Friday, 17 November, 2000

Outlook's Proprietary Backing Store

A few months ago, a friend asked if I could write a program that would read Microsoft Outlook mail files.  Like many others, he's wanting to switch from Outlook to something else for email, but refuses to do it if he can't take his old messages along.  I hacked together a little program that accesses Outlook through the COM interface just to show that it can be done.  I'm not real happy with the solution, because it requires that Outlook be installed in order to work.  You can't just point it at an arbitrary .pst file, because those files are encrypted and compressed.

Is it really necessary to encrypt your saved email?  I guess Microsoft could have provided that feature as an option, but to make it the default means that I must have Outlook installed in order to read any of my old email messages.  That's terrible.  Being a packrat, I have just about every email message I've sent or received since 1985.  They're all burned on a CD that I very rarely look at.  But when I do pull it out, I can read the messages because they're all in plain text.  Except for the last three years, which was when I started using Outlook Express, followed by Outlook about a year ago.

Outlook has been ticking me off for quite a while now.  I think it's time to try something else again.  I changed from Exchange to Eudora Pro a little over 3 years ago, but had some trouble with Eudora's MAPI support, which I needed for my FAX program.  I got tired of switching MAPI DLLs so I converted to Outlook Express and then to Outlook because I thought the Journal, Calendar, and other features would be useful.  Well, I don't use anything except the mail portion of Outlook.  Time to get ASCII versions of my Outlook email and convert to something lighter.  Problem is, I've not seen a mail client yet that I actually like.  Perhaps Eudora warrants another look.