Tuesday, 07 May, 2002

Stop the Registry Madness!

I thought that everybody, Microsoft included, admitted that the Windows Registry was a really bad idea that looked good on paper.  The number of things that can go wrong with a single file containing all system and program settings is astronomical, and 7 years or more of tweaking and patching hasn't made it any better.  The IIS team apparently agreed, because they decided to move most of their configuration to a separate file called the MetaBase.  Not that the MetaBase is such a good idea, either, being a weird indexed proprietary format, but at least it reduces the chance of losing your IIS settings when the Registry gets corrupted.

But, no, programs are still storing all manner of data in the Registry.  Today's evildoer?  Outlook Express.  Would you believe that Outlook Express stores its message rules (blocked senders and other filtering rules) in the Registry?  No wonder I couldn't find them by searching the hard drive.  You'd think that, since Outlook Express doesn't provide a way to export or import message rules, it'd at least put them into a file so that you could back them up.  But, no.  In order to back up your message rules you need to start the Registry Editor,  navigate to the proper key, and then select "Export Registry File" from the File menu.  The proper key, by the way, is:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Identities\{GUID}\Software\Microsoft\Outlook Express\5.0

The {GUID} part is replaced by the globally unique identifier of your identity.  Likely there will be only one to select from.

In there, you'll find keys for Blocked Senders, Rules, and Signatures.  Export what you want to a .reg file (which is text format), and you can edit to your heart's content using Notepad or your favorite text editor.  If you want to import the rules to another computer (or for another user), then simply log in to the machine where you want to import the rules, change the {GUID} portion in the .reg file to match the GUID for the identity on that machine (get it from the Registry Editor), and then select "Import Registry File" from the File menu.  Note that this may very well overwrite any existing rules, so be careful.  It's probably a good idea to back up your existing rules before you do the import.

My friend Jeff Duntemann has pointed me to PocoMail, which I need to try.  Not only are the message rules stored in plain ASCII text files, but it also looks like the program's message storage is much more reasonable.