A lot of users have asked about saving or copying messages from Web Mail to their computer, particularly the Sent copies that are in Web Mail. Some users want to know how to just save a single message as a file (which is easy to do) and others want to know how to move messages in bulk just to free up their online storage space. We can do that too.
There are several ways to accomplish this, but first it is important to understand the difference between accessing your mailbox via Web Mail, or via any other email software like Outlook Express, EarthLink Mailbox, Apple Mail, etc. The two main advantages of using Web Mail are that you can access your mailbox from any browser on any computer, and you don’t have to install or configure any software. All messages are stored on the server and you just view them using your browser. With any email software installed on your computer (called POP software or a POP client) you are downloading the messages to your own computer hard drive, and then viewing and managing the local copies on your own computer. Some advantages of this are that you can view or compose messages while offline, and your storage space is only limited by the size of your hard drives.
When you use both Web Mail and other email software, understand that the only folder in Web Mail that is accessible by your other email software is the Inbox. This isn’t a limitation created by EarthLink; it is just how the POP protocol works with all email software. POP software (Outlook, etc.) has no concept of online folders, and can only download messages from the online Inbox to your computer. Then once you have the messages on your computer, obviously you can sort and store them in local folders.
If you aren’t completely clear on how Web Mail and other email software access your mailbox differently and how they can work together if you use both, then please read this FAQ for more information. It’s essential to understand that part first.
- Saving any single message to your hard drive from Web Mail.
- Saving your Inbox messages to your hard drive from Web Mail.
- Saving Sent messages or messages in any other Web Mail folder.
Obviously this isn’t practical for moving messages in bulk for storage reasons, but sometimes it is useful for just saving a local copy of an important message. To do this, simply select the “View Source” option from the actions menu. This opens the full, raw message content up in its own window. That is a view of the actual email “file” that you want to save to your hard drive. Then just click on File/Save in your browser menu, and save the file to your hard drive. By default, it will be saved as a text file (.txt) but you can save it by any name you wish if you plan to access it using other software that might prefer some other file type. If you plan to import the file into Outlook Express, save it as a .eml file (or rename it after saving). That is just a file extension recognized by Outlook Express and by some other email programs, but the .eml file is exactly the same as the plain text file you saved, there is nothing special about the file other than the name. You can then just drag-and-drop the .eml file on to your Outlook Express Inbox (with the program open) and the message will be automatically imported. Some other email programs will also work this way. With Thunderbird you just use “File / Open Saved Message” and it doesn’t matter whether the file is saved as .txt or .eml. You’ll have to figure out how to open or import the saved message files with whatever software you will be using.
If you want to save a message as a stand-alone viewable HTML file and not as an email message that can be opened by other email software, you do it a little differently. Click Print in the Web Mail toolbar, and then cancel the printer dialog that appears. Then click File / Save-As in your browser menu, and save the file as an HTML file. Then, you can click on that file later to view it again in your browser.
This one is totally straightforward. You simply open up any email program installed on your computer, and let it retrieve your messages. You can use Outlook Express, which comes with Windows, or Apple Mail, which comes with Macintosh, or any other software of your choosing. All messages in your Inbox will be copied to your hard drive and will then be viewable in your own email software. Be aware that unless you change the default setting in your software, as the messages are downloaded they are deleted from the server and no longer visible in Web Mail. If your goal is to free up your online storage space, then that’s what you want. But you can change the setting in any email software, to leave copies on the server while downloading to your computer. There’s more information about this in the FAQ linked above.
So if you want to just periodically move all your messages to your computer, leave them in your Web Mail Inbox until they build up to the point you want to save them, and then just fire up your other email software to download them all.
If you do not have any email software set up with your EarthLink email account, you can get instructions from this article on the EarthLink Support site.
When you send a message and you have your software (or Web Mail) set to save copies of sent messages, obviously the sent copy is only saved in the place where you sent it from, whether that be in Web Mail or in your other email software (on one specific computer). Those are not shared or accessible to each other. So one common question users have is how to get copies of all those messages sent from Web Mail, onto their own computer.
