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Gmail Inbox vs Archive  (View post)

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

Monday, April 21, 2008
10 years ago17,378 views

The Gmail blog lists 9 reasons to archive (gmailblog.blogspot.com/2008/04 ...) but Drew emails in asking about the difference between archiving and inboxing in the first place.

"I don't really see a reason to archive instead of just letting it stack up in the inbox. labels and stars highlight what you need to put aside for special attention, so why go through the trouble of clicking over to another folder to see your mail in the order it arrived?:"

So I'd like to pass on the question... why hit the "archive" button on mails in the inbox, instead of just letting things pile up in the inbox?

Ionut Alex. Chitu [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

Keep your inbox clean:
video.google.com/videoplay?doc ...

Tony Ruscoe [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

I've been trying to keep my inbox clear in Outlook since around 2000 and I use the same approach with Gmail: Once I've dealt with an email (or don't intend on dealing with it) I move it to another folder / archive it. I know many other people who do this too.

I guess it's like filing away your regular mail (either in a filing cabinet, drawer or the bin) instead of letting it just pile up on your doorstep after you've read it. Some of the things you need to action will be pinned on your notice board (i.e. starred/flagged) whereas other things might just sit next to the computer, depending on what it is you need to do with it.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

I use read vs unread as indicator of what needs attention and still keep everything in the inbox... after all, it will automatically moved out of view (out of the doorstep?) after 50 items. Admittedly, I also sometimes mark an email as unread even when I briefly read, but decided to deal with it later (and sometimes tried to use starring but that didn't really work too well in the past). One downside to this style may be that you can't quickly see all your "todo" items on one page, unless of course you type [is:unread] or bookmark that search.

Art-One [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

I don't use the archive feature for most mails. But I do use the archive feature in combination with the labelling feature when using automatic mail filters.

I have e.g. a notification set up in my sites.google.com whenever someone changes a page. This e-mails every update to my mailbox. This would mess up my Inbox. So I have set up a filter that archives the mail and applies a label 'Site update'.

In this way I can check the update notifications when it suits me...

Art-One [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

[put at-character here]Philipp: I star my to do items. But I must admit, sometimes, e.g. when I'm reading on my mobile. I forget & in this way sometimes to do's are forgotten....

Roger Browne [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

I use the inbox as an informal "To Do" list. Everything else is archived or deleted as soon as I read it.

Mambo [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

As well as being an organisational thing, surely archiving will also increase performance in Gmail? I know that it pre-caches some content, but it doesn't have to load all the e-mails straight away...

I might be wrong though!

Zim [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

You can imagine the difference thinking the inbox is your mailbox outside your house, where the postman leaves your mail. When you Archive, you store you get mail inside your house. As in the example, leaving mail in the inbox is quite ridiculous, IMHO.

I leave messages in the inbox until I read them, or if there's something related pending, I leave them there till the task is finished. Like Roger's "To Do list".

Niraj Sanghvi [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

I've always wondered about the reason to archive as well, since I can instantly get whatever I want from however long ago within just one or two search queries. I don't really understand the appeal of having a blank starting page, and stars work well enough to mark to dos if that's your thing.

Gmail loads quickly enough that I haven't worried about any potential performance improvement by having everything archived.

Martin Porcheron [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

Gmail loads quicker initially if you're inbox only has your latest emails (if any), that's a good enough reason for me.

/pd [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

I am not seeing performace degardation (never archive my stuff). I have about 15K msg in my inbox and use labels intensively

Art-One [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

I just archived all my messages ;-)

And I'll use the archive feature from now on, my inbox is 'Zen' now ...

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

> Gmail loads quicker initially if you're inbox only has
> your latest emails (if any), that's a good enough reason
> for me.

That IS a good reason. If it improves loading speed I might try this, as Gmail tends to be slow during start-up.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

Cleared my inbox now too, will see how it goes :)

/pd [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

so how did it go ?? I belive its really does not make a difference!!

Martin Porcheron [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

<<That IS a good reason. If it improves loading speed I might try this, as Gmail tends to be slow during start-up.>>
It did for me, although I do list 100 emails per page. Given also that Gmail caches these emails so they "open quiicker", it will probably use less resources on your computer.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

> so how did it go ?? I belive its really does
> not make a difference!!

Seems faster to me, but I can't make any conclusive statement (as other factors might skew it, and I also didn't conduct any experiments...). Will see over time if any of the old problems resurface, e.g. that contacts aren't found or the constant alerts of some unsaved AJAX status...

Jérôme Flipo [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

I'm quite satisfied with my Gmail tagging system, and I think it is almost perfect (for my use of emails). But despite that, I can't stop deleting emails: I would really like to be able to just archive them, but I really need to browse my emails by labels every month to check every thing. And I can't browse thousands of emails... But until now, I think I have rarely regret a deleted email (the 30 days in the trash is OK in case of mistake).

