Google Apps Tips: What is Archiving
What is Archiving in Gmail?
Archiving in Gmail is quite a bit different than the archiving you’re probably used to in other email applications. No longer will you need to compress your old email and then store it on your computer – only to have to decompress it later to view the messages. That form of archiving is a thing of the past!
In Gmail, each and every user has a dedicated storage space allotment for their email. The storage space, also known as the user’s archive, is called All Mail. Different versions of Gmail have different storage allotment sizes:
- Google Apps (the standard consumer version of Gmail): 7 Gigabytes (GB)
- Google Apps for Education: 7 Gigabytes (GB)
- Google Apps for Business: 25 Gigabytes (GB)
25 GB of storage for every Google Apps Business user – that’s roughly 50 times more storage per user than the industry standard!
Think of All Mail, your archive, as a larger container or box that holds all of the mail you’ve either sent or received.
When messages arrives for you, Gmail automatically stores them in your All Mail container. When you send or respond to messages, Gmail also stores the sent messages in your All Mail container.
How do messages display in my Inbox?
When a new messages arrives in the All Mail container, Gmail is smart enough to know it’s a new message and places a special label on the email message called Inbox. Think of the label as a sort of sticky note, and your Inbox as just another container which, by default, is visible when you access Gmail.
When you view your inbox, Gmail looks in your All Mail container and displays all email messages with the attached ‘Inbox’ label. When viewing the message in your inbox, the label is invisible. But, if you view your All Mail label container by clicking the All Mail link, you can see the Inbox label. Note that by default, your All Mail label isn’t visible. To view the messages in your All Mail container, click x more (where x is the number of hidden labels).
As you can see above, while the top two messages in the Inbox are also in the All Mail container, the Inbox label is not visible when viewing the messages in your Inbox.
What happens when I archive a message?
When you archive a message in your Inbox, you’re simply telling Gmail to remove the label called Inbox. To see how archiving works, try this simple test:
Compose a new message and send it to yourself:
- Enter your email address in the To field, and enter Test Archiving in the Subject field. Enter anything you want in the body of the message, and send it to yourself.
- When you receive the message, it should show up at the top of your Inbox. Do you see a label called ‘Inbox’ on the message?
- Now, open your All Mail label container. If you don’t see the All Mail label, it’s hidden by default beneath the x more link. Do you see the same message in the All Mail label container? Does it have the ‘Inbox’ label on it?
Now, archive the message:
- Click Inbox to return to your Inbox.
- Click the checkbox for your test message, and click the Archive action button located above the first message in your Inbox. The message should no longer be visible in your Inbox.
- Click All Mail again. Is the message still there? Is the ‘Inbox’ label still visible? You see, it wasn’t deleted. Gmail just removed the ‘Inbox’ label telling the application not to display it in your Inbox.
Now, reapply the label, and put it back in your Inbox:
- In the ‘All Mail’ label container, click the checkbox for your test message.
- Click the Move to Inbox action button. Did Gmail reapply the label?
- Return to your Inbox. Is the message back in your Inbox?
Why would I want to archive messages?
Archiving messages helps keep your Inbox neat and tidy. If you’ve already read a message, why clutter up your Inbox with old, unread messages? Just archive them! Archived messages are always available and, unless otherwise defined by your organization, never deleted.
But what happens if someone responds to a message I archived?
When someone responds to a message you previously archived, Gmail views it as a new message and places the ‘Inbox’ label on it again, which places the message, or conversation, at the top of your Inbox.
How long do messages stay in the All Mail label?
By default, indefinitely, or until you manually delete them. However, your organization may have modified the length of time email remains in your All Mail container. If you are unsure how long email resides in your All Mail container, consult your Google Apps administrator or your IT department.
What happens when I reach my 25 GB of storage limit?
Chances are good that you will never reach your 25 GB storage limit. With your previous system, you typically had about 1/50th of the storage you now have in Gmail. If, on average, you archived your old email (i.e.: compressed your email and stored it on your own computer) once per year, you now have at least 50 years before you will ever need to worry about reaching your storage limit.
If I archive all of my mail, how will I find anything when I need it?
