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The difference between archiving and deleting in Gmail

Know what to do with everything you receive in Gmail

ACU Gmail

For most people, Gmail is one of the most important tools in their daily lives. The problem is that most get so many emails that it is hard to keep your inbox organized and not full of random, unnecessary emails. Gmail offers users multiple ways to organize and sort their emails into different folders, tabs, and tags but in a time where Google's search can scan millions of words per second why is it necessary to put so much effort into keeping your Gmail organized? Luckily, Gmail has an archiving tool that will help you clean up the interface without causing you to spend several days placing each email into a distinct folder.

What is archiving?

The act of archiving an email in Gmail is taking it and placing it in a folder where it will continue to exist but will no longer be cluttering your inbox. The best part about this is that it will still be accessible in the future if needed. Gmail handles this task fantastically as it allows users to quickly and easily archive their emails.

What is deleting?

When you decide to delete an email, it is sent to a trash folder. This folder acts as a backup just incase you did not mean to actually get rid of an email. Some people also use the trash folder as a dumping place for emails they do not view as important enough to have in their inbox. The problem with this is that Gmail automatically deletes mail placed in the trash after 30 days. So while using the trash folder as a tool to clean up your inbox might seem like a good idea, just know that you will most likely lose an email you that might need in the future.

Why you should archive your emails

Say you're having a conversation with someone and information like an address or phone number is exchanged. At that moment you are able to write down or save anything needed so you decide to delete the conversation as you do not see a point to have it cluttering up your inbox any longer.

Now imagine some amount of time in which you would have never needed to look back at that conversation or retrieve information from those emails but for some reason, now you do. If you deleted the email thread, you wouldn't be able to look back and easily find what you're looking for. If you archive an email, you will no longer have to see it sitting in your inbox but will also have the peace of mind knowing that if you need to, a quick search will bring it back to you.

Additionally, all of your archived emails are located in the "All Mail" folder which can be found in navigation drawer. Emails are not organized once archived but if you need quick access to a recently archived email, it will be near the top of the list.

How to archive an email in Gmail on Android

There are three quick and easy ways to archive your emails. Two of these methods are for archiving individual emails and the third is a way to select multiple emails and archive them for later use.

Gmail Archive Method #1

The quickest, easiest, and most accident-prone way to archive an email is to swipe it away while looking at the list view of all your emails in your inbox. Since most Android users are used to accessing the navigation drawer from swiping from the left edge of the screen, it is easy to accidentally send emails off to be archived. Luckily, right after swiping an email away, Gmail allows you to undo your action just by pressing an undo button that appears for several moments after archiving.

In Gmail's settings you can quickly turn this feature off if you do it a lot on accident or just do not have a need for the feature. To do this, open up the navigation drawer, scroll down to the bottom where settings is located, enter general settings, and the option second from the top will give you the choice to turn on or off "swipe to archive."

Gmail Archive Method 2

The second way to archive an email is while viewing an individual message thread. Once you have finished reading the contents of an email you are greeted with several options on the taskbar. One of the multiple icons waiting for you is one that appears to be a box with an arrow pointing downwards. This is the archive button. If you select this while viewing the email, you will be send back to your inbox and a status will appear at the bottom of your screen for several seconds telling you that the email was archived. If you did not mean to archive an email, again there is an undo button that you can select to bring your email back to its original location.

Gmail Archive Method 3

Finally, if you are going through your inbox and decide it is time to really clean it up, the last method will make this quick and easy to do. While looking at your inbox in the list view, you can click on the sender's image (normally a colored box with the first letter of the sender's name inside of it) or long press on an email to select it.

Continue the process of selecting more emails and once everything you want archived is selected, click on the same box icon with the downward facing arrow which is sitting in the taskbar. Just like the last method, right after archiving emails, a status will appear at the bottom of the screen informing you that you archiving numerous emails and gives you the option to undo your action.

Gmail Archive Confirmation

If you are ever worried that you might accidentally archive or delete any emails by any of the above methods, Gmail allows you to turn on a feature that adds another step to archiving or deleting emails. This authorization adds a pop-up dialog box that appears when you attempt to delete or archive an email which will ask for a confirmation that you do in fact want to complete your chosen action.

