Sunday, August 1, 2004

The Deleted Items folder is not a filing cabinet


By Diane Poremsky

No one uses the office trash can as a filing cabinet or would think of dropping a diamond necklace in one for safe keeping, yet many people use Outlook's trash can to file their email. Outlook's Deleted Item folder is a virtual trash can for deleted Outlook items, such as email, calendar items, and tasks, not a folder for storing email [I am so guilty of this. --Ed.].

Yet at least once a week I receive requests for help recovering e-mail that was stored in the Deleted Items folder and accidentally deleted. A twist on the usual need to recover deleted messages are requests for help removing the junk mail from the Deleted Items folder while leaving the good mail, as in this recent request: "I now have a lot of junk I don't want and mail I do need, going back to 2002. How can I filter out the junk?"

First, I'll address the problem of using the Deleted Items folder for storing email. Users store messages in the Deleted items folder because they want to remove messages from the Inbox as they read them and using the Delete key is the quickest and easiest way to move items. However, using the Deleted items folder as a filing system is a poor message management technique. A better solution is marking messages read and using a hide read messages view. In Outlook 2002 and earlier, read messages "disappear" immediately, in Outlook 2003, use F5 to refresh the view and hide read messages.

If you want to get read messages out of the Inbox, you can create rules and run them "offline" using the Run Now option, however, Rules Wizard doesn't support received date as one of the conditions. Advanced Find supports the received date as one of the conditions, but it's not automated -- you'll need to use the Move to folder command to move messages.

Pergenex Software's Auto-Mate for Outlook helps users control their inbox by running rules at a later date, filing messages in the appropriate folder. Unlike Outlook Rules Wizard, Auto-Mate runs on messages already in the inbox, on messages marked as read, marked completed, or that arrived a specific number of hours or days ago.

Is there a way to help my latest correspondent delete junk email and keep the email she is storing in the Deleted Items folder? Well-crafted rules "run now" on the Deleted items folder can delete some of the spam and move some of the good email, but it's probably going to require review of many of the messages in the folder to completely sort the mail into good mail and spam.

[I once had to do this and my trick was brute force. I moved all my stored messages out of the inbox into a temporary folder. Then I moved all of my deleted messages back to the inbox. At that point, I ran my junk mail filter on the inbox; the remaining messages were returned back to the Deleted Items folder and I then moved my inbox messages back from the temporary folder to the inbox. The gotcha -- very baaaad things could happen at any step. -- Ed.]