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Email Archiving, Outlook and Thunderbird

This page describes the procedure for handling saved emails from Outlook and Thunderbird.

Outlook stores saved emails in *.msg format, which is a binary proprietary format. Thunderbird saves emails in *.eml format, which is a non-proprietary multi-part MIME format.

The nature of *.msg files make them impossible to share with Thunderbird or other email clients. Thunderbird has its own problems - while it can save emails, it can not open the saved files! (Update: TB has been fixed, and it can now open its own files!)

To get around these problems in a mixed Outlook/Thunderbird environment, I use two steps:

  1. Convert the Outlook *.msg files into *.eml, using Matijs van Zuijlen's excellent msgconvert.pl Perl script, available at http://www.xs4all.nl/~mvz/software/msgconv.html. This script works on one file at a time, so I've written a batch file to scan a directory and convert all *.msg files into *.eml files, if the *.eml file does not already exist. The batch file source code (v1.0) is available here. You'll need to change the variables in the configuration section. I run the script as a cron job on a nightly basis.
     
  2. Use a perl CGI script to present the saved *.eml files through a web browser. Fortunately, this is easy using the Perl MIME::Explode module. (If this module is not installed on your system, install it from the command line using:
    perl -MCPAN -e 'install MIME::Explode'
    
    I've written a perl script that uses the module to display saved email files through a web browser, with the attachments shown as hyperlinks. The CGI script source code (v1.0) is available here. You'll need to change the variables in the configuration section.