ActionOutline: Collecting & Printing Email

ActionOutlineAt the risk of sounding irreligious, I like ActionOutline better for collecting and printing email than EverNote 2.

I assume pretty much everyone uses Gmail. I’ve never been able to get over the mental hurdle of giving Google access to and control over my email and my contacts so I don’t use it. I have everything routed through Thunderbird on my desktop.

Rather than archiving email permanently in Thunderbird, I move it out and print it as PDFs. I’ve done it this way for years. And not every single email but just the ones I want to keep. I used to use EverNote 2 for this but I’ve moved to ActionOutline and it works even better.

In ActionOutline, I have an EMAIL tab and then a sub-item for each person (blurred here for privacy) that I’m in a conversation with.

ActionOutline, Collecting Email

I copy and paste the date straight from each email into ActionOutline. Or use the Date/Time stamp (F5) to get it started and then tweak the exact time. (The Date/Time will show up as the title for each email when it’s printed.)

(Then drag and drop the email next to it. This works perfectly for text emails and photos dragged over separately but not for HTML newsletters.

Tip: Most PDF printing will kill links unless they’re in http:// format so I change the email view to Plain Text before moving them over.)

ActionOutline Settings

The Date/Time format can be defined by the Date/time format option.

Date/Time Format, ActionOutline

If you don’t like the default formats, you can create your own.

ActionOutline, Set Date/Time Format

When a conversation seems to be complete or, at least, complete for now I click the Print button and it takes me to a window of printing choices.

ActionOutline has a list of printing presets, otherwise you can create your own. I made one called Print Email.

ActionOutline, Select preset to print

Process current branch only will limit the email print-out to the one person I choose.

You can set up your print options easily by clicking on the Edit button (icon with the red check mark above).

ActionOutline, Print Options

I like to print my email without fanfare so what I get is just the date and time in bold at the top left and then the email content, one per page.

It makes for a very clean look. It doesn’t include company logos, headers and footers and other irrelevant crap all over the archives. (Yes, Gmail, you.)

Then I choose my default PDF print driver, PDF Creator.

ActionOutline, Printing Email

For any conversations that continue later, PDFs can be stitched together easily using a free PDF editor like PDFTKBuilder.

I have one PDF over 1100 pages long. And that’s email from someone who doesn’t write that often.

You can also choose the Export option instead of Print and have your output going to plain TXT, RTF or HTML instead.

ActionOutline, Export Presets

These options, of course, apply to all other printing or exporting of ActionOutline content.

6 thoughts on “ActionOutline: Collecting & Printing Email

  1. Fred Clough

    My only issue with Action Outline is the search function is pretty paltry. It doesn’t search across tabs that I’m aware of. If it weren’t for that, I’d use it all the time.

    1. JL Beeken Post author

      I agree. It’s not stellar. But it is workable if you master this process.

      F3 for search.
      Once you’ve got your search term in the box, continue clicking F3 to work down the page.
      Then click Enter to escape that tab.
      Ctrl+Page Down to move across tabs.
      F3 again, etc.

  2. Fred Clough

    Thank you.

    It’s strange because I found Action Outline first but was underwhelmed with the search, which led me to WhizFolder which led me to RightNote, both of which are good programs. The search feature in Right Note is very good, but I keep wanting the simplicity and “feel” of Action Outline. Guess that’s the way it goes with software. I sent an email to the developers asking if search would be improved. No response yet. Most of the website seems to indicate it hasn’t been updated in a while. Not sure if it’s a legacy product for them, although they do seem to be working on a Mac version.

    1. JL Beeken Post author

      ActionOutline’s been around forever it seems and I’ve only seen an upgrade twice. I had it on my computer for 8 years before I found a use for it because I was stuck on Evernote 2. But it’s been my one-and-only notes program for several years now except for what I do with paper.

      Compared to what’s been developed for mobile devices it’s a dinosaur but I love its simplicity, practicality and rock-solid reliability. If it was a person I’d marry it.

      I never need global search so I hadn’t really thought about it. I have a tab at the front of the line called ‘scratch’ that’s my inbox and scratch pad and I file from there under categories that are quite different from each other so I don’t get lost about where I put things.

  3. Fred

    Would you recommend the Standard version or the Secure Version? I’ve been using the Free version. Don’t see a huge need for the Network product.

    1. JL Beeken Post author

      Do you have any reason to need to encrypt your outlines? I don’t so I just bought the Standard version after having the free version for many years. Once I started actually using it the free limits got in my way. You can have a trial of it first, of course. If I was moving between computers I would keep the outlines in Dropbox. But, since I don’t, they just stay in their own folder on my desktop PC.


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