Sunday, February 28, 2010

From the Learn Something New Department

About 10 or 12 years ago I began using a little-known (at least in the USA) proprietary e-mail program called "The Bat". I used the program for years, but over time I became more & more immersed in mainstream corporate and IT environments, and I concluded life would be indescribably more simple if I just used Outlook for all of my e-mail accounts, both personal and business. (I still intend to segregate business and non-business emails within Outlook.)

So I needed to extract my decade+ worth of messages from The Bat and import them into Outlook. That task was nothing I looked forward to, so for over a year I've been using the web interface from my ISP to manage my personal emails, while I put off the necessary task of exporting my data from The Bat.

Tonight I need some information from an old email message buried somewhere in my The Bat data, so I finally bit the bullet and have begun trying to move the data into Outlook.

Here's where things get interesting. To be clear, I'm using the word interesting to suggest "What a damnpainintheneckwhyohwhydidMicrosofteverdosuchastupidthing!!!!!%$%#^&@*)".

I don't think it's possible to export the messages from The Bat directly into a format Outlook 2007 can import. I AM able to, with some minor futzing around, to export the data from The Bat and import it into Windows Live Mail. (I have Windows Live Mail, not simply Windows Mail, because I needed to examine it for a client.)

So with a moderate amount of effort I've moved a specific subset of my messages into Windows Live Mail. So far, so good.

Windows Live Mail is a Microsoft product. Outlook 2007 is a Microsoft product. Neither product is particularly exotic, and it's a no-brainer that I should be able to export messages out of Windows Live Mail and import them into Outlook 2007.

As a matter of fact, that IS easily done. But there's a really, really aggravating screw-you in the process. Unlike every other computer program I've ever used in my life, when I export the data from WLM, I am not asked where I want the exported data saved, and I am also not informed as to where WLM is going to save the data for me.

SO tonight I ran the export repeatedly, trying to sleuth out where exactly the data was being saved. I searched my hard drive for .pst files. (A .pst file is the file format Outlook uses for local data.) I checked time stamps. I made sure I turned on hidden file visibility.

Finally, I looked at a Microsoft user forum focused on Windows Live Mail, and found my answer. WLM helpfully took the messages I was trying to import into Outlook, and added them into the PST already being used by Outlook.

The result is that I now have 13,622 messages, spanning approximately 13 months, stored in the same Inbox that holds my business email messages from the last 12 years. Everything is mingled together, nice and cozy.


I'd already set up a brand-new folder, specifically for the personal emails. And while I was trying to figure this out I probably ran the export at least 4 times, so I may have about 55,000 of these messages when you include duplicates.

For those of you that aren't familiar with the way these processes USUALLY work, the program I want to export the data FROM will typically ask to where do you want to save the exported data, and that program will create a file in the spot you specify. THEN, in the program that you want to use the data going forward, you would import the data yourself, specifying where you want the new program to maintain the data.

For WLM to take it upon itself to just put the data into Outlook for me, without telling me where the data would be inserted, is REALLY, REALLY RUDE.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: As it turns out, Windows Live Mail exports the messages into whatever the default 'drop-point' is for Outlook. As my Outlook was configured to place messages into the server-based mailbox by default, that's where the exported messages were placed.

And as it works out I ran the export a total of 5 times - adding about 60,000 messages to my Inbox. Aside from the additional clutter and the undesirability of hqaving my personal and business communications mixed, Outlook then couldn't send/receive within a reasonable amount of time as it was busy trying to upload 60,000 messages to the server during the sync process. I cancelled the sync and spent well over an hour trying to find all of the personal emails and move them to the appropriate folder.

WLM Developers -- BAD. BAD. BAD! THINK!

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