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Create Folders and Subfolders in Apple Mail to Organize the Email You Want to Keep

written by: Joli Ballew•edited by: Michael Dougherty•updated: 1/22/2010

If you get a lot of e-mail, you probably save a lot of email too. One way to keep this data organized is to create folders and subfolders for your saved email, store saved email in them, and archive your email monthly.

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    Storing and Organizing Important Emails

    Deciding what messages to keep and what to get rid of is a matter of psychology rather than technology. You have to make your own decisions--technology can’t do it for you. It’s very easy to convince yourself that almost any message needs to be saved forever, but generally that’s not true. However, that’s the same as saying you’ll never need those large, empty boxes you’ve kept stored in your garage the past three years; it’s almost a given that the day you throw them out, your daughter will need those boxes to move in with her boyfriend.

    So how do you decide? Well, that’s really a judgment call on your part. If you just can’t bring yourself to delete those two-year old messages, you can always archive them onto a CD or a back-up disk. I doubt you’ll ever go back and read them, but hey, you never know.

    If you’re looking for some common-sense guidelines, do keep the following:

    • Financial records
    • Legal records
    • Genealogy records and notes
    • Unique technical advice
    • Client files
    • Statements from banks and online bill-paying Web sites
    • Receipts
    • Passwords for Web sites
    • Validation codes for downloaded software
    • Contacts and ongoing job opportunities
    • Agreements, compromises, negotiations, and concessions that, while not legally binding, will help you out of a jam if you find yourself in one

    All this e-mail should be organized into your electronic filing cabinet. I’ll discuss how to set up a folder hierarchy next.

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    Create a Folder Hierarchy

    If you had a filing cabinet for your written correspondence, would you just throw all of the paperwork into the file cabinet’s drawers and never create or label folders? Of course you wouldn’t. E-mail is also a kind of correspondence, except it’s electronic. You’ll want to keep your electronic correspondence in order just as you would your written correspondence.

    To create a folder, control+click underneath an existing mailbox, and choose New. In the window that appears, type the name of the new mailbox. The new mailbox will look like a blue filing folder. You can repeat this step to create subfolders. When a folder has a subfolder, it will have a downward pointing arrow beside it. To store data in these new folders, simply drag the email to it.

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    Create a Monthly Archiving System

    With Mail, it’s easy to create an archiving system that works and is easy to maintain. You don’t need a third-party utility, and you don’t have to be a genius! Every month on the first of the month, just create a folder with the date inside of Mail’s hierarchy system, January 2009, February 2009 March 2009, and so on. Each time you come across an e-mail that you know you’ll want to save, move or copy it to this folder after reading it and responding. At the end of the month, just archive this file. It’s easy, it’s painless, and you have an automatic archiving system that’ll be easy to use.

    Because the folders have a different name each month, they’re easy to locate and restore. You won’t have to worry about writing over existing e-mail or disrupting any other folders if you ever have to access them. With this system, each archived folder is unique and easy to organize in a complete backup and archiving system.