Something tells me that we’re going to see an exodus of Gmail users to Microsoft’s new Outlook.com service, so this first in a series of tips is aimed at that audience: How to duplicate Gmail’s Archive functionality in Outlook.com.

Note: I wrote a related tip for Outlook.com’s predecessor, Hotmail, in March: Hotmail Tip: Use Instant Actions To Add An Archive Button. This tip is based somewhat on that original.

If you’ve used Gmail, you know that one of the big advantages of that service is that Google doesn’t pigeonhole you into a folder-based hierarchy in which an email message can only be contained in a single location. Instead, Gmail uses a database-like system in which there is really only one folder (“All Mail”), but you typically access your email through virtual folders (like “Inbox”) that act like database Views. When you want to remove an email message from the Inbox view, you simply archive it, by pressing the Archive button in the Gmail web UI. This removes the message from the Inbox view and places it only in All Mail.

When I switched to Hotmail from Gmail in early 2012 (read What I Use: Hotmail and Exchange for Email and From Gmail to Hotmail: An Update for more info), Archive was just about the only Gmail feature I missed. But I’ve always coped with its loss by using a super-simple folder structure in Hotmail, and now in Outlook.com: And by creating a single folder called Archive (or whatever; obviously it’s your choice), you too can archive your email more effectively in Outlook.com.

There are two steps to this.

The first, of course, is to create the Archive folder. To do so, just click the New folder link in the folders pane.

create-folder

Name it Archive and tap Enter to finish up. The new Archive folder will appear at the bottom of the folder list, under the built-in folders.

You could just stop there. To “archive” email going forward, simply drag and drop those messages into the Archive folder. (Or use the Move To toolbar item.) This will move the selected message(s) from the Inbox folder to the Archive folder.

Or, you could make Outlook.com work more like Gmail and add a custom Archive icon. This icon will appear inline next to each message in your messages list. So you can click that now to “archive” your email.

Here’s how.

In the top right corner of the Outlook.com Mail web client, click Settings (the gear icon) and then More Mail Settings.

options

On the Outlook.com Options page, under Customizing Outlook, click Instant Actions. This will display the Instant Actions page.

instant-actions

Click Add Actions and then Move To. The Instant Actions list will expand to include a new Move To action. On the right side, choose the folder to which you'd like mail moved (Archive in my case). And then choose a color for the mouse-over icon you'll see and, if desired, whether to mark the message as read when it's moved. (I want that option enabled.)

actions

Note that you can also optionally use the "Move down" link to move the new Instant Action into the "Show always" area so that it's always visible, and not just visible when you mouse over the message header. Your choice. (In keeping with the clean new look of Outlook.com, I leave it in the “Show on mouse over” area.)

Click Save to save the instant action.

Back in the inbox, you’ll see a new a new inline icon on each message, either on mouse over, or all the time, depending on how you configured the instant action. Just click this icon to “archive” the message.

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