If you’re anything like me, you have a few different email accounts and a fairly large backlog of archived messages. Storing several thousand emails can gradually introduce problems – either from your mail client slowing down, or through concern over all your information being held remotely with a service such as Gmail.
I have recently started experimenting with MailSteward as a method of archiving and backing up email. It can significantly speed up your mail client, make moving computers easier, and offer greater peace of mind.
This how-to will walk you through the basic process of setting up MailSteward, archiving messages, and searching them at a later date.
Setting up MailSteward
After downloading and installing MailSteward, you’ll be presented with a wonderfully minimal interface:
By default, MailSteward will automatically select all of your Apple Mail app email accounts to be archived, and create an empty database ﬁle named “myemaildb” on your desktop. When archiving messages, they are copied from Mail.app into the new database archive (your original messages are left untouched).
MailSteward is able to handle duplicates well, and won’t re-archive the same message twice. In addition to the message text, the app will also archive attachments, HTML, rich text and the original raw message source.
Before clicking “Archive”, it’s worth taking a look at the application settings to check it will behave as you need it to. Here is a quick run-down of the options you can configure:
General preferences cover the location of the database file (which is probably worth moving off your desktop), along with settings for which type of emails to move. You can also limit the size of email attachments if desired.
The accounts preference pane is particular useful if you don’t want every email account to be archived. You can select just those needed, and opt to delete email after archiving (I wouldn’t recommend doing this). The other settings relate to viewing preferences, whether you would like to automatically schedule archiving, and how MailSteward indexes various columns to speed up searching.
When you’re happy with the preferences selected, go ahead and click “Archive”. MailSteward will ask you to define a date range of emails to be archived. For the first pass, it’s sensible to select a date range of “all”:
After confirming exactly what the process will do, MailSteward will work through all your email and copy it across to the new database:
And that’s it! All your email is archived and ready to be searched, tagged, or deleted from the original location if you so wish.
It’s also possible to schedule archiving to occur on a regular basis. This is a great set-and-forget option, and worth doing if you find yourself using MailSteward manually every few weeks.
Viewing, Searching & Tagging
MailSteward offers a simple and fast interface for scanning through several thousand messages, and allows sorting by various different fields:
Searching is powerful, with a wide range of different options to choose from. You can restrict by a particular date range, search the entire message content or any of the standard options expected (sender, recipient, body, subject etc). If you’re technically inclined, it is also possible to edit the actual SQL query to be run on the database.
The final piece of functionality to note is the ability to tag messages. The seemingly obligatory “tagging” support feels a little redundant for me, as the appeal in MailSteward rests in dumping all my messages and searching their content. Nothing could instill more fear in me than the need to tag my entire archive of email messages, and it isn’t something I would consider doing.
MailSteward comes in three versions, MailSteward Lite ($24.95), MailSteward ($49.95), and MailSteward Pro ($99.95). The Lite version of MailSteward has all of the archiving and searching functionality of MailSteward, but lacks the advanced search, and exporting, tagging, and merging databases.
MailSteward Pro has all of the features of MailSteward, but uses the MySQL Server software for its database, allowing you to save over 100,000 messages.
I’m impressed with MailSteward’s reliability and ease-of-use. It certainly offers a simple process for archiving messages, and makes me feel much better about storing my email on a remote service such as Gmail.
My only complaint is the fairly dated interface – I would welcome a spruced up, leopard-friendly set of icons and buttons. That said, if my only complaint is a visual one, it’s certainly an indicator of an application with an excellent feature set.
Have fun archiving emails, and feel free to share any other techniques you employ to keep your mail client running speedily!