Organizing E-Mail Archives

I’ve been meaning to respond to this Merlin Mann piece on the best way to organize e-mail archives. And in Mann’s case, his answer is to not bother organizing them . . . or more accurately he never gets around to actually suggesting an organizational structure beyond throw them all in a single archive folder/mailbox.

Part of the problem, of course, is that once people start organizing e-mail they start to over-organize it. I’ve seen people who literally sorted their e-mail into dozens of different topic-based folders. Ugh.

Anyway, I have about 300,000 e-mail messages in my archive, and using a single large archive just isn’t feasible. Instead I simply organize all mail by year and then month. So my Thunderbird archives look like this,



This keeps each archive folder down to a reasonable size while also allowing quick searching just by selecting year/month subfolders (searching on e-mail dates don’t always work because I have e-mail sent or received by systems that did not properly report the date).

It’s a nice compromise between no organizational system at all and some absurdly complex topical/project-based archiving system.

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