Do you archive your email? Why?


  • We are in the era of terabytes, so leaving all mail on the server is a non-issue.
  • Because of legal considerations/obligations, an email is “business coresspondence”. Depending on the content, I am requiered to keep it 0, 3, 7 or 30 years. Easiest solution: don’t even think about it, archive them all.


Where they are is my inbox, and I don’t want anything in my inbox that no longer needs to be acted upon.

I archive a minority of messages. Most of my messages are put into an appropriate folder or deleted. Some are worth keeping but don’t fit into any of my folders (maybe they’re a one-off, or maybe I want to keep it around just in case) so they get archived. While I am an aggressive deleter, a single message is not a lot of space and I’d rather err on the side of keeping when there’s even a remote change I might want it.

Note: I don’t use gmail.


For my personal mail, this is the case. However, my employer has set an upper limit of 200MB for my email storage needs on the server. Anything in addition, I need to archive locally. I am on the “big plan” too - default is 100 MB :slight_smile: (Yes, that is megabytes…)

Currently, I’ve worked my way down to 67 MB. Luckily, I have a mailbox that is more practical on the account I’m deployed to.


Archiving emails takes up relatively little space, and can be an interesting window (or time capsule) to an earlier part of your life you’d otherwise have forgotten.

I was cleaning out my files and found canceled checks from the late 80s which brought back a flood of memories (purchases, donations, magazine subscriptions) I’d never have otherwise remembered. It was a fascinating, lovely experience.

I also have 15+ years’ worth of emails archived, and while I have not looked back yet at any of the old emails I know that they will include some gems that will likewise jog my memory and make me smile.

Otherwise, I find I often go back to emails from the last 1-2 years to check up on discussions and things agreed to. Saving all my app purchase receipts from developers is very useful when contacting devs about upgrade pricing, among other things.


@bowline, what you say about the flood of memories is so true. In the process of archiving emails from my inbox I came across the emails from just before I started college; dorm assignment emails, first emails from people who went on to become dear friends and so on. I’m so glad to have these emails.


I use DEVONthink. This allows me to file everything for a topic or project in one place. Hence all email (sent or received) for a topic is filed in the folder with files like PDF scans and office files. They all get a sortable chronologically sortable file name too. A bit like an old fashioned project paper file. It is fantastic to be able to digitally see all ‘papers’ relating to a single topic in date order

In practice this leaves very little email left in my email client to have to manage or ‘archive’.


In Spark, I’ve set up my archive system to sort my mail into different “folders.”

  • Spouse
  • Zen sayings
  • Austin Kleon
  • Credit Union
  • And so forth

Look at mail, swipe to Archive, if in a named category… it’s sorted.


I use google inbox on my iPhone, so archive gets labeled as “done”

so it’s just easier than deleting.


We had that and internally departments got charged in numerous tiers. The bottom one was barely usable. But it drove departments to try to persuade their users they needed lower tiers - to save “wooden money”.

But the downside was the loss of productivity and loss of procedure for mail handling. Storage, of course, is much cheaper than it was.

I think in the end the limits and tiering got abandoned.


Yes, for pure email this is plenty of space. But I have business partners that „scan“ an important (paper) letter and I will get a 1-Page-8-megabyte-JPEG file… :frowning:

This is usually where the bloat comes from. Legally here the attachment has to stay with the email - you get the picture. So archiving is essential for me.


How do you get email into DevonThink?


My parents in looking at how many emails I had in my All Mail in Gmail were appalled at me having 100,000 emails archived. I explained that it didn’t matter as the emails in my inbox (30 or so) were the ones I had to deal with.

That said to humor them, I’ve been using Mail on my Mac and sorting by sender. I’ve deleted close to 10,000 emails. I see both sides though really I think it’s a waste of time to delete emails continuously. My folks are also having me delete Sanebox as they feel its an unnecessary subscription so I’ll have even more emails in my inbox.


Not the person you are asking but I’m also archiving into DEVONThink.

I tried the features built into to capture entire mailboxes but that failed so what I’m doing is I created a separate database named Mail_Archive_Curated and in it there are 7 groupes/folders

1 each for the 2 organizations where I am an officer
1 called Reference which is where most stuff goes
1 called Software_Licenses so I can easily get to the license info from here as well as within 1Password
1 each for 3 separate businesses. I am no longer involved with any of them but for legal reasons I need to keep all info and e-mails in case of a lawsuit. I didn’t wnat them cluttering up my main reference folder.

I have nearly cleaned up the huge number of folders I had in Apple mail by saving the messages and conversations I need. I so it by selecting the mesages to move and pressing control option command m and then selecting which of my archive folders I want them moved into.

I’ve been doing half an hour or so of mail management a day and I’m down to around 50K messages still to sort from a high of over 100K .


Is the control, option, command, m a mail Keyboard shortcut or for Keyboard Maestro?


It’s in mail, added as Add to DEVONThink Pro Office


FYI EagleFiler can convert from Apple Mail, Microsoft Outlook, .eml, and other formats to the standard mbox format, and it’s designed to handle tons of mail efficiently. Also, from within Mail select one or more email messages then press EagleFiler’s Capture Key (F1 by default), and that’s it.

(And of course, like Devonthink and similar ‘shoebox’ apps it also saves pdfs, web archives, RTF/RTFD files, as well as Safari bookmarks and more.)


