Store email in the file system with one email message per file.

Outlook users are used to having all their email stored in a single file - PST (or in a single Exchange server mailbox). This article offers an alternative. While this suggestion might seem unexpected at first, it does offer quite a few benefits.

Some of the benefits this system offers:

  • View email messages using the Windows Explorer.
  • Keep email messages together with other related documents (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, CAD, etc).
  • Easily share documents with colleagues.
  • Easily find email with search tools, such as Windows Search.
  • Easily archive email for compliance, retention and backup.
  • One message per file makes incremental email backups possible.
  • Avoid losing email due to PST corruption.
  • Reduce PST or Exchange mailbox size.
  • Move messages between computers.

View email messages using the Windows Explorer

Windows Explorer makes a surprisingly good email viewer. Message attributes, such as sender, received date, etc., can be displayed in Windows Explorer columns. You can sort on these fields by clicking on the column headers. (Note: To have MessageSave populate the "Author" column, enable the Add sender information to saved files option).

messages stored in a file system folder

When you double-click on a saved msg file, it opens in Outlook and looks exactly like it did when it was in your Inbox.

Selecting message format

By default, MessageSave saves messages in "msg" format. "Msg" files work great because they contain all the information about the original message. They open in Outlook and look and feel like if the message is still in your Outlook mailbox. You can reply and forward. All message attachments are preserved. You can even drag and drop and "msg" file back into Outlook. "Msg" files can also be indexed and search by tools, such as Windows Desktop Search for easy retrieval (see below for more details on searching the saved message files). We recommend that you use "msg" format unless you have specific requirements that call for something different.

Keep email with other related documents

Most users organize their files in project related folders. They keep all documents (Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, CAD drawings, etc.), related to a particular project, in the same folder. However, for email related to the same projects, users have to go somewhere else - Outlook. By keeping email messages in the file system, along with the rest of the project related files, you eliminate the need to constantly switch between File Explorer for regular documents and Outlook for email messages.

Easily share documents with colleagues

As you know, a PST file can be opened by one instance of Outlook at a time. This makes sharing email stored in a PST very difficult. If you store email as individual files on a file server or a shared drive, every user that have access to that drive can access the email messages stored there. If you already have shared folders for projects, that is a natural place to store email, so that it is easily accessible to everyone.

Easily find email with search tools, such as Windows Search

Storing email in the file system makes it very easy to search for it. Simply use Windws Search to perform full text searches on the saved files.

Windows Search is built into Windws 7 and Vista. For Windows XP it is available as a free download from Microsoft Windows Search for XP. Be sure to also download and install Windows Desktop Search Add-in for Outlook saved mail (.msg file) as well.

Email archiving

Email archiving becomes more and more important. Many industries, such as security dealers, healthcare, etc., have compliance regulations requiring them to archive and retain all client communications, including email. Storing email as individual files in the file system is a very effective archiving solution. You can

  • manipulate the archive using standard file backup and archiving tools
  • burn the archive to DVD/CD
  • make the directories read-only if required
  • control access with directory permissions
  • view email with Windows Explorer
  • search the archive using WDS

Incremental email backup

If you store email in a single PST file, email backup becomes a challenge, once a PST grows above a certain size. Receiving a single new message changes the PST file, which means the backup software has to copy the entire PST file. That can take quit a long time and takes a lot of space.

Storing every email in its own file means that when one message changes or arrives, you have to backup just that one file. That makes backups so much easier and faster, which means more users will actually use backups and avoid losing important email. This also makes incremental email backups very practical. And you do not need to shutdown Outlook to back up the saved msg files.

Avoid losing email due to PST corruption

Storing all your email in a single PST file can be a fairly risky proposition. If that file gets corrupted, you risk potentially losing all your email. Storing each email message in its own file means that if a single file gets corrupted, you lose just that one message. Do you feel safer already?

Reduce PST or Exchange mailbox size

By storing email in the file system, outside of Outlook you reduce the size of your mailbox.

If your mailbox is on an Exchange server, the mailbox size is likely limited by your system administrator. Don't you hate getting those "Your mailbox is over the size limit" messages?

If you are using a PST, keeping it small greatly reduces chances of corruption and keeps Outlook stable and fast.

Note: EZDetach is another great tool for controlling mailbox size by keeping large attachments out of it.

Move messages between computers

By saving individual message files to portable media (floppy, flash drive, etc.) you can easily move email between multiple computers in an office or between an office and a home computer.

To be honest, you can save Outlook email messages as individual files without any additional software, simply by using Outlook's Save As" command. However MessageSave does make this process a lot easier with features such as preserving original email timestamp, saving all messages in one shot, scheduled operations, etc. Download an evaluation version of MessageSave today!

Learn more about MessageSave and how to easily save Outlook messages outside of Outlook.

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"It's a great product! It will help us archive our e-mail with each project, and keep it together with all that project's drawings, documents and other electronic files."
- Rich M.

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