown for years on Android, but up until recently I thought its iPhone version was too immature—however, as of the past year or so it’s e-mail module is ready to recommend. It also comes with good Calendar and Contacts modules that sync with Exchange.
[9/27/2017 Update: the Touchdown App is no longer being sold by Symantec]
These are very unique apps
There are very few e-mail apps on iPhone and Android that can both assign or view Outlook categories on smartphone mail and convert e-mails to tasks—even Microsoft’s apps can’t do this. (I am told that on Android another app called Nine can do this too, but I have not tested it. And I was just told in comments that Mail+ for iPhone by “iKonic apps” can do this too, again, not tested by us yet). So these TouchDown apps are very good for MYN and 1MTD users. I covered the Android TouchDown app well here, so in the rest of this article I want to focus mostly on the iPhone/iOS app.
TouchDown App on iOS
In the Apple Store this app is called TouchDown Mail. There is another app from the same company called TouchDown Enterprise, but it’s for companies that bought a set of licenses. The TouchDown Mail app is a bit pricey at $19.99, probably because the app is focused more at the enterprise market than toward individuals; so you’ll have to decide if the convert-to-task and category features make it worth that price to you. It does have a nice set of enterprise security and management features built in.
Like many iPhone apps, the TouchDown controls are very clean and simple—easy to understand. Here’s a screenshot of the Inbox:
You access all your Outlook folders and app settings through the three-line menu button in the upper left. You create a new message with the button in the upper right. From the three-dot menu next to each e-mail, or from within each mail item, you can do all the usual things you expect an e-mail smartphone app to do: flag e-mails, mark them read or unread, forward, reply, reply all, move to a folder, and so on. A left swipe on an e-mail in the list view allows you to delete it. See a complete app feature list here.
Using Categories on TouchDown iOS
Assigning categories is easy on TouchDown iOS. Just click the orange three-dot button next to an e-mail in the list view and choose Category from the list of commands. When you first install the app, the category colors don’t match what’s on your copy of Outlook (but you can fix that on initial setup, see below). Of course, the category names do get assigned correctly and easily. Once assigned, within seconds the same assignment shows up in your desktop copy of Outlook. You can easily toggle any folder list view on the app to show only e-mails with certain categories. My only complaint about the category feature is that the assigned category is visible on individual e-mails only as a color assignment, even in an open e-mail no name is visible. You have to open the category picker on that e-mail to see what category name is assigned to it.
Fixing the Category Colors in TouchDown iOS
The API that imports your Exchange-based category list into TouchDown (on initial install and sync with your account) cannot pick up category colors; that’s a limit on the API, not the app. So initially TouchDown assigns random colors to each category in the app category picker. But you can fix that right after install. Open the Settings window (click on the Gear icon under the main menu). Then tap on Account and at the bottom of the Account window tap on Categories. Then tap on each category one at a time and assign the correct color (be sure to tap the checkmark at the bottom of the color picker to save each color). From then on it will work.
Converting E-mails to Tasks on TouchDown iOS
On the iPhone app, to create a task from an e-mail you have to open the e-mail first by tapping it. Then tap the three-dot menu icon in the upper right of the open e-mail. Choose Mark, and from the Mark menu choose Task. MYN users don’t forget to set a start date and priority. Save the task and that task shows up in your Outlook MYN or 1MTD task list nearly instantly.
By the way, for some reason the Task command is not on the Mark menu when opened from the mail list view, so keep that in mind. Also, no smartphone mail apps have the ability to save attachments with e-mails converted to tasks, a limitation also true with TouchDown. But the iPhone app TaskTask allows you view attachments attached to tasks, and to add attachments to existing tasks.
Tasks Modules on iPhone and Android
On the Android TouchDown app the Tasks module is quite sophisticated and can be configured for MYN or 1MTD settings. I show how to do that here. On the iPhone TouchDown app, the Tasks module is a bit immature and it cannot be fully configured for MYN or 1MTD, but you can get some use out of it, and I wrote an article about that here. You can of course also install the TaskTask app on your iPhone and use it as the way to view MYN tasks.
After using the iPhone TouchDown app a few days I’ve decided this is a nice mail app. Its ability to set categories and convert e-mails to tasks is a boon for MYN and 1MTD users. As far as all its other features, I haven’t beat it up completely, so if you use it and like it or hate it, report back here in the comments so others can see. There are already a bunch of comments in the older post, the one this post replaces, so you might want to study those.
Also, the TouchDown app is designed to work well in corporate environments. If it is not yet approved in your company, have your IT department study it and approve it, I think they will like what they see.