To turn this on, open the navigation drawer, scroll down to settings, select general settings, and at the bottom of the menu there are two checkboxes to enable confirmation before deleting and archiving.

With this new knowledge on archiving and deleting, you'll have your Gmail inbox cleaned up and running more efficiently, all while never getting rid of information that you may need some day.

25 Comments
  • Yeah its good to save the important stuff.
  • thats right
  • Aren't these (trash, all mail) labels, not folders?
  • Yes. And actually, if a mail is in your inbox, it has the Inbox tag. Archiving the mail means removing the Inbox tag (it can still have other tags while archived) So while the article says "Emails are not organized once archived", this is not entirely true if "organized" refers to tags. An archived email can have several tags, just not the Inbox tag.
  • I just leave everything in the inbox. Archiving doesn't free up quota space so it just seems like a waste of time.
  • True. But for the reasons listed in the article, the time spent archiving is well wroth the end result, which is a less cluttered inbox.
  • Exactly! Posted via Android Central App
  • I guess I have a different definition of cluttered.
  • Eventually any inbox will get cluttered and you will have to use the search option to look for any emails. Archiving does not play any practical role.
  • it is certainly not a waste of time when it comes to organization. items in my inbox mean they need my attention--perhaps not now, but at some point. archived emails require no action on my part and are just kept for historical reference. the trash tag may just be a tag, but it is certainly one with unique and important behavior (the 30 day death sentence). i actually view this as short term archive. i likely won't refer back to it, but certainly won't beyond 30 days (or sooner). m.
  • He states that google automatically deletes messages in the trash folder after 30 days. Is this correct? I don't think my gmail does that. I have to go in and manually empty the trash folder every now and then.
  • At the top of my Trash it states: Empty Trash now (messages that have been in Trash more than 30 days will be automatically deleted) I haven't looked to see if that is configurable, but seems to be the default behavior as I haven't changed anything (that I remember).
  • what i need in gmail is a way to select all and either del or move to a different label
  • Not sure about the mobile version but you can select all on the desktop Gmail, there's a □ next to each message but if you press the □ on the task bar above you can select all and then bin or move. ( □ Should look like a unfilled square) Posted via Android Central App Edit, you can move mail too, press and hold each mail you want to move, press the hamburger button and select move. Hope that helps.
  • This suggests there are some who don't know the difference? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Up until this article, I honestly didn't. I steered clear of the Archive function, because I didn't know where the archived emails went, how I could recall that information if I needed to, how long archived emails were kept until they were deleted (I thought there'd be a time limit for archival), etc. This article helps me out a LOT. Now, I can safely archive several emails and clear my extremely cluttered inbox. Thanks, AC!!!
  • Get away from WP! Lol just kidding, brah This cleared up a bit for me as well.
  • Hahaha Spot on, brah! lol EDIT: Yeah, I'm definitely going to go through my inbox and start archiving away!
  • Lol....you can keep the camera though!
  • Haha Windows Phone has its pros and cons, but I will give it to Nokia: this camera is consistently amazing!
  • Thanks for the article. I also wondered about Archive for Gmail. I just left everything in the inbox. Since Google does not explain or document well, this is a important explanation and it is well done. Posted via Android Central App
  • I archive everything.
  • I long for the day I can bulk/mass delete from a mobile instead of having to use my pc. Next-us
  • When I chose archive, the message acknowledges that the email was archived,however it's not in the archives folder. Also I have 2 other Gmail accounts. I can't creared a archive folders in those.
  • For most users, archiving everything is a decision they'll later regret. They'll wind up with thousands and thousands of useless old messages using up there storage. The worst thing about his is that archived messages can only be deleted a hundred at a time at most. It will take hours! Also, the the archived messages that manage to delete will still linger in your trash for another month unless you go through the process of deleting them again a hundred at a time, effectively doubling the deletion time and effort. It's more more effective to select all of the mail on a page and then deselect the the important ones and delete the rest. Every few day or so you can archive the mail in your boxes because you think its worth saving, not because it's the easy way to clean out your mail box. Would you save every piece of mail that came to your house just because you have a place to store it?