CeePrompt! Computer Connection
March 25, 2002

Archiving -- it's a good thing

Over the last few years, electronic mail has emerged as an indispensable communications tool. People are almost indignant when they discover a friend or business associate has no e-mail address. What? No e-mail? How dare they rely only on the telephone or fax machine?

With the popularity of e-mail has also come bloated e-mail boxes, with many folks saving every post they've ever received. These run the gamut of business files, jokes, think pieces and pictures.  Mail programs, such as HotMail or Yahoo, typically place a limit on the size of your mailbox. Since these mail services are web-based, they can enforce the limits, by refusing to deliver mail beyond the maximum.

Mail clients such as Outlook or GroupWise that reside on personal computers, however, can amass thousands of items and create huge storage files. These items accumulate the same way papers pile up on your desk. Without periodic shuffling or archiving of items in the paper-based world, you'd be quickly overwhelmed. 

The concept of archiving e-mail is foreign and frightening to many who fear their cherished posts from 1999 will be lost forever.  I too was reticent to purge old e-mail posts and balked at all prompts and messages urging me to "archive now"! I feared my mail would be forever lost in some cryptic, compressed format.

After my storage file in Microsoft Outlook exceeded 40 MB, however, I knew the time had come to archive.  In Outlook, all of your program information is stored in one file with the extension .pst, typically outlook.pst.  In addition to your e-mail items, this file also contains the calendar, appointments and contacts.  It's no wonder that this single file can grow exponentially over many years.  Huge .pst files are fragile and can be easily corrupted.

Archiving, in fact, copies your older items to a new file based on date parameters you define, and then deletes them from the active outlook.pst file, effectively shrinking the current file to a more manageable size. Your old items are not lost, but merely stored in another location on your computer.  Archived files can be opened at anytime you wish to view or retrieve items. You can have multiple archive files, one for each year, for example and even document attachments are preserved in the archived file.

You can manually archive items or set Outlook to automatically archive after a specified time period by choosing File | Archive from the Outlook menu bar. Specify a familiar location for your archive file, such as My Documents, so you can retrieve it later if need be. If you choose the AutoArchive option, you must first set the date parameters for each folder. Right click the folder, choose Properties and click the AutoArchive tab.  Easy to follow instructions are included in the Help menu.

To open an archive file, simply choose File | Open from the menu bar, click the Personal File Folders (.pst) option and open your archive file from the hard drive location. The archive folder appears along with your current list of folders under the name Archive. You can search through old mail or appointments exactly as you do with you current Personal Folder. Close the Archive folder when you're done.

GroupWise users will find similar archiving options available, which network administrators will readily appreciate. Archiving mail on company networks moves the archived files from the network to the local PC, which aids in mail server management. Many companies actually require employees to archive regularly to avoid server overload.

In GroupWise, choose Tools | Options | Environment | File Location. Set the directory location for the archive file, and then click the Cleanup tab. Set the date parameters and choose either Manual or AutoArchive options. To manually archive folders, right-mouse click the item in the folder list and choose Archive.

As with Outlook, you can open your archive folder by choosing File | Open Archive, and all your old mail and folders will be present. To return to your regular mailbox, choose File and deselect the Open Archive option.

Since e-mail is now an integral part of our communications network, it makes good sense to archive and manage your electronic mailbox the same way you manage your paper-based files.

Cathi Schuler owns a computer literacy training/consulting company, Cee Prompt! She is a co-author of computer textbooks and can be reached by e-mail at cschuler@uop.edu or cschuler@ceeprompt.com or by mail c/o The Record, P.O. Box 900, Stockton, CA 95201. She is on the Internet at: http://www.ceeprompt.com. Click here for past archived columns.  


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