Inbox Message Archive on non-gmail IMAP Account

In Gmail Inbox “Main Menu -> Message -> Archive” is available and it is a Ctrl-Shift-A shortcut.  It works great.

This feature is not available on icloud account and I assume on other generic IMAP accounts.  I have read a 4 year old response that IMAP server needs to support the feature.  I’d like to disagree.  

The rest of the message is my attempt to argue in favor of supporting “Message Archive” action in all email account types and specifically in IMAP accounts.

The argument easily goes into the strategy of what eM is trying to be.  Today eM is a niche application, because most of email management can be done on the phone or online.  eM is not needed and yet a user like me paid for the lifetime pro license (if I remember right).  Why did I do that?

Because I want to manage my messages on PC and because I want to be able to move my old messages to PC if I start running out of space on online account and I don’t want to pay for a subscription.  There are 2 aspects to my goals:

* todo management
* archival management, not backup management

I differentiate terms archive and backup.  I backup application data and archive email messages.  That’s pretty much eM terminology.  Backup eM database.  Archive message is move message from Inbox to some other folder.

TODO, archival management with a bit of occasional search is what desktop application all about.  Phone applications are well suited for quick response, but not to archival management.  Web applications are better at both, but are provided for user lock in purpose.

My goals are what SW industry recognizes as “user goals”, “use cases” or “user scenarios”.  SW developer talking :slight_smile:

TODO and archival go together and represent a user workload management model.  There are many models.  Here are most popular:

* Lazy or do nothing model is very popular, but those users are not likely to buy eM application, because they are satisfied with web frontend and phone frontend
* Inbox is Archive
* Inbox is TODO
* Hierarchical action model.  This one is most complicated and select few do it.  Many start doing it and give up.  It is too expensive on user time and too unamageable in the end.

**Inbox is Archive Model**

It is very similar to Lazy approach and it requires the least energy to maintain.  It is very popular.  


*An action item is unread item.
*An action item is an unread or flagged item.

Email apps usually support this model well. Application that wants to target this model ends up creating a view of unread or flagged items (smart folder in eM).


reading and not flagging may result in a forgotten action.

This model is internally inconsistent.  It requires user to check 2 folders: INBOX for new items and at least a smart folder.  It can be more expensive if user does not open clearly unwanted messages, because unread status no longer means an action.  Even in this model marking message as read is the sane solution.  The user needs to remember to go to flagged items after dealing with Inbox.  Phones may not provide a good view into flagged items.

**Inbox is TODO Model**

This model fits “Getting Things Done” or GTD methodology.

In this model an item in Inbox is an actionable item.  Empty Inbox means no work to do.  The disadvantage of this model is that some action is required on every Inbox item.  

Typical actions:

* delete or move to junk (1 action)
* reply message and then move to archive (2 actions)

Ideally eM would provide a configuration option on per account basis to move email message to account specific Archive folder.  **THIS WOULD BE A MARKETING DIFFERENTIATOR**.  In fact, focusing on clean support of various workload organization models would be a winning strategy for eM and a marketing differentiation.

In this model “unread” status outside of Inbox is not important.  Ideally eM would mark message as read when moving out of Inbox.

**Hierarchical Action Model**

This one has too many variations to define.  I’d say that usually people end up using “Inbox is TODO” or “Inbox is Archive” as a base model and then try to move some messages to a “Project” level folder.  I was one of these people and know some of these people.  I think it is the most expensive way of managing workload.  Tagging is an alternative form.

I ignore this model as its user’s can get too elaborate and all they want is a tree of folders.  It is truly a “Manual Hierarchy” management model.

Inbox is TODO model is the focus of the rest of the discussion, because only its users need “Message Archive” feature.  I think that it is the most efficient model from overall energy spent especially if we add automated rules.  For example, purchase “receipts” might go automatically to Archive.  I don’t need to see them.  With “Inbox is Archive” model receipt scenario would require the rule to mark message as read while I have not read it, which gets confusing.  Manual hierarchy is insane on energy required.

A software developer can say that IMAP server does not support message archive feature and that’s why we don’t support this feature in the account.  Well, there are 2 counter arguments:

* Do you want to ignore “Inbox is TODO” group at a marketing level?  you are a niche application and you want to lock out the GTD group that is most likely to pay?

* Do you really think there is a technical justification for not supporting this feature?  There are precedents to contrary in eM.

If you want to support “Inbox is TODO” model, then you shall put an effort to support Message Archive even if IMAP server does not provide this feature.  The precedent has been established with smart search folders.  IMAP does not have “smart search”, but eM has.

The goal in this case is to provide user with a consistent user interaction model.   “Message Archive” feature shall be available on all accounts and not just on Gmail accounts.  I am not asking to hide POP vs IMAP differences.  I am asking to provide a consistent user experience where possible.

When I am evaluating and I see message archive and then it disappears my 1st thought “is this a bug?” and I have some IMAP, POP and web services background.  Users expect consistency.  I bet you would have fewer support questions…

But… there is no “Archive” folder in IMAP!  Rubbish…  When I choose “Move to Archive” for the 1st time, the application shall popup Account settings dialog with a tab selected that allows user to set “Archive” folder.  That tab shall have no other configuration parameters to reduce user confusion.  A small description of Archive folder would work wonders there.  Problem solved.  

In fact, this suddenly opens some very interesting uses not possible before that.  If I choose to archive from iCloud to Gmail I can manage my data usage better.  It is no secret that Gmail web interface is really good at search.    Wait! That’s not technically possible!  It is a move across servers operation, it can fail.  Move inside the server can fail as well, so at the technical level it is no harder than internal move.  If eM  is designed with internal actions queue, that shall not be a problem…  OS X Mail application has one…  Software developer is talking now :slight_smile:

Honestly, if you center around “Inbox as TODO” and “Inbox as Archive” workload management models you will get a great application that fits most users.  You will be able to market this application is a central piece to user task management without having “Tasks”.  In fact standalone “Tasks” makes no sense.  I am a corporate Outlook user and I guarantee you most people don’t use Tasks.  They use email messages as Tasks.  Outlook recognized that and introduced minor views to see emails to be done by dates.  Tasks View in itself is not useless when advanced task management has to be done as long as this tasks view treats flagged messages as Tasks and unread messages being unfinished Tasks.  So, if you center around email being a task, then you can hit a great way to manage things.  I am getting too out of topic on “UI Design” concepts and there is more to be said about UI design and user goals…

Apple under Steve Jobs tried using email as task, but got distracted and did not take it the full way.  They basically introduced a concept of emailing task to self.  MIME types allow to treat email message as of type task.  Now that’s consistency at a different level and a great differentiation from other email clients.  It is also a reason to provide a phone email application.


Hi Sergei

eM Client’s definition of archiving is that it reduces space on the server and cleans out folders. Exactly what we all need.

I use Automatic Archiving, and it works great on any type of account, POP3 or IMAP. Once you set it up it will perform the task whether the folders are local or synced. This requires no server-side functionality; it is all handled by the desktop application.

The manual option may not be there, but the automatic one is, and it works perfectly!.