To do this, we’ll use the same method but due to the limitation of POP software I described earlier, we have to first put the messages in your Web Mail Inbox. This is a lot easier than it sounds, and I personally do this every few months to archive my email and free up online storage. I can move and save a few thousand messages from several online folders, in about 10 minutes.
First you’ll want to change the setting in Web Mail to display 200 messages per page instead of the default setting of 20. Click Preferences / Web Mail Options and change the Messages-per-page setting. This will allow you to move 200 messages with a single action (two clicks actually). To move up to 200 messages at one time, simply click the topmost checkbox at the left of the message list (“select all”) and then click “Move To…” and select Inbox. Repeat until you’ve moved all the messages that you are wanting to save to your computer.
To avoid mixing things up, make sure your Web Mail Inbox is empty first. If you are also downloading those to your other email software, just do that first as described in #2 above. Otherwise, you can simply move your Inbox messages into a temporary folder. To create a new folder in Web Mail, click Folders, and then move them there before putting the messages you want to download into the Inbox. You can move them back when done.
Once you have all the messages in your Web Mail Inbox that you want to download to your computer, simply fire up your other email software (Outlook Express etc.) and let it download the messages. In this case since these are messages from your Sent folder or from some other folder, you’ll probably want to organize the downloaded copies similarly. You can just select them all from the local Inbox and drag them to the desired folder in your email software, or use the Move selection in the menu. That operation should only take a few seconds. I like to keep my messages sent from Web Mail separate from my messages sent from Outlook, so I create an Outlook folder called “Sent-WebMail” and I just move all the saved messages there after I download them. And I create other custom folders to organize the saved messages just like I had them in Web Mail.
A couple things to watch out for –
If your intention is to create a copy of your Sent messages rather than just moving them all, be aware that you will not be able to move messages back into your Web Mail Sent folder after moving them out. The only way to put messages into that folder in Web Mail is to send a message. You could just create a custom folder called “MySent” or something like that, and move them there. But you won’t be able to move messages into the default Sent folder.
Another thing is that if you already have other messages in your Outlook Inbox (or whatever you are using) don’t expect your downloaded Sent messages to all show up on the top of the list. They will probably be sorted by date, mixed in with whatever you already had in that folder. So you might need to clear out the Outlook Inbox temporarily to do this operation cleanly, by putting those existing messages in a temporary folder first, and put them back after you have stored your Sent messages in the desired folder.
So that’s how you do it. Some users have asked if there was some magical feature where you can somehow just “save” your entire mailbox contents to your hard drive with a click or two. Unfortunately there isn’t. A few users even claimed that “everyone else” has this. I checked the four largest web mail services and none of them have such a feature that I can find anywhere. Somebody correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve never heard of a feature like this on any Web Mail service, and there really isn’t any easy way to do it either, or any standards for how things might be archived in a way that is understood by most other email software. The universal standard is to use the POP protocol and POP software, which is what I’ve described here. There are some enterprising software vendors selling programs for about $20 that automate doing exactly what I’ve described in this article, and they download and save your messages for you with just a click or two. All they have done is scripted what I’ve described, and done so for the major webmail services (the one I saw worked on Hotmail and Yahoo). There are also general scripting tools available for both Windows and Mac which can record your own keystrokes and mouse clicks and play them back on demand. Users familiar with such tools could probably automate most or all of this operation, but I won’t be able to help you with that.
Really the only way to make this any easier is if we had IMAP access to mailboxes, which allows you to automatically “sync” a set of online folders with an offline copy, using IMAP client software. There aren’t any plans for now to offer IMAP service.
One last trick for users who only want to have copies of messages Sent from Web Mail available for viewing in their other email software or on another computer: simply copy (Cc or Bcc) yourself on outgoing messages. I used to do this when I ran email clients on multiple computers and wanted to have my sent messages available no matter which computer I was working at. Nowadays, I only use Web Mail so this isn’t a problem anymore.
Note that some of the comments below were posted prior to this article being written, when I had mentioned previously in this space that I was going to write about this topic.