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Email geekery, EML vs. MBOX

mozilla thunderbird

Y'know, just when you think there's everything to know about email, something comes along and just floors you. This is one of those instances.

Okay so anybody that's been reading up on what I've been doing geek-wise knows all about the importing of ancient emails (yet again) I've been doing. This makes me wonder if I have another backup hiding somewhere. I'm hoping so because I don't have any of my '06 mails. You can thank Gmail for whacking those.. I hate Gmail. Seriously, I really, really hate that mail system. Whatever. Moving on.

Recently I've entertained the idea of switching back to Mozilla Thunderbird because I like that email client so much. However on attempt to import all my WL Mail EMLs over to MBOX with my super-secret (but not really) tools, there were several mails that absolutely would not convert properly to MBOX no matter what.

I was able to ferret out a few of these rogue emails that wouldn't convert correctly and here's what I've discovered.

Certain mails I received in the early 2000s were forwards of jokes. Everybody gets these from time to time. The way people used to do this only because they didn't know any better was to forward an email as an attachment. This happened both in client and in webmail at the time. That forwarded attachment was sent to somebody who thought the joke mail was funny, so he or she also forwarded it as an attachment. And then two other people did the exact same thing.

By the time this mail gets to you, it's a forwarded attachment of a forwarded attachment of a forwarded attachment of a forwarded attachment of a forwarded attachment. We're talking five levels deep or more depending on how many times it was forwarded and reattached.

There is no EML-to-MBOX program that knows how to handle this. What happens is that yes, that EML upon conversion will write to an MBOX file but it won't show up in Thunderbird at all.

The chances of the super-deep nesting of attachments doesn't happen too much these days because webmail grew up and changed the forwarding process to inline instead of being attached. Mail clients also followed suit unless you specifically instruct it to do otherwise.

Here's problem #1: I can't switch to Thunderbird because of those multi-level-deep emails because the utilities I use (I have two) absolutely will not convert them properly. The only way I could get any of them to work is by manually dragging/dropping them into the client.


Here's problem #2: Some of the mails upon import don't carry over the origination date. What happens is that they're a bunch are shown as "today" and not when they were originally received. The only way to fix that is to manually modify the date header - BY HAND.

If I'm determined enough, I could get this to work. But I don't think it's worth the hassle because we're talking about 12,000+ mails here.

Ugh again.

**UPDATE** I found a way to do it. See next page.

The seriously ass backwards way of getting EML files that won't import into Thunderbird to work

Okay so I had some rogue emails in EML format that Thunderbird wouldn't import no matter what utility I used to do it.

Then I had a thought.

Maybe if I bring these EMLs into Outlook Express and perform a native Thunderbird import, it'll work.

And wouldn't you know it? It worked. Every single mail imported successfully.

Here's how I did it. It's lengthy, but if you've been desperately trying to migrate all your mail to Thunderbird and have EMLs that simply won't import no matter what you do, this is the only guaranteed method that works.

I had 12,000+ emails in Windows Live Mail. Obviously Mozilla Thunderbird 2 doesn't support the import of mail from that client, but it does support import from Outlook Express 6.

Being that WL Mail is basically Outlook Express 7, I figured that if I pulled the mail out of WL Mail and into OE 6, all of it would import without a problem.

The problem however is that I'm running Windows 7, and it doesn't have Outlook Express. But I did have a VirtualBox virtual PC with XP installed.

This is what I did from start to finish. It's very ass-backwards but it all worked.

Find store folder for Windows Live Mail in Windows 7 and share it out over the network.

In Windows 7, launch advanced sharing and temporarily "degrade" File sharing connections to "40 or 56-bit" so XP can see the share I'm about to make from VirtualBox.

In WL Mail in Windows 7: Tools, Options, Advanced tab, Maintenance button, Store folder button. Copy the location of Store folder directory.

Open Explorer. Paste directory location and open it.

Locate email account in that directory. Right-click, share it out.

Launch Outlook Express in VirtualBox XP, import mail into OE 6.