Following @Ajay “noob question” (which isn’t for me)… what is the definition of Archiving. From the answer I see here, it’s either moving mails older than some date to an Archive folder, or it’s exporting to another app (like Devonthink). But is it that ?

I have a central mailbox where every mails is filtered (on the server) to different topic oriented folder (I achieved to have a 2 level deep folder structure: To folder are Shop, Events, Services, Office, Private). All emails are sorted in there. I don’t “archive” them per se, as they are already sorted. Not relevant email like ads are of course moved to the bin.

In Apple Mail, there is a Archie button to move emails to a Archive folder, but I don’t get the purpose considering my use. Is even archiving even necessary?


Like anything else in the material or analog worlds, you “archive” (or “store” or “save”) if you think you’ll want the thing in the future. If you’re sure you’ll never want the thing, then you “delete” or “throw out” or “trash” it.


The definition of archiving is multiple. The “archive” feature found in some mail apps and mail service providers is almost more of a branding term for moving something out of your inbox into an otherwise unorganized everything-folder for safe keeping. As a form of archiving, this is great if that mail account persists and never disappears. If you lose access to that mail account (e.g., it is tied to your internet service provider, or an employer you no longer work for) then you lose access to those “archived” messages.

The more traditional understanding of archiving, as I see it, would be to copy (or move) material to a different and persistent “location” the existence of which is independent of the source. So, that means moving email to a location that is not the same email account, provider, or even email at all.

Why you would want to do this is, of course, dependent on the individual. Personal email may have important financial or bureaucratic significant. It may also hold sentimental value. Work-related accounts may have important customer information that you might want to keep if your relationships with those customers extends beyond your term with an employer, or if there’s important professionally-relevant reference material, or of there’s some responsibility or accountability that may need evidence to support.

I use both “archiving” and archiving:
I maintain a zero or near-zero inbox. While I do have some folders in which I place messages for ongoing relationships or projects or other thematic “buckets”, more often than not the message is worth keeping around (actually probably not) but is largely a one-off. There’s no sense in polluting a thematic folder with an off-theme one-off and there’s little utility in creating an entire folder just for one message. While I am an aggressive deleter (newsletters? Promos? almost anything from a list-serv? they’re deleted), if it isn’t in one of my few thematic folders, it’s archived. I would say 50% of my email gets deleted, 25% goes into a folder, and 25% is archived.

I use more traditional archiving less often. I generally trust my computer backups (I access my email through IMAP and Exchange using a desktop client) for any recovery of messages in the short term, such as accidental deletion or temporary loss of access to the account, so I don’t archive messages to a different location on an ongoing basis or for organizational purposes.

When I do archive it is usually because I am losing access to an email account where I may be accountable of responsible for some business conducted in that account for years out. For example, I taught at a university for several years. I have relatively voluminous email exchanges with my students that may be relevant if they, potentially years down the road, decide to contest a grade, request an accommodation, or are implicated in some situation where I may have some evidence or material that can support them. I lost access to that account after leaving that university, but need to remain accountable to those students, so I archived large portions of the emails in that account to DEVONthink.

Similarly, I was briefly at another university for a visiting position where I was involved in a couple of projects that are ongoing. When my visiting position ended I lost access to that email account where some proportion of the work had been discussed. That also got archived to DEVONthink so that I can have access to previous discussions and past reference material etc.

I am now at yet another university, with its own email account, in a one year (perhaps longer, but nevertheless not permanent) position. I am involved in multiple projects and most of them are coordinated through that institutional email account. When my position expires along with access to that email, I’ll most definitely be archiving that in the same way.

A user need not use DEVONthink specifically for this purpose, you could easily just use Mail to move the messages to On My Mac, but since I use DEVONthink for other areas of my professional life, and it offers some handy organization (and gets it out of the domain of “email” altogether) I figured I’d use it for this purpose.

So “archiving” and archiving serve different purposes that users may or may not have a need for, or whose needs may differ widely/be idiosyncratic.


When I use the word archiving I mean saving important stuff in an accessible, usable, and stable form for use later. So archiving covers not only electronic media such as saving important, fun or interesting emails but also papers, historical clothing, artifacts, ephemera, photos, scrapbooks, etc. An archive consists of a collection of related items that is well documented.

When I consider archiving an item or collection of items I have to consider the long term use, the form factor of the item, the storage needs for preservation (textiles have different needs than say, negatives) and future proofing those formats and the value of the cataloging, indexing and documentation for future users of the archive.

I work with a number of archives. I regularly refer back to 10+ yr old emails so I need them archived in a format I can access. I am scanning picture negatives that are over 100 years old and I need those digital files to be in a lossless format and to plan for storge upgrades as technology changes. I also have to plan for cataloging and research in that archive and moving that along as technology changes. I keep information for future genealogical researchers on the stories and special moments that make my life special or that came down to me from my ancestors. I document the stories behind the ordinay artifacts and things we keep as decoration so that their value is known when it’s not monetary value but value for the story it illustrates. I keep day to day information because once you get past 1000 years the more interesting stuff to historians is how the ordinary people lived. I have a plan for our farm and sheep flock that has sections for 3, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100 and 500 years in the future because while I expect future generations to change it they need to know the why for things that have been done during my lifetime and that of my parents. All of these are archives.