Tips and Tricks for Using Software Effectively
by Mel Babb

Solutions for Email Hoarders: What you can do in Outlook 2003
Some of us are email hoarders. As our inbox with its subfolders grows, opening, closing and searching Outlook becomes slower. You can speed up your mail by managing it better. One thing you can do is create a whole new folder section by creating a new pst file, not just a folder under the inbox. When a project is done you close the project folder. (Of course, you have filed all project-related messages in the project folder, haven’t you?) Also, another thing you can do is use the AutoArchive feature to move items to an archive folder. Eventually, this can get huge. Having everything in one large file means if that file gets corrupted you’ve lost it all. Whereas if you make several separate files, if one gets corrupted, at least the rest are okay. (I know, Murphy’s Law would say that the one you most need, is the one that’ll be messed up). Once a year you may want to rename the Archive file to Archive for that year. This keeps the Archive file from getting too big. To see how big your mail folder is click Tools, Mailbox Cleanup, and View Mailbox Size. Now let’s take a look at how you do each of these.
You probably have already created folders under the inbox by right clicking on the inbox in the navigation pane (the pane on the left that lists the folders) and choosing New Folder. In the box that popped up, you typed a name for the folder. It appears now indented under Inbox in alphabetical order. You moved items from the inbox to the new folder. This still keeps all the messages in one pst file. A pst file is where the email is kept. It’s like having one file cabinet full of stuff.
A different set up is used to create a whole new pst file. Microsoft calls this pst file an “Outlook data file” because it can contain calendar and task items as well as messages. This is like having another file cabinet. A good reason to create another pst file is to store all messages related to a specific project (family or school reunion) that will have a certain end date. When the project is over, the project pst file can be closed by right clicking it. If you save all the jokes you receive, you might want to create a personal folder just for those. These can still be referred to for historical purposes when needed. Another reason for several pst files is to speed up the email in your original personal folder. When a folder gets more than half a gigabyte (500 MB), it slows down and can get corrupted.
To create a new pst file click File, New, Outlook Data File. Leave the default highlighted “Office Outlook Personal Folders file (“.pst)”. Click OK. Type a name for the file (for instance HAL-PC Training). You don’t need to type the .pst. Click OK and type the name again in the next box. Click OK. The folder will appear in the folder list not indented. (If it does not appear, click File, Open, Outlook Data File. Click on the name of the file you want to open).


To move items from this file to its own archive, manually Archive the file. Click File, Archive. Change the date to the date you want to clean out to. Press tab twice to advance to the Archive file box. Click after archive and type in the name of the folder you are archiving (fun jokes archive.pst). Click OK. If you don’t rename the folder you will end up messing up the archive folder you may have already created.
The quickest way to move your old messages out of the main mailbox file is to use AutoArchive. When you start using Outlook, the AutoArchive feature is turned on by default. It is set to ask you every 14 days if you want to archive anything older than 6 months. Here’s how you change the default settings if you want to. Click Tools, Options. Then click the Other tab and AutoArchive. Change any of the settings in the box you want. In my experience, the “delete expired items” refers to a seldom used option that can be set by a sender of a message to have an item expire on a certain date. When it expires, the heading gets a line through it. And when you archive, if this box is checked, the item is deleted. If anyone has more information about how this works, I’d like to hear about it. Finally, click “Apply these settings to all folders now” and click OK.


If you want to set a different time frame for a particular folder, right click on that folder in the folder list in the main inbox area. Choose Properties and click the AutoArchive tab. Dot the “Archive this folder using these settings” and set the options you want. These options will take precedence over the default. It’s nice to know you have this flexibility.
Now all you have to do is click “Yes” when the AutoArchive box pops up every so often. All of the old messages are moved to the Archive folder. If you need to get something out of the Archive, Click File, Open, Outlook Data File and Choose Archive. It appears in the folder list. Click the plus sign next to it and all the sub folders display. When you are done with it, right click on Archive and choose Close Archive.
At some point you may want to want to copy your pst files to a CD, DVD, or other storage media for backup. Here’s a quick way to get to the location of the pst files. Open Outlook and click File, Archive, select the path in the file archive box and copy it by pressing Ctrl+C. Then click cancel. Close Outlook. Open MyDocuments (or MyComputer or Windows Explorer). Click in the address bar and Press Ctrl+V to paste the location of the file in the address bar. Press Enter. This way you don’t have to remember where the pst file is located. (This will show the files even if you have not set the hidden files to show.) Now you can proceed to copy the file to a CD.
To help you get to what you want, here’s where the commands are:

  • To see the size of your folders: Tools, Mailbox Cleanup, View Folder Size
  • To create a subfolder in the inbox: Right click Inbox, New folder
  • To make a new pst file: File, New, Outlook Data File
  • Manually archive a folder: Click on folder, File Archive.
  • Change archive default settings: Tools, Options, Other tab, Auto Archive
  • To archive when you want to: Tools, Mailbox Cleanup, Click Auto Archive

If you want to learn more about what you can do to manage your mail see and
Till next time. Happy Computing.
Mel Babb © 2006
Mel Babb, a long time member of HAL-PC, is currently an instructor and on the volunteer help committee at HAL-PC. She runs her own company, PC Tutoring Services. She comes to your home and creates notes for you on what you want to learn. Contact her at 713-981-5641 or email at