In VirtualBox XP, open shared mail folder from Windows 7, then launch XP's Outlook Express 6. Create folders as needed in OE 6. Then drag-and-drop emails from the shared mail folder directly into OE 6. This took me a long time because I had so many mails.

I compared the number of emails in WL Mail to OE 6 after import, and they were an exact match for all mail folders. All the mail imported successfully.

Install Thunderbird in VirtualBox XP, import mail from OE 6 directly.

In XP I opened the browser, downloaded Thunderbird 2 and installed it. After that I performed a native import which does support OE 6.

When it was finished I compared the number of mails again from OE to t-bird. Everything imported like it should.

Copy entire Thunderbird profile out of XP and back into Windows 7's Thunderbird profile.

The Thunderbird profile directory is found if you launch an Explorer window, type %appdata% in the address bar and from the directories listed there will be a Thunderbird directory. Not Mozilla Thunderbird. Just Thunderbird. This contains all the mail that was just imported on the XP side.

I copy this out of Virtualbox XP and into the profile directory for Thunderbird in Windows 7. You get to the t-bird profile directory the exact same way as you do in XP.

Launch Win 7's Thunderbird and let it index everything.

After copying all the profile data into Win 7's t-bird, I launched t-bird on the Win 7 side and the first thing it did was index all that mail. That took forever to complete (remember, I have 12,000+ emails.) However when it was done I had everything. No mails missed at all. Worked like a charm.

And my frickin' word did this take time to finish all this crapola. But it did work.

But even after all this b.s., I'm still not switching to Thunderbird.

My quick-and-dirty review on Thunderbird 3 beta 4 and why I won't be using it

Thunderbird 2, said honestly, is email perfection. It is the only mail client I've ever used besides Novell GroupWise that is laid out so, so well. Everything is exactly where it should be and all of it works flawlessly.

Thunderbird 3 on the other hand is absolutely horrible. Yes, I understand it's beta so there's some bugs in it, but the overall experience from using the interface is just plain awful.

T-Bird 3 looks and feels like the bastard child of Firefox, Yahoo! Mail and Gmail. It takes the worst ideas from those three and implements them horrifically. Every new and supposedly improved feature does nothing but take away from what makes Thunderbird 2 so great.

For example, the tabs. Tabs have no place in email at all because emails aren't web pages. They may function like them, but they're messages first and always. Yahoo! Mail uses these disgusting things and it does nothing but slow the whole system down. They do not improve anything about email whatsoever, and it's just as crappy in t-bird 3.

Next is the search. The only legitimate improvement is that mail can b e searched directly from the Windows 7 interface instead of having to launch the client just to find stuff. That's good. But everything else about it is terrible. T-bird 2 has awesome search already. T-bird 3's way of doing it doesn't really improve much in the way of finding things. Not that I could see, anyway. It's like Gmail's search, which is a watered down piece of garbage.

Finally, and absolutely most aggravating to work with, are "Smart Folders." They're not "smart" at all. It's nothing but a reshuffling of the hierarchy in a way that will confuse the crap out of anybody who uses it. It's this ridiculous combining-yet-not-combining of Local folders and accounts in a way that just screams "WRONG."

Very simple example: Trash folders. Are the Trash folders under their respective accounts like they're supposed to be? Nooooo... now they're combined into their own folder and hidden away unless you specifically know to expand that Trash folder, then expand the account for that Trash by clicking again. Seriously, seriously wrong. Wrong in so many ways. And that's just the Trash folder(s).

I downloaded Thunderbird 3 expecting the improvements to be cool and moreover useful. But there was absolutely nothing I found better about it at all, and this really disappointed me. My favorite mail client in the world betrayed me. All the stuff that made it great is now reworked, reshuffled and just plain bad.

I hate to say it, but Windows Live Mail is better than Thunderbird 3. It's a million times easier to use and far more straightforward. Compared to Thunderbird 2, WL Mail sucks. But when compared to t-bird 3, WL Mail kicks its ass every way but loose.

Said honestly, I hope they rework the entire client before releasing the official version. If it's anything like it is now, this is the version that will kill t-bird forever.

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