Space efficient mail app

I was trying to upgrade to Catalina and found I was out of space on my MacBook Air. I don’t have a lot of disk space on it, and I found that the mail space used by Outlook was >50GB! That’s pretty much half the disk.

I did some research and the Mail app has the same “feature” - download all emails.

Is there a mail app where I can only sync the most recent x days of emails, with older emails being removed from the device as time progresses?

You could try to change the settings not to download attachments.

  1. Mail > Settings
  2. Select the email account
  3. Account information
  4. Download attachments: non or recent.

This should save you a ton of space.

I’ll generally open the attachment when o receive the email, but don’t need it weeks later.

To my knowledge you are left with 2 options:

  1. Use webmail
  2. Buy a MB air with more storage

I archive off my email every year into pdf’s on an external disk. This way I have all email available when I need it, but save internal disk space.

I want the emails on my work machine, so archiving doesn’t work for me.

I’m surprised there isn’t an email app that can control how far back emails are synced and can free up space outside of the time period specified by deleting emails from the hard drive and retaining them on the server.

Maybe Thunderbird mail would work for you:

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I’m not familiar with any mail app on the Mac that does this. However, I do know of a way that I think you could do it in a fairly automated way: SaneBox.

I’ve been a very happy customer of SaneBox for several years now, and consider it an essential service these days. It does a great job of sorting “less important” messages out of your Inbox, and the best feature of all is the SaneBlackHole which you will want once you’ve heard what it does.

Other than that, I think your only real option is webmail.

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I’m going to reiterate my position that email should not be used as a filing system or information store. There are much better workflows to handle such information. Unless you need to reply to 50gb of emails, why do they need to be that format? It also leads to a lot of duplication, contributing to your space problem.

Another place to check is your sent items folder. It can take up a lot of space. If you email someone a large file you now have two copies, on your drive and in your email.


I don’t want to spend time filing emails. I just want the most recent x days to be available locally, and the rest to be available on the server. I want this to be a local computer decision (i.e. the email app).

I’m very surprised this isn’t a more common problem and I’m the only one facing it!

I want to spend as little time as possible on email. I find filing into folders a waste of time (I’ll search).

I want what I thought 99% of people would reasonably want, which is the option to only store the most recent x days locally.

I have sanebox and use the archive folder, but the archive folder is a sub folder of the inbox, so I don’t see how it helps?

Maybe! I’ll check it out. Thanks.

I’m not sure about the Mac version, but there should be an option to select how much mail Outlook keeps offline…

My thought was that you could “unsubscribe” from the “archive” folder via IMAP, so when messages were moved to it, they would no longer be kept locally.

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You could not download attachments. That would keep a lot of data on the server.

Outlook (on Office 365 or a well configured exchange server) can give you this option. I auto archive all emails older than 1 year to an online archive. That keeps my downloaded stuff manageable.

The cool thing about the way this works on Exchange servers is that you’ll be able to search the online archived data from the desktop client. It’s been a huge help.

There are other services that have the same functionality - and there’s probably a way to do it with IMAP and server-side rules, but then you’d need a way to “unsubscribe” from the online archive email folder. I don’t remember if that capability is still present in the Mac email client or not.