Better Ways To Organize Important Email Messages On Your Mac

Many people archive important email to mailboxes or folders inside the Mac Mail app. But this may not be the best way to save important messages. Instead, export them as files so they exist in the Finder and you can name them, organize them, and archive them as you wish.

Comments: 29 Responses to “Better Ways To Organize Important Email Messages On Your Mac”

    Tim A
    4 months ago

    Another great tutorial. It happened very quickly but caught how you dragged a file icon from a Finder List view to assert the Save location.
    A suggestion would be to list the file sizes for the resulting .eml, .pdf, .rtf, and .txt choices of your sample email Save.

    Charlie Johnson
    4 months ago

    Gary
    I have literally thousands of emails in hundreds of folders in Apple Mail. I have been living with AM’s shortcomings for years. After watching your video I would like to move these emails and folders from AM to DropBox. Can I move an entire folder full of emails at one time or does each individual email have to be moved?

    TheTrainRev
    4 months ago

    Gary – thanks for this!

    That being said, is there a way to change the “Subject” field and then save the message in a mail folder?

    Thanks

    Nick
    4 months ago

    Great suggestions Gary. Just what I’ve been looking for, I’ve followed your suggestions on filing emails in the past, and this video goes into more detail. I will start moving emails off the servers onto my drive as soon as I do a few tests on using various file types. – thanks

    4 months ago

    Charlie: Select multiple messages, drag and drop. Try it.

    4 months ago

    TheTrainRev: Change the subject in an email you have received? No, not easily.

    Linda Taylor
    4 months ago

    Great reminder to me as now I can remove most of my saved messages from the server and avoid getting the warning that I’m almost out of space! I knew this was possible, but had filed it away in my memory and forgot to retrieve it to utilize! Those important messages will now find a new home on my external drive thanks to you, Gary!!!

    Caroline
    4 months ago

    Brilliant! Have straight away shifted a bunch of emails that I’ve kept in Mail folders into sub-folders in my Documents folder. And from now on I’ll be triaging them as and when they arrive, so that the important ones can go into appropriate folders right away, while the ‘original’ emails can then be deleted. Thanks, Gary, for another total winner of a tutorial! 👍🏻

    Peter Hall
    4 months ago

    I use mail so no problem but my wife uses gmail not thru the mail app. When I tried to move messages from gmail didn’t work. When I did save to I got different options and when I used them and went to open the file, I got an error message stating that gmail was busy. Is there a way without using Mail?

    David Girling
    4 months ago

    I will certainly follow your advice and will in future save important emails as pdf files and put them in subject folders on my Mac. Currently all the emails I keep are in subject and sub-subject mail boxes in Mail and also in iCloud. But on my iPhone and iPad, the sub- and sub-sub etc. mailboxes appear full expanded and I cannot find a way of contracting them back into each main subject mail box. On my iPhone this means one hell of a lot of scrolling. Is there a way of doing this on iPhone?

    Gene
    4 months ago

    Another great video and highly functional. I have been using flags to track important emails. No more. This makes so much sense.

    4 months ago

    Peter: I just tried going to the Gmail website and just by using the Download function I was able to download the message, get a .eml file, and that file opened nicely in the Mail app when I double-clicked it. Try it.

    4 months ago

    David: Your only option is to cut down on the number of subfolders you are using.

    Geoff Charlesworth
    4 months ago

    Hi Gary, Tried saving as .EML but when I open the file it tries to open in Microsoft Outlook and not Mail which is where it originated and where I’d prefer it to open. I have a copy of Outlook on my iMac for work purposes.

    4 months ago

    Geoff: Sounds like you have simply installed Outlook and given it permission to be the default app for handling email messages. Either set the default to Mail, or drag and drop on to Mail, or Control+click and select Open With.

    Brett
    4 months ago

    Thanks Gary! Another quick and more powerful alternative is using Devonthink’s Mac Mail Plug-in – not only can you decide which format you want (eml, rtf, txt, pdf,) Devothink’s built-in OCR works nicely for PDF’s. Devonthink is also automation friendly and support/develop scripts for you (as part of your license) friendly. Devonthink also allows you to convert from one file type to another. Devonthink also has a feature so you can select a mailbox and import to save an encrypted database.

    Fran
    4 months ago

    Thank you for this long awaited information. I’d like to see more videos on effective use of the Mail app.. and searching for saved emails.
    ALSO, what APPs do you recommend to view elm files on the iPhone and iPad? Thank you so very much for your very useful videos.

    Fran
    4 months ago

    I dragged some emails to a folder on my computer but it did not show it as an eml file. I checked it using control I . ??

    4 months ago

    Fran: I don’t have a specific recommendation for an iOS app. You can pick one. If the files didn’t show as eml, what did they show up as?

    Vik
    4 months ago

    I upload my emails to Evernote from there I can tag and search as required. Gmail also has plugins to connect from the web UI to directly export to Evernote.

    Ian Leckie
    4 months ago

    Hi Gary! Great, very useful, I didn´t know this, and have just been regularly exporting mailboxes to the Finder. When I drag a bunch of mails to a folder I get the .eml format, good for using Quick Look or double-clicking and opening up in Mail. But unless I´m missing something Finder won´t let me sort these .eml files the same way I can in Mail, i.e. newest or oldest mail first. Can I get the Finder to sort like in Mail? I haven’t found a way! Thanks, regards, Ian.

    4 months ago

    Ian: Right, there is no way for the Finder to know the dates of the messages since that is just internal data in those files. So it can sort by name, but not the message date.

    Bill LeDrew
    4 months ago

    I loved this video. I started by moving emails from one folder. I didn’t realize that the folder contained over 13,000 emails. After I had moved about 1/3 of them, it would let me put any more in that folder. I suspect, but don’t remember from the past if there is a limit. Any suggestions? I’m a very long time follower. Bill

    YvonneinSonoma
    4 months ago

    I’ve been watching you for years but this was the best one ever. I immediately cleaned out all my folders and sub-folders in Mail by exporting them to Evernote. Since Catalina, Apple Mail has been unavailable on Time Machine backups and this is a much better way to organize, archive, and search my mail messages. Thank you!

    4 months ago

    Bill: Limit? Any limit would be set by your email service, not the Mac mail app.

    Bill LeDrew
    4 months ago

    Thanks. Then I’m not sure why it wouldn’t let me drag any more into the folder. I’ll keep fiddling with it as it’s a great idea. I have emails all the way back to 2002 that I’ve been saving.

    Ian Leckie
    4 months ago

    Thanks for replying, Gary! What I´ll now do is just drag and drop REALLY important mails that I can´t afford to lose and need to refer to. There aren´t too many of these, and it´s easy enough to change their names to get Finder to sort the way I want it to!

    itasara
    4 months ago

    I usually drag mail I want to save onto my desktop.I don’t remember ever seeing the .eml signature.
    My question is, if you do drag the mail out and it does become .eml what happens if you want to erase all that mail you saved in your mail app? I have so many emails everyday and sometime I just go thru them and delete en masse. But if I save some on my desktop or some other folder, they won’t disappear if I erase them in mail, right? I know pdf won’t and text saves won’t, but what about .eml?

    4 months ago

    itasara: Perhaps you simply have “show all file extensions” turned off in Finder Preferences, so you are not seeing the .eml at the end. When you export mail like that, you are creating a copy. If you delete a message in Mail, it won’t affect those files. Try it with one to see.

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