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Organize email by using folders - and if you're feeling motivated, see about setting up rules to transfer email to the folder automatically.

I want to archive all of my Ask Leo! email newsletters. I use Thunderbird, which has an Archive button but that places them in a mail folder called "archive." Is there a better way to deal with useful newsletters?

In this excerpt from Answercast #70, I look at ways to organize an email system to store regular newsletter subscriptions.

Archiving newsletters

There are a couple of different approaches to this particular issue.

For the record, I hope you realize that all of the Ask Leo! newsletters from the very first one (all 400 and some now) are archived already for you up on the web. Every issue is on the Ask Leo! website. You're certainly welcome to keep a copy for your own use. But realize that if you miss one, or if you don't want to go through that hassle, I've got them all for you already. They're up on the web.

Create an email folder

Now, having said that, what I do in a case like Thunderbird is rather than using the Archive button, I would actually create a folder. So I would create a folder underneath my inbox or at the same level of my inbox, called "Ask Leo! newsletters." Then whenever I'm done reading that newsletter, I would simply drag and drop the message from my inbox into that folder.

That way, you've got all of your email messages from that one newsletter in a single place, one folder. Conveniently, that also happens to be one file in the Thunderbird message store. But, from your perspective, it's a very easy way to have all of that stuff in one place where you can reference it quickly.

Create email rules

Now, if you want to take the extra step, what you can do is set up a filter in Thunderbird (or a message rule) that automatically moves it into that folder for you.

In other words, the rule would be something like: when the message arrives...

  • If it starts with (whatever my newsletter starts with) "Ask Leo! #" (I think)

  • Or if it's from ""

  • Or any combination thereof... basically enough information to uniquely identify that particular piece of email

Then automatically have Thunderbird move it into this folder that you've created for it.

Messages are always in the new folder

What's neat about that particular approach is that all the messages would be there. They would never show up in your inbox, but that's OK - because what the message rule hasn't done is hasn't changed the "read" or "unread" state of the message.

In other words, if you go into that folder, into which all of these newsletters are getting placed, you will find that the ones you've read are marked "read," the ones you haven't read are not marked "read." In other words, they're still bold and you can choose which ones to read or not.

You can let them accumulate. You can check a few every couple of weeks or check them as soon as they arrive; it's all up to you. So, you can automate that process of sending things into a folder.

Folders for all newsletters

Now the same thing is true for any newsletter.

It's certainly easy enough to set up another folder for any number of different kinds of things that you receive on a regular basis [and] then manually dragging and dropping the message into the folders the way you want them to be organized or setting up some inbox rules - so that when they arrive automatically they get shoved into those folders as well. But that's the approach I would take.

For the record, this works well in Thunderbird; this works well in Outlook; this works in most email programs that have message processing rules or filters.

Email labels

It also applies to systems like Gmail that have labels. In fact, quite literally what I have in my Gmail account is about, gosh, maybe 20 or 30 different inbox rules that do exactly what I've just described - except that they apply "labels" to the email as it comes in, so that it automatically gets tagged as one of my newsletters. That way, it automatically shows up in Gmail's more or less equivalent of a folder.

But it's that same idea. So that's my recommendation: learn how to use folders - and if you're feeling motivated, see about setting up the transfer into the folder automatically.

Article C6030 - November 15, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

November 16, 2012 9:39 AM

For short-term saving I use dedicated email folders. But for long-term saving I "print" the email to a PDF file and save it with similar documents in normal data folders, which I think makes them easier to refer to as well as to back up and restore.

November 16, 2012 10:13 AM

Problem with saving nl's or e-mails - can't save items with identical subject lines, the next one overwrites the previous..

So you have to manually change the subject (slightly) to save it.

Al Taylor
November 16, 2012 2:48 PM

I have also had good luck copying and pasting entire newsletters as well as selected newsletter subjects, into an MS Word document, then saving it into a specific folder on my hard disk.

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