Here's my method:
1. Every time I open my inbox, I clear it before closing it. No exceptions!
2. I star every email that needs an action (but they all disappear from the inbox)
3. I label EVERY emails. No exceptions... I have a list of labels almost exhaustive so it's easy to find the appropriate tag:
- ".hold": I expect a reply. It is often associated with another tag (for category, but sometimes is enough if I'll delete the email once I receive the reply
- ".reference": my most important emails
- "business": every items related to business contacts, internships, startup opportunities...
- "family": there's a big filter behind this tag (my family rarely change its email adresses
- "finance"
- "friends": also includes "fun" items
- "order": means online shopping
- "research": I'm preparing a thesis, so...
- "school": administrative and organizational stuffs (emails for class project, but different from "research", which target academic content)
- "website": every items concerning my privacy (passwords, login, registration) but also feedbacks, contact with support teams, etc...

plus some project-specific labels (such as "gomc" for Google Online Marketing Challenge) but they are almost all just temporary. The list above is perfect for me (my labels aren't narrow as I use a lot the Gmail search). I hope this will help some of you improving their labels.

David Mulder [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

Typical, I don't archive any message at all, except the ones which pass the inbox due to a filter. I star some mail, but to find any mail at all (new or old) I always use the search feature. On the other hand it would be an impossible task to keep my inbox clean, because every hour I get at least 5 different automatic generated mails, where its normally relatively important I read the subject and only depending on the situation I will open it. Yet it would take me ages to archive it every time... and the reason I don't add a few more filters is because I tend to forget to check all my filters (i tried that in the past).

Although in google docs, I label every single document (250 of them, 20 of them are probably not labeled)

Art-One [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

[put at-character here]/PD: it feels 'lighter' now for me ;-) and I don't miss anything...

Bilal [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

Its like said in the blog, clean inbox = clean mind. you can put your mail in another folder but for Google it is better to use archive because the storage of archived mails is different. Google also try to get clean servers.

Above 22 comments were made in the forum before this was blogged,

mrbene [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

I read the 9 reasons to archive and I feel it's mislabeled. Realistically, they've provided 9 reasons not to delete, but I don't delete my email anyway. Points 8 and 2 barely cover it, but I was hoping for some compelling technical reason to motivate me to do the additional work of archiving.

Ionut Alex. Chitu [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

Actually archiving was introduced as an alternative to deleting messages. The "delete" button is a recent addition to Gmail, after two years of vocal complaints from users.

spider [PersonRank 0]

10 years ago #

I have a lot of label and sublabel (the one with / in them), so I can manage my gmail via Imap (Mail and Pocket Outlook for the most).
Then I have a lot of filter that label&archive emails.
I leave the rest of them in Inbox (unless I decide to add a label AND a filter for them). I don't manually archive nothing manually.
If I want to have a birdview of my mails, I open "All mail" builtin label.

Oh, I know that more than 6 Gb are more than enough to keep all stuff, but I want a bit of order and for this I delete unuseful mail: commercial newsletter I'm subscribed to and craps from friends... (you know... "tell me which name you got" and bullshit like this)

Ari [PersonRank 1]

10 years ago #

When using the Mobile Edition of GMail, The empty inbox makes it much more robust and responsive. Having hundreds of emails in the inbox makes Gmail Mobile very sluggish...

Ervin [PersonRank 0]

10 years ago #

The speed difference was apparent for me a month ago, when I and my wife were usinng a notebook to read our mail, and we were connected with mobile 3G network.

For me with all mails archived was no problem logging in, but my wife got a page every time saying that GMail failed to load within reasonable time so she should try the plain HTML version of GMail instead.

Sam Davyson [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

I'm changing to archiving everything now like some other people above. I'll let you know how it goes.

Andy [PersonRank 0]

10 years ago #

No thanks, Archive = useless.

Sketchee [PersonRank 1]

10 years ago #

You can still see all of your emails in the All Mail view. Why leave it in your inbox? Those of you who can't think of a reason, you should look at Getting Things Done and other productivity resources. They all say a clean inbox = greater productivity and provide great reasoning why.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

Sketchee: a mail in the inbox does not equal a mail that still needs to "be done". E.g. I used my inbox as the default place to keep my mails, and the unread mails indicated something was still an outstanding todo, whereas a read mail in the inbox indicated it was done/ handled.

Michael Fats [PersonRank 0]

10 years ago #

>> why hit the "archive" button on mails in the inbox, instead of just letting things pile up in the inbox?

Tip: when done reading a new email, hit "[" to archive it AND move to the next message in the Inbox. (by the by, "]" moves to the previous message).
Works great for keeping the Inbox uncluttered.

scjm [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

I archive most stuff I never need to see again, like a notice I have a private message on a forum, or when I change my Whois info and Godaddy feels the need to tell me what I just did.

Faezeh [PersonRank 0]

10 years ago #

<<<"Problems of Personalization">>>

Hello Mr Lenssen,

I am a student researching about Problems of Web Personalization. I have read your very useful blog on "Problems of Personalization".

