Relegating Your Relics to Archiving in Outlook 2003

It doesn't take long to accumulate more e-mail messages than you can deal with. Some people just delete messages as they read them. Others hold on to old messages for reference purposes.

The problem is, Outlook slows down when you store lots of e-mail messages. Besides, a huge collection of messages is cumbersome to manage. Also, if you're on a corporate e-mail system, your system administrators may not let you store more than a certain amount of e-mail because it clogs up the system.

Archiving is a feature built right into Outlook to help you store messages and other Outlook items you don't need to look at right now, but you still might want to refer to in the future. If you use Outlook on an Exchange network at work, Archiving makes it easy for you to get along with your system administrators by slimming down the number of messages you're storing in the e-mail system.

Even if you don't want to use the Archiving feature right now, you may want to understand how it works. Outlook sometimes archives items automatically — which may look to you as if your Outlook items are disappearing.

If the AutoArchive feature seems scary and complicated to you, try not to worry. Microsoft may not have made the Archive feature easily decipherable. When you get the hang of it, however, AutoArchiving could become valuable to you.

Although e-mail messages are what people archive most often, all Outlook items can be sent to the archive — appointments, tasks, everything. People don't usually archive Contacts and Notes, but you can even archive those if you want.

Setting up AutoArchive

You don't have to do anything to make Outlook archive your items; the program is set up to archive items automatically. If you want to see how Outlook is set up to archive your old items, or change the way Outlook does the job, follow these steps:

1. Choose Tools --> Options.

The Options dialog box appears.

2. Click the Other tab.

The Other options page appears.

3. Click the AutoArchive button.

The AutoArchive dialog box appears.

Don't go barging through the AutoArchive dialog box changing things willy-nilly — at least not until you look to see what's already set up. Four important tidbits that the AutoArchive dialog box normally tells you are as follows:

  • How often Outlook archives items
  • How old items have to be for Outlook to send them to the archive
  • The name and location of the archive file
  • Whether the AutoArchive feature is turned on

When you first install Outlook, the program automatically archives items every 14 days, sending items over 6 months old to the archive file listed in the AutoArchive dialog box. For most people, those settings are just fine. Some people prefer to turn off the AutoArchive feature and run the Archive process manually. You can turn off the AutoArchive process by clicking the check box labeled "Run AutoArchive Every 14 Days" at the top of the AutoArchive dialog box.

Activating the Archive process manually

You can archive messages any time you want by choosing File --> Archive from the Outlook menu and following the prompts. The advantage of running the Archive process manually is that you get slightly better control of the process; you can give Outlook a cutoff date for archiving items, say the first of the year. You can also tell Outlook which folders to archive and where to send the archived items. You can even archive different Outlook folders to different archive files. The disadvantage to all this control is that it's possible to make an innocent mistake and send archived items to a place you can't find again easily. Try not to change the name or location of the files to which your archived items are sent, because it's surprisingly easy to lose track of what went where, and Outlook doesn't provide much help with keeping track of archived files.

Finding and viewing archived items

Sometimes AutoArchive seems like magic. Older items are mysteriously filed away without any action on your part. Isn't that easy? Sure — until you suddenly need to find one of those items that moved magically to your archive. Then you have to figure where it went and how to get at it again.

When you want to take another look at the items you've archived, open the archive folder, which Outlook also refers to as a data file.

To open a data file containing your archive items, follow these steps:

1. Choose File --> Open --> Outlook Data File.

The Open Outlook Data File dialog box appears.

2. Type the name of the file you want to open in the File Name box.

The name you enter appears in the File Name box.

3. Click OK.

The name of the data file you opened appears in the Folder Banner in large letters. Your Folder List also appears, showing two sets of folders: Normal and Archive.

Simple enough, right? Yes, but there's a virtual fly in the virtual ointment. You probably don't know the name of the archive file you want to open, and it doesn't usually show up in the list in the Create or Open Outlook Data File dialog box.

To find out the name of the archive file open, choose File --> Archive and look in the box labeled "Archive File." Be careful not to change anything about the information in the Archive File box. Otherwise, Outlook may start sending your archived items someplace else. The information in the Archive File box is usually complex gobbledygook with colons and slashes and all sorts of stuff that normal people can't remember.

One way to capture a long name in a dialog box is to copy the information. Here's what it looks like in fast-forward: Click the name once, press Tab, press Shift+Tab, press Ctrl+C, and then click Cancel. After you copy the file name, you can follow the steps given earlier in this article — pasting the name you want into the File Name box by pressing Ctrl+V, and rejoicing that you don't have to remember that long, crazy file name.

Closing the Archive file

You can keep your Archive file open in the Outlook Folder list as long as you want, but most people prefer to close it after they find what they need. Outlook runs a little faster when you close any unnecessary data files.

To close a data file, follow these steps:

1. With the Folder List open, right-click the name of your Archive folder.

A shortcut menu appears.

2. Choose Close Folder from the shortcut menu.

Your archive folder disappears from the Folder List.

The way folders are named in Outlook is odd. You may find "Personal Folders" appearing several times in your folder list. To make Outlook run as quickly as possible, close as many of them as you can. Your main set of folders — the set you use every day — won't close, so you don't have to worry about closing the folders you use every day.

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