OneNote or Acrobat for Outlook E-mail Archiving

Feb 28, 2016

Periodically as I give seminars and consult with clients, I am reminded that many companies have very stringent e-mail retention policies. Some of them prevent employees from holding on to mail older than a certain number of days anywhere in Outlook. Often 90 days is the limit. So PST files might be forbidden, and Exchange-based folders might automatically be stripped of all mail older than the threshold.

Is This Good?

I have mixed opinions about this, but mostly lean away from such stringent policies. I realize they make litigation against the company harder to do, but it seems to me they are preventing people from doing their jobs. E-mail communication is such an important part of every job role, and referring to “what was said” in previous discussions can be business critical.

So I look for other ways that such employees can save the information in their e-mails and still adhere to their company’s rules.

Text Messages

The standard way is to tell the employees to save the e-mail as a text file on their hard drive. Of course, that’s incredibly cumbersome to do for each and every e-mail (and that’s probably the point—it’s a somewhat cynical instruction from their company to discourage saving e-mails).

One Note

One method you might consider is to save it to OneNote. OneNote has a built in way to import messages. You have to set it up first, but once you do you simply forward the Outlook message to a special address and it gets saved as a OneNote page. Of course, this only makes sense if you are only saving occasional messages—it’s not a bulk solution. You’ll end up with thousands of OneNote pages otherwise. Here’s a writeup on how to do it:

Adobe Acrobat

Another solution is to use the Adobe Acrobat application. This IS a bulk solution, since you can convert an entire Outlook folder or a large range of selected messages, and they all are saved into one PDF file. Using this you can even pick up and convert e-mail attachments into the same PDF file (this is settable). And you can add to existing PDF archive files, which makes an ongoing incremental archive strategy practical. To do this, you of course have to purchase and have the Acrobat application installed on your computer—it’s not a standard application in most companies. And your copy of Outlook must be unlocked enough to allow add-ins to be installed (during Acrobat install, it adds new buttons to Outlook’s ribbons). Here’s more information on using Acrobat to archive messages:

8/22/2018 UPDATE: Looks like link above has been moved to:

If you cannot install Acrobat, there are other ways to save e-mails into PDFs, but they are nowhere as convenient as the tools the Acrobat application provides.


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6 Responses to OneNote or Acrobat for Outlook E-mail Archiving

  1. Swati Singh says:

    Thanks for this blog post
    Want to know more about Email Archiving
    please visit this site:-

  2. Rick Crew says:

    Don’t forget in the latest versions of Outlook and Windows 10 you can simply print a message to PDF, using the Microsoft Print to PDF printer.

    • Michael Linenberger says:

      Thanks Rick. That’s a really good point. Previously I had dismissed that idea since it appears to only work one email at a time, which would make it too slow for bulk saving entire folders of mail. But today I discovered there is a way to do it in bulk. This is great since you don’t have to install any other software (like Adobe Acrobat). I am going to write a separate blog on how to do that. Thanks again. Michael

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