If possible could you please advice me of other related research papers or online resources that I could also use.

Many thanks,
Faezeh.

Pablo A. Rajczyk [PersonRank 0]

10 years ago #

Philipp,
Thanks for the tip about Cover Browser. I noticed the My Collection feature and used it to amass the baseball covers I was looking for. Thanks for the tip though. Is that a site you maintain. If so, nicely done.

Thanks again.

Pablo

Lalo [PersonRank 1]

10 years ago #

Filters are the best way to go.

[URL removed – Tony]

Stephan Locher [PersonRank 9]

10 years ago #

I use Archive sometimes, but not as often as I wish to use it ;-)

Regarding the mark as unread feature I noticed something which is a littlebit annoying in gmail regarding to other mailapps:

I'm only able to mark a whole conversation as unread, not a single(most times the last) mail in the conversation as unread. Is this just me hitting the wrong button or is this the way google implemented it?

Zim [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

[put at-character here]Andy: Archiving equals useless? Well, having more than 15 thousand mails in the inbox won't be useful though...
Remember the inbox is like a label!

[put at-character here]Stephan: As far as I know, you can't mark a single mail as unread, nor split a conversation (else you change the subject of a reply).

Satan [PersonRank 6]

10 years ago #

Clean inbox is definitely the way to go. Sure you can use the unread status to see what you have and have not attended to, but when you add archiving into the mix, the unread status becomes more meaningful and useful. Check it out :

Archive = Done or Filed Away (perhaps under a label)
Read / Unread = Read / Unread (but not "done")

And then, with the magic of Starring, you can set some mail aside that doesn't need to be acted upon right now, but will in the future. It's up to you to determine the interval. I personally look at my Starred mail every day to ask myself if it's something that needs to be dealt with today; if it does not, it stays Starred to look at tomorrow; if it does, I move it into the Inbox to then be processed down to zero that day.

As for those who argue that clicking on Archive perhaps takes more time because of the extra click, I counter that by suggesting that the split second consideration it takes to determine if something should be moved out of the Inbox or acted upon saves an ENORMOUS amount of time.

Plus, keeping your Inbox clean means that your eyes aren't running over the past too much. Mail you have acted upon can only serve as a potential distraction if left in plain sight. Once something is dealt with or filed away, it needs to be out of your head / field of vision completely yet ready at hand if needed again. Google takes care of the latter for you (search), all you have to do is make the decision to act or file and click the Archive button.

Satan [PersonRank 6]

10 years ago #

<< In the inbox, click All, and then click the Select all... link. Hit the Archive button (this may process a while afterwards). Now do a Gmail search for is:unread, and in the results, click All and hit the Move to Inbox button. >>

Couldn't you just click the "Select: Read" option?

David [PersonRank 0]

10 years ago #

I'm a pro archive, but I have to admit there is a drawback archiving mails as soon as you've read them (dealt with) : if you happen to be a user of the applet Google (freely) provides for you mobile phone (like I am), you have to be aware that you can't reach the "All mail" labelled mails.
You can read your inbox (of course), any other labelled mails, but not the archived ones (= "All mail" label).
It's a pity, but the applet still worth the price ;-)

Zim [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

I like to use the inbox as an axis for everything else. When a mail arrives, it's automatically labeled in basic groups depending on what it is about. A small group of mails skip the inbox, and are kept unread under their label till I have time for secondary things and read them. The ones in the inbox, I use to read them all quickly. The automattic notifications of comments in my blog, for example, are quickly archived. Personal mails involving "conversations" or something I need to reply, are kept in the inbox. Useful information is starred and archived. Once I read all the mail, I start replying or finishing the tasks of the ones left in the inbox, one by one in orden of relevance. Once I reply, they are archived (they will come back to the inbox if the person replies). If I can't finish with the mails, they stay in the inbox till I read/reply.
Mails I don't like to read right now but I must read/reply them anyway, are archived with the label pending (and marked unread), and reviewed when necesary (or when I want).

That's the long explication of how do I manage my mails. It's hard-wired in my brain, so I don't think that much really, it's just the way it works for me.

Tony Ruscoe [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

David, I'm not sure which mobile version of Gmail you're using, but I use both the Java app and the mobile version of the web client and I can access "All mail" in both of them.

Java app:
Menu > Goto > All mail

If you don't see the link to "All mail" at the bottom of the mobile web version, click "More" and select it.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

> Couldn't you just click the "Select: Read" option?

That seems to only select the read mails from the current view so that doesn't seem to work.

Erik van Luxzenburg [PersonRank 1]

10 years ago #

All time management or coping courses one can follow will learn you that a clean desktop and a clean inbox is essential for good time management!

In Gmail one can make use of the inbox and unread when a email needs follow-up. Or make use of filters! an "Action" filter for emails which needs to be followed-up (don't forget to "unfilter" them after they have been followed-up etc.... creates a good insight in ones workflow!

This thread is locked as it's old... but you can create a new thread in the forum. 

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