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How do I unarchive thousands of messages and stop anymore messages ever being archived

  • 6 replies
  • 1 has this problem
  • 23 views
  • Last reply by Toad-Hall

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I am getting desperate as the harder I try to sort this out the bigger mess I get in.

I think after about 20 years I may have to stop using Thunderbird but I do not know what other Email client to replace it with as they all seem to be confusing.

The archiving problem particularly relates to gmails but I cannot understand the gmail webmail system at all - it seems to sort emails into categories I do not understand or need or want to use.

I cannot send a screen shot easily due to the confidential nature of emails

I am getting desperate as the harder I try to sort this out the bigger mess I get in. I think after about 20 years I may have to stop using Thunderbird but I do not know what other Email client to replace it with as they all seem to be confusing. The archiving problem particularly relates to gmails but I cannot understand the gmail webmail system at all - it seems to sort emails into categories I do not understand or need or want to use. I cannot send a screen shot easily due to the confidential nature of emails

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Gmail does have some quirks. I'll post a couple of comments that should help sort out things.

re: it seems to sort emails into categories I do not understand or need or want to use. In gmail webmail account accessed via a browser: click on the Settings icon (gear wheel icon) then click on 'see all settings' Select 'Inbox' Uncheck all these Inbox 'categories' - social, promotions,updates, forums See image below as guide

Then select 'Labels' Under 'Categories' section Locate the top one - Categories and click on the word 'hide' All will then get hidden. See image as guide.

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re : Archiving

You need to have a bit of background info to describe how gmail works.

General info regarding 'All Mail' folder and 'labels'. Gmail keeps all your emails, that means all incoming, all outgoing, archived - the lot - everything in the 'All Mail' folder.

However, gmail understands this is not a desirable way to easily locate emails, so gmail uses a method which it calls 'Labels' which operate like a filter tag on an email stored in 'All Mail'.

The 'Label' appears in the form of a traditional Folder eg: 'Inbox' and offers a virtual display of the email which has that 'Inbox' filter tag label. This means everything appears in a more traditional easy to use Folder style.

Gmail consider the 'All Mail' folder as the default archive folder. Which basically means all labels are removed, so email is only seen in the 'All Mail' folder.

If you are using a gmail IMAP account in Thunderbird then you will see the same folders in Thunderbird as you see when you logon to the gmail webmail account.

How to check what folder is set up as the 'Archive' folder: In Thunderbird Select the gmail mail account name in Folder pane and on the right - look top right and click on 'Account Settings' This opens in a new tab.

for the gmail account - click on 'Copies & Folders' I'm not asking you to change anything. But I need to know what you see.

Under 'Message Archives' Is this checkbox selected 'keep message archives in ' ? Yes or No If checkbox is selected, Have you selected 'Archives folder on' or 'Other'? Does it say use 'All Mail on gmail address' or something else?

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Archiving can occur if you do any of the following:

  1. Select an email to view in the Message Pane and then click on 'Archive' button
  2. Select an email to view in the Message Pane and then click on the 'A' key (that is the shortcut for archiving the selected email)
  3. Right click on email in Message List and select 'Archive' from the drop down options
  4. Delete an email that by-passes the gmail imap 'Trash' folder (This involves holding down Shift key and pressing the 'Delete' key)


In Thunderbird, I'm assuming you use a gmail IMAP account as this is the most commonly used for gmail. Please tell me if you have set up the gmail account as a POP mail account.

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That is helpful.

I did use IMAP

I have not knowingly done any of those things for the many hundreds of Gmails that have been archived.

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I would say that over the years I have come across people not realising that a load of shortcut keys can perform various actions when an email has been selected. Sometimes they have lost emails; I recall someone accidentally depressing 'J' key and this sent things to Spam' folder which gmail auto empties periodically. Others discovered they had pressed 'A' accidentally and emails disappeared, so they thought the emails were being deleted, but all those emails had been archived and were still on server in the 'All Mail' folder. Another one that really confuses people is the 'K' key as this will set either Ignore or Unignore Thread. It means the email and threads it contains will be hidden, so they look like they are deleted, but they still exist - just filtered out.

Some people do not realise that gmail will auto empty the 'Spam' and the 'Trash' folders clearing emails that have been in those folders for 30 days.


RE: Archives. What folder is the Account Settings - Copies & Folders - Archive section - set to use?

As far as gmail is concerned, if all labels are removed then email can only be seen in the 'All Mail' folder. Archiving to the 'All Mail' folder means all labels are removed.

Most people do not choose to subscribe to see the 'All Mail' folder because it is just a duplicate of everything and it doubles the size of the profile. Trying to use the 'All Mail' folder is not that simple because it contains everything. In Thunderbird, there is no means of easily seeing what is Archive and what is not Archive. I have always found it to be a useless folder when it comes to being practical.

You say "many hundreds of Gmails that have been archived." Do you know where those emails are? Are they in the 'All Mail' folder which you can see when you logon to the gmail webmail account ?

You can put them back into any fodler you want, but this might be easier to do from the webmail account because the 'All Mail' folder does show you what labels have been applied to each email. So if no lables then you know it is 'archived'.

Have a look at the image below as this will help you locate 'archived' emails that have no labels which display in the 'All Mail' folder. It also has some info on how to get them back in the 'Inbox' or another folder of choice.

Don't be confused by image - On left shows what an archived image looks like - no labels. To the right shows how you can use the right click to see options like 'Move to Inbox' or 'Move to' and then select folder of choice. The section below is another view where you can select loads of 'checkboxes' and then choose to 'Move to Inbox' on all of them in one go.

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Maybe you prefer to have a specific folder which you use rather than that 'All Mail' folder. For Example: In the gmail account you could create a folder called 'Archived'

Then in Account Settings - Copies & Folders - Archive section Choose these options:

  • select 'keep message archives in'
  • Select 'Other' and choose 'Archived on gmail email address account'

Then when you click on 'Archive' button or use that 'A' shortcut key, Thunderbird will move email to that specific 'Archived' folder. Then at least you can still locate the email.

From gmail's point of view, you moved email to another folder, so it removes the 'Inbox' label and applies the 'Archived' label.

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