Monday, November 7, 2005

computers: 55,000 Mac mail messages moved

I organized many of my e-mail on a Microsoft Exchange IMAP server at work, access to which I lost at the same time The Man pried my Mac Powerbook from my cold, dead fingers.

I transferred my mail files to this Windows machine and installed the fine free Thunderbird mail program, but it has no Tools > Import > Mac Mail option.

For a month I tried just leaving the Mac mail files on-disk. They're text and I can view them fine. But Google Desktop search wouldn't find words in them. So I decided to move the mail into Thunderbird's folders.

Many of the Mac Mail folders contained mbox files that I could simply move into the Thunderbird directory in C:\Documents and Settings\S Page\Application Data\Thunderbird\Profiles\blahblah.default\Mail\Local Folders and T'bird would spot them upon restart. I discovered the hard way that this only works for top-level files, not subdirectories.

I had a lot of duplicate e-mails, so I found a free mergebox.pl script. Installation of this on Cygwin and recent Perl was a bear. It uses the old Mail::Folder module, and when I reported bugs and fixes in this I found its maintainer "kjj" has vanished. I did get it to concatenate and remove duplicates from some mbox files.

None of this worked for the IMAP server messages. The Mac Mail in Mac OS X 10.3 Panther keeps a local copy of each message as Library/Mail/IMAP-spage@bigco.com/INBOX.imapmbox/CachedMessages/100154 . So each CachedMessages folder is sort of like a maildir folder, but mergebox.pl wouldn't process them. I could probably glue them together myself, but the hard part would be finding the messages it couldn't read and dealing with issues like attachments and multi-part messages.

Googling found "Sven" who had the same problem, and he recommended Emailchemy; it knows about Mac Mail and Thunderbird, and it converted 44,000 (!!) cached Mac Mail IMAP messages into Thunderbird format, even preserving the folder hierarchy. It hung on a few folders that were already corrupted, but the author seems willing to help even before I paid for it.

If you have a lot of messages and special needs, the $25 for Emailchemy is money well spent.

(I posted about this here and here on the Thunderbird support forum.)

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