I assume pretty much everyone uses Gmail. I’ve never been able to get over the mental hurdle of giving Google access to and control over my email and my contacts so I don’t use it. I have everything routed through Thunderbird on my desktop.
Rather than archiving email permanently in Thunderbird, I move it out and print it as PDFs. I’ve done it this way for years. And not every single email but just the ones I want to keep. I used to use EverNote 2 for this but I’ve moved to ActionOutline and it works even better.
In ActionOutline, I have an EMAIL tab and then a sub-item for each person (blurred here for privacy) that I’m in a conversation with.
I copy and paste the date straight from each email into ActionOutline. Or use the Date/Time stamp (F5) to get it started and then tweak the exact time. (The Date/Time will show up as the title for each email when it’s printed.)
(Then drag and drop the email next to it. This works perfectly for text emails and photos dragged over separately but not for HTML newsletters.
Tip: Most PDF printing will kill links unless they’re in http:// format so I change the email view to Plain Text before moving them over.)
The Date/Time format can be defined by the Date/time format option.
If you don’t like the default formats, you can create your own.
When a conversation seems to be complete or, at least, complete for now I click the Print button and it takes me to a window of printing choices.
ActionOutline has a list of printing presets, otherwise you can create your own. I made one called Print Email.
Process current branch only will limit the email print-out to the one person I choose.
You can set up your print options easily by clicking on the Edit button (icon with the red check mark above).
I like to print my email without fanfare so what I get is just the date and time in bold at the top left and then the email content, one per page.
It makes for a very clean look. It doesn’t include company logos, headers and footers and other irrelevant crap all over the archives. (Yes, Gmail, you.)
Then I choose my default PDF print driver, PDF Creator.
For any conversations that continue later, PDFs can be stitched together easily using a free PDF editor like PDFTKBuilder.
I have one PDF over 1100 pages long. And that’s email from someone who doesn’t write that often.
You can also choose the Export option instead of Print and have your output going to plain TXT, RTF or HTML instead.
These options, of course, apply to all other printing or exporting of ActionOutline content.