Mailbox Cleanup

Buried in the Tools menu in Outlook 2002 is a new command: Mailbox Cleanup, which consolidates several features that are useful for maintaining your default information store at an acceptable size. The Mailbox Cleanup name is a little misleading because it works on either an Exchange Server mailbox or a personal folder (.pst) file, whichever you're using as your default store. Two of the Mailbox Cleanup features help you determine where to focus your cleanup efforts; the other two perform cleanup chores. Although none of the features is new, having them all in one place is convenient, especially for new Outlook users unfamiliar with the cleanup features scattered throughout the program.

The first feature is a Click Here button to show you the size of your mailbox or .pst file both as a total number and as a table of sizes for each folder and subfolder. If you see that the bulk of the items in your mailbox are in the Sent Items folder, for example, you might want to look there for attachments to remove or items that you can delete or archive.

The second feature is a set of controls to help you locate items older than a certain number of days or larger than a certain number of kilobytes. After you make your selection and click Find, Outlook launches the Advanced Find dialog box to help you search the entire store for items that meet your age or size criteria. This feature is a quick way to find really old or really large items that might not need to stay in your mailbox.

The age search looks at the Modified date, which is the date when you last edited the item or moved it to a different folder. Outlook's AutoArchive feature also uses the Modified date to determine which items are old enough to archive.

The size search uses a field that you won't find in Advanced Find's typical field list. Size in Store is apparently the name of the field that Outlook searches when you set size options on Advanced Find's More Choices tab.

Once Advanced Find locates large or old items according to your criteria, you can examine each item and decide what to do with it. For example, you might want to open items with large attachments, save the attachment as a system file, then delete it from the Outlook item. Some of the items might be old enough that you can just delete them. (I found email messages left over from refinancing the mortgage on my house last summer. I guess it's time to delete those.)

If you get so many results in Advanced Find that you feel overwhelmed, don't forget that most of the customization features of normal folder views are also available to you in Advanced Find. For example, you can click the Size or Received column heading to sort by size or date. I like to review items by folder. You can click the In Folder column heading to sort, but I prefer to use groups instead. Right-click the heading for the field that you want to group by, then choose Group By This Field. Outlook will group all items from each folder together, then collapse all the groups. You can then expand each group in turn to examine the old items from a particular folder.

The third Mailbox Cleanup feature is an AutoArchive button. Be careful with this button. I expected it to open the dialog box that you typically see when you choose File, Archive. Instead, clicking the AutoArchive button immediately starts an archiving session.

The last Mailbox Cleanup feature is an Empty button. Click this button to remove all the items currently in the Deleted Items folder.

Having these functions consolidated into one dialog box is handy. I hope that companies are showing Outlook users how to use the new Mailbox Cleanup command and encouraging them to use it regularly.

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