It is straightforward to configure a Gmail account being accessed through Apple Mail to Archive messages when you "delete" them from the mail client. With generic IMAP accounts, however, the only options for deleting messages are:

  • Move deleted messages to the Trash mailbox (which, when unchecked, leaves them in the Inbox)
  • Store deleted messages on the server (which, when unchecked, stores them in the local mailbox only, I suppose)
  • Permanently erase deleted messages when <time interval>...

Is there a way, through a combination of server configuration and, perhaps, Apple Mail rules, to move messages to an IMAP "archive" folder when I Trash them?

(I note that there seems to exist no condition in Apple Mail's rules to take action when a message is deleted...)

  • Would simply moving them to the archive folder manually be a problem?
    – cablesm
    Commented Jan 11, 2013 at 5:44
  • For the purposes of this question, let's assume so. :) That is, I want to hit the Delete key on messages in a generic IMAP account, and have it move them to a location other than Trash, as Gmail does.
    – Dan J
    Commented Jan 11, 2013 at 5:50

2 Answers 2


Mail does have an action called "Archive" in the Message menu that moves the current message in to a directory called "Archive." I use it all day every day on my work IMAP account just like in Gmail. I stash everything in there and just rely on search to find what I need. It works great.

I don't think there's a way to remap the Delete key to perform an Archive action instead, but Archive does have a keyboard shortcut: control-command-A. If you find that as clunky as I do, you can remap it in System Preferences' Keyboard pane.

Remapping Mail's Archive hotkey

You can also add Archive to your toolbar if that's more your thing.

  • 1
    I didn't even know this feature existed, and it does indeed work as expected with the IMAP account. Thanks!
    – Dan J
    Commented Feb 5, 2013 at 5:51
  • I've never had a good workflow for archiving mail, but this looks promising. Are there any downsides to Archiving mail? Does it get removed from IMAP and only stored locally? Any other gotchas or benefits to doing this?
    – bmike
    Commented Feb 8, 2013 at 23:09
  • 1
    That depends on if Archive is a local folder or an IMAP folder. If it's an IMAP folder, it'll stay on the server. If you've got a storage quota and high enough email volume, this could be an issue. For me, my quota grows faster than my archive, so it's a non-issue. The thing I really love about it is that my archives follow me from computer to computer without any real effort on my part. Considering how many machines I use and all the horror stories I hear getting mail databases to actually transfer correctly, this is a big deal. Commented Feb 9, 2013 at 0:28

This should work, though I'm afraid to try this myself— perhaps try it with a spam or test mail account first:

  1. In Mail, set the option Permanently erase deleted messages when to Never, and be certain to check for any similar option in your IMAP settings
  2. In your IMAP settings, create a folder called Archives, then synchronize Mail
  3. When Archives appears in Mail's list of mailboxes select it, then go to the menu item Mailbox > Use this mailbox for > Trash

That should move everything that you delete from Mail using the delete key to your IMAP Archives. However! Naturally if you select Empty Trash or hit + + while in Mail then all of your Archives may be deleted from your IMAP account!

  • Thanks for the answer, but I'm afraid you've misread the question: I am attempting to mimic Gmail's behaviour with a non-Gmail IMAP account. For Gmail accounts themselves, these instructions are actually unnecessary: Gmail's Settings > Forwarding and POP/IMAP lets you specify archive-on-delete behaviour.
    – Dan J
    Commented Feb 5, 2013 at 5:34
  • OK, I have now removed all references to Gmail. Does it work?
    – Elliott
    Commented Feb 5, 2013 at 17:14
  • Thanks for the edit - I'll give this a try and let you know!
    – Dan J
    Commented Feb 5, 2013 at 17:39
  • I tried experimenting with Folder Actions and a message can indeed be archived upon deletion into the folder of your choice that way, but I haven't been able to get Apple Mail to reflect the update to that folder. So until I figure that out the archive of the message is only an extremely hidden local version, which probably isn't what you want. Syncing unfortunately doesn't make Mail see the .emlx files either.
    – Elliott
    Commented Feb 5, 2013 at 22:30

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