MS Outlook supports the use of folders to store email messages (as well as other items like Contacts and Tasks) similar to the folders used by the Windows operating system. Here are some tips and useful information for using folders to store email messages.

Email has become fundamentally critical to business communication. Because of this, most users choose to save many email messages over time as an archive of various communications. The most efficient way to save email messages is to employ the same techniques used to store document files in the Windows OS folder hierarchy. Keep the following in mind when creating the Outlook folder structure:

  1. Folders and the email messages in them take up precious storage space and can dramatically slow down system performance if the underlying Outlook database file becomes large. So only save email that you think you might need some day.
  2. Take time to plan the structure of your folders so they aid you when searching for specific messages. Folders that end up only containing a handful of messages over a 6 month period should probably not be folders. As you create folder names, keep asking if this folder name will help or hinder my search for the messages it points to.
  3. If after 6 months of use, a folder is empty, question whether or not it is necessary. If not, delete the folder. Consider it to be an act of spring cleaning for a knowledge worker!
  4. Eliminate redundancy in naming folders to minimize confusion when saving or searching for messages.
  5. Use Auto-Archiving to move the older messages out of the active Outlook database into a separate Archive database file. This helps keep the Outlook database more manageable and limits the system performance problems that result from large database files. Auto-Archiving is normally configured to run automatically but the settings may need to be customized for a particular user's needs.
  6. Everytime a message is sent, a copy is placed in the Sent Items folder which can grow huge over time. Periodically review the messages in the Sent Items folder and either save them into your own folders or delete them. Also, do not auto-archive the Sent Items or Deleted Items folders.
  7. Improve your efficiency at "processing" your email by attempting to keep the Inbox as empty as possible and be sure the Deleted Items folder is frequently emptied.
  8. When receiving email messages with large attachments that you want to keep, save the attachment into a Windows folder and delete the original email with its attachment. Or save the attachment and then remove it from the original email and save the email for archiving. This goes a long way to keep the Outlook database file smaller.
  9. Unlike the folders in the Windows OS, Outlook folders are only descriptive groupings of messages that azre stored in the proprietary Outlook database file. This means that the hierarchy of folders appearing in the navigational bar is only for visual, and not functional use. Windows OS folders actually contain the files in them; Outlook folders only point to the messages that they reference. Understanding this will better iluminate why Outlook folders can be moved anywhere at random within the Outlook folder hierarchy. There is no parent - child relationship with Outlook folders as exists with Windows OS folders.
  10. Outlook Rules can be defined and used to automatically move incoming messages into certain folders which can help automatically file your email and keep your Inbox less cluttered.
  11. Remember that all email messages no matter where they are located will increase the size of the underlying Outlook database file!