Smart email archiving app?

Hi friends,

I’m looking for an email app that works with Apple’s Mail app that I can use to do automatic selective deletes, moving, and archiving of emails. I don’t know if such an app exists, but so far, I haven’t been able to come close to what I’m looking for, so I thought I’d ask here.


How do you understand/what is your model for “archiving” email? Is it just a text searchable capture of messages? Do you expect threading to be preserved? How about attachments?

I do NOT have a solution. My approach was to just expect the mail program to continue to support all my email. Annually, I’d move stuff from the ‘current’ set of folders into a new set of folders nested under the year (i.e. at the end of Dec I’ll move stuff from inbox, outbox, friends, etc to 2023/inbox, 2023/outbox, 2023/friends-and-family, etc.) That worked fine until last year, when Apple barfed on large mail sets. I have NOT tried reloading the mailboxes I scraped from a backup drive. When I was working, my ability to be “the project wayback machine” was a real advantage, but since I’ve retired, I really don’t need to dig into those older mail sets.

For years I’ve been using DEVONthink to archive my email on an annual basis by providing it with a date range. For instance, I might set it to 01/01/2023 to 12/31/2023 and anything that falls in this date range will be archived, and then in Mail I can run the same date range search and delete those emails.

I’d also love it if I could set task in the app that would do something like “delete all emails from Tidbits that are older than 1 month”.

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So how would you retrieve something from this archive?

The emails are stored and indexed in DEVONthink and I can quite easily search the app to find the exact email in question. I currently have at least 2 decades of emails archived in DEVONthink and do occasionally have a need to refer to them.

Wouldn’t a smart mailbox accomplish what you’re trying to do?

Eagle Filer is the only app I know of made specifically for archiving emails, though it does web pages, PDF files, messages, word processing documents, and images as well.

The biggest problem I see with the app is the developer is relatively small, thus the app could cease to exist at any moment.

Eagle Filer is $60, DEVONThink Pro is $120 - in this case, I think DEVONThink Pro is the better bet long term.

There is MailArchiver X that I use to archive mail from different accounts, cheaper than both eagle and devon at $50 - I’ve been using it for over 4 years and find the developer very responsive.

Well, reading about Eagle Filer pointed out to me what I was missing! Most people are using iMap, where I’ve -always- used POP and set up my mail program to download all messages immediately.

If you are using Mail on a Mac you can create new mailboxes (eg “2023-inbox”) and simply move the active iCloud emails that you wish to archive to that mailbox. This deletes them from iCloud but they remain accessible from Mail on the Mac. They are also included in Time Machine backups…
This also works for Sent emails and other (non-apple) accounts.
I also backup my emails with Mail Steward:
This creates a MySQL database and adds new emails when running its Archive function. I have emails going back decades stored on Bluray disks. These can be searched and viewed with the app (but not Apple Mail).

Since there is a separate thread about supporting TidBITS, I thought I would mention that if you become a TidBITS member, you can get nice discounts on EagleFiler and Mail Archiver X, among others.

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Yep. I’ve been a member for a very long time. :slight_smile:

I have hundreds of thousands of email archived using MailSteward for many years. I access those only occasionally but when I do the excellent search capabilities and speed of MailSteward work very well.

Excellent question - no answer here, but probably the same problem.

My observation: I have used Apple Mail for years but it has become nearly useless on my Macbook Pro. It takes ages (sometimes 10 min) for me to load emails from my Gmail accounts.

Until recently I thought that’s because my Macbook 2017 is getting old and I have run Big Sur, but a few weeks ago I upgraded to a Macbook Air 2023 with Sonoma – same thing: Apple Mail remains unbearably slow with Gmail accounts. Disclaimer: I have several mail folders that have ~50,000 emails each, and I suspect it’s simply the large number of emails that slows down Mail. It’s obviously not the OS, nor the hardware, which leaves only Apple Mail as the culprit. (Yes, Gmail over the web works practically instantaneously, hence it’s not a server or connection issue either).

I may need to switch to a dedicated Gmail client like MimeStream, or simply archive all my old emails using some of the tools proposed here.

Thoughts? Thanks!

With Gmail there is another discussion on this site pointing out that you cannot delete the emails. By default they get moved to an archive folder. There are workarounds but the process is tedious.

Thiere is a list of all of the archiving apps available for the Macintosh here:


So I’ve flirted with the idea of creating an email archive, but never really pursued it. This thread has given me some ideas, but I do have one question (which may be based on a misunderstanding/lack of knowledge). What’s the best technique for archiving email from my email hosting provider?

I use Bluehost, but I assume they’re typical of most IMAP-based email hosts. All the individual mail accounts in my domain are in the ~/mail directory on my domain’s server (Linux based). Is this directory the “mbox” format I see referred to here and there? Would I point a tool like Eagle Filer at this directory to back up all the mailboxes on my domain? Or am I thinking about this the wrong way around: perhaps such tools log on to each of my domain’s email accounts individually and go from there?

Depends on your definition of “archive”. As noted in other replies…there are a bunch of solutions that cost money. I tried using one of the commercial solutions but never really liked it. And it depends on whether you want the archive available from everywhere or only your macOS computer…if the latter the easiest and cheapest thing to do is create an On My Mac mailbox and move the mail to be archived into that mailbox and it’s subfolders. Place it somewhere in ~ and Time Machine and whatever other backup routines you have will handle backing it up. This is what I ended up doing.

Been considering archiving email for some time myself.

So the four main recommendations seem to be:



  1. Apart from DevonThink (via DT-to-Go), can emails stored in the other three options be seen on iOS/iPadOS?
  2. Do all four apps store all attachments on emails too?
  3. Do these apps store embedded html emails (when images in an email are stored remotely)?
  4. Which app(s) is most easy to use?

EDIT: Tested and disliked Eagle Filer and MailArchiver X; neither worked properly or logically.

EF: cannot move folders to your own ordering for example, being stuck with a-z Finder order only or renaming with extra characters to order, per their manual (“a foldername”, “aa foldername” is unusable).

MA-X: Import for just 50 emails in simply three nested folders took 45 minutes(!)+unclear documentation.

Regarding Mailsteward…

  1. I am not aware of an iOS app for viewing the archives. Mailsteward is a Mac app that converts the emails (from numerous accounts) to a MySQL database. In theory an iOS app that can open MySQL files (a database standard) could open the archive.

  2. There is an option for archiving attachments, including a size limit

  3. Remote email HTML links should be archived but I am not sure if they would work in a web browser when viewing the archive.

  4. I find Mailsteward easy to use. The setup can get a bit complicated if, like me, you have numerous accounts and On-my-Mac mailboxes. Once this is done it is easy.

Incidentally, I have been using Mailsteward for more than a decade and have moved it from Mac to Mac and macOS to macOS over this time - using the one (large) database file. As indicated above, I also save a backup of the archive file on Bluray.

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