You can quickly find your old mail by using the lightening-fast search capabilities of Gmail. When you search for email, one of the big misconceptions is that you are only searching the messages contained in your Inbox. But, when you perform a search in Gmail, you are actually searching the location where all your mail actually resides – your All Mail container.
Try this simple test:
- Archive the test message you created earlier by selecting the checkbox for your test message and clicking Archive. The message should no longer be visible in your Inbox.
- Search for the message. In the search field, enter subject:test and either click Search Mail, or press Enter on your keyboard. Did the message you sent display in your search results?
- Since you sent the message, you can also search using the from: operator. Return to your Inbox, and in the search field enter: from:me.
- Click Search Mail, or press Enter. Did the message display in the search results?
Note: You can also quickly find all messages you sent by clicking your ‘Sent Mail’ label. This is just another container like your Inbox container. But, this container only displays the messages in your All Mail container that you sent to others. When viewing your All Mail container, the messages you sent will display ‘me’.
Should I archive my mail or move the messages to labels?
Any message you move to a label, or apply a label to, also exists in the All Mail container. Every label is just another container, much like your Inbox and All Mail containers. When you click a label to the right of the Inbox, Gmail simply displays all the messages that label name that currently reside in your All Mail container. It’s like viewing a sub-set of the messages contained in your All Mail container.
Applying a label to a message is just like applying a sticky note to the message. Once you apply the label, you can see the labeled message in your Inbox (if you haven’t archived it or moved it to the label container itself), and in the All Mail container, or if you click on the label itself to view the label container.
And, unlike folders, you can apply multiple labels to a single message! In the example below, the message from Rich Randall contains accounting, manufacturing and project information. So, the message is visible in the Accounting, Manufacturing or Projects labels, and in the All Mail container. And, because the message also contains the special ‘Inbox’ label, it is also visible in the Inbox itself.
Try this simple test:
- Access the Test Archiving email in All Mail.
- Select the checkbox of your ‘test’ message, and click Move to Inbox.
- Move the message to one of the default labels or to a label you created. You can do this in two ways:>
- Select the checkbox of the message (it may already be selected), and from the Move To action button, select the label to move it to.
- Or, place your cursor over the 8 dots to the left of the checkbox, and drag the message to a specific label.
- To the left of Gmail, click the label where you moved the message. Does the message display?
- Click All Mail. Does the message display there as well? Does the message also contain the Inbox label and the label where you moved the message?
- Return to your inbox. Does the message display the label where you moved the message?
So, I shouldn’t use labels?
If you had numerous folders in your previous mail system, you’re probably thinking you’ll need to create just as many labels. Labels, like folders and used effectively, can help to categorize your mail.
For instance, if you are currently working on a project, place all the email in a label for that project. Then, after the project is complete, simply delete the label if desired. This can be done by clicking the drop-down menu to the left of the label and selecting Delete label. Deleting the label removes only the label, or sticky note, from all the messages in the label container, but does not delete the messages themselves. They still reside in your All Mail container regardless.
You can also hide the label beneath the ‘x more’ link. There are a number of ways to accomplish this, but the easiest is to select the drop-down arrow to the left of the label’s name and select Hide label.
However, all your mail, regardless of whether or not it’s in your Inbox or moved to a label, also resides in your All Mail container. Therefore, it’s really not necessary to create lots of labels. When you need to find a message, simply search for it. Or, if you want certain messages to reside in a label, then click the label to see all those messages. If, after awhile, you find that you have hundreds of messages in a particular label, you can use the ‘in:’ or ‘label:’ search keywords to find certain messages within the label. For instance, if you wanted to find a message in your ‘Project’ label from Rich at ez4utech.com, you could enter one of the following in the search field:
Remember, when you search for messages, it searches your All Mail container. You may also want to consider minimizing the number of labels you use on a regular basis. For instance, you might consider using ‘action-based’ labels such as Follow Up, Hold, and ToDo or Do It, Delegate It, and Defer It.
So, why not save yourself some time, and keep your Inbox clean and tidy, by archiving most of your mail, rather than creating and storing it in numerous labels or in your Inbox?