Both Gmail and Outlook email have an archive button in their toolbars. What does the Archive function do in these two email systems? Where does your email go to and can you ever get it back?
Clean up your inbox
The Archive button in Gmail and Outlook.com is a tool that is useful for clearing your inbox of emails you do not want to see. This is not the same as deleting them.
The Delete function moves an email to the Deleted items folder in Outlook and the Bin in Gmail. It is not immediately removed from the system and it stays in there for at least a couple of weeks and up to 30 days with Google.
This gives you the chance to rescue a deleted email if you discover that you actually need it or if it was deleted by mistake.
Eventually, deleted emails are completely erased with no chance of ever getting them back.
The Archive button is similar in that the selected email is moved from the inbox and placed elsewhere. Where it goes is different in Gmail and Outlook, but the main point of Archive is that:
- It is no longer cluttering up your inbox
- It is safely stored somewhere else
- It is never deleted
- It can be viewed or moved back to the Inbox
Archive emails that you no longer need to see, but do not want to delete. There are stored out of sight.
Gmail archived emails
Some email systems use folders to organise the email and they act like folders on the disk drive. Drag an email to a folder and drop it in to move it. Select a folder to see all the emails that it contains.
Gmail is unusual and it does not use folders. Instead it uses labels.
Select the Inbox in the sidebar and Gmail shows all the email messages with the ‘Inbox’ label attached to it. There is a link at the bottom of the sidebar to create your own labels and you can assign them to emails.
When a label in the sidebar is selected, only emails with that label are displayed. When an email is archived, the Inbox label is removed. This means that you will not see it when the Inbox is selected. It is hidden.
So how do you view archived emails? Click More in the sidebar and then select All Mail. All emails, wherever they are and even if they are in the Bin, are displayed and this includes Archived emails.
If the search box at the top of the Gmail page is used, it searches All Mail and so archived emails that match the search term will be included in the results.
You cannot view just archived emails because they don’t have a label. The best you can do is type has:nouserlabels into the search box. It lists Inbox items and archived emails without labels.
Outlook archived emails
Outlook.com uses traditional folders for storing messages and there is an Inbox folder, a Sent items folder, a Deleted items folder and so on. Select a folder in the sidebar and you can see the emails held in that folder.
The Archive button in the menu bar at the top moves an email from the inbox folder to another folder. Which folder you might ask? Any folder you want, Outlook isn’t fussy. The aim is to move it somewhere else so that it is out of the inbox and out of sight.
Select an email that you want to archive and click the Archive button. The first time you do this, it will ask if you want to create an Archive folder or if you want to use an existing folder, such as one you created earlier.
The choice is yours, but it makes sense to use a folder called Archive. Choose that option and the Archive folder is created for you and appears in the sidebar with the other folders.
If you want to create your own folder for archived emails, mouse over the Folders in the sidebar in Outlook.com and click the plus sign that appears. You can then create a new folder and a box appears into which you can type its name. You can call it anything you like.
When you want to view archived emails, just select the Archive folder or whatever folder you chose to use.