back to article Microsoft fills Outlook crack with Apachesource

Microsoft has created a pair of Apache-licensed open-source projects to crack open its ubiquitous Office suite. The company said the projects will let developers building non-Microsoft and non-Windows applications browse, read and extract emails, calendar, contacts and events information currently encased in Outlook's .pst …


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  1. yossarianuk

    Been able to open in Linux for years

    Although a welcomed move by the Beast it has been possible to use tools in Linux (tools that may not have been legal in the USA due to patent law) to open and convert .pst files to a useful format.

    Ubuntu has has a specific feature that converts the files to evolution since 9.04 (i believe) .

    I always noticed in the past that you can convert pretty much all mail client info to another easily as long as it wasn't Outlook (all the other major email clients had converting tools - only a Microsoft product didn't)

    Beer = because its been a hot had day at work and beer is the only hope.

  2. Steve Coffman


    Except when using Outlook in default mode with an Exchange server all the data is left up on the server in your Mailbox and a .PST file is not used... .PSTs are only used for stand-alone instances of the Outlook client, or if the default delivery location is changed from the Exchange Mailbox to a local Personal Folder (aka .PST file.) The only other instance where PST files are used is if you export data out of Outlook to a .PST (for instance if you want to backup or archive your Outlook data.)

    "Open sourcers have tired on their own to crack open the Outlook/Exchange hegemony. Past efforts have included the Evolution email, address book and calendar system for Linux desktops with the Ximian connector to Exchange, so Evolution could work with Exchange servers.

    These efforts, though, have failed to gain mass market share and left Outlook firmly entrenched as the default email client for business and looking unassailable - until now."

    Knowing the internal structure of the PST file isn't going to help you much with developing a client to communicate with Exchange, since how Outlook data is stored and acessed on the Exchange server itself is completely different...

    1. The BigYin


      That is the main use of PSTs. Inboxes can only be so big, so one needs to store an archive somewhere. That will be in a PST. Being able to access said PSTs reliably will be a massive boon, as it makes the switch to other platforms easier.

      It also allows other systems to "mine" the PSTs for information.

  3. DS 1

    worth noting

    The PST files are files nominally held on a local machine for mail storage. People should not get confused about Outlook linking to Exchange and interoperability.

    The opening of the local filestore will be very very useful, and it is a step forward in interoperability, but only on the local machine store in the main. There are a few instances where you use PST files on the server side, but the main chunk is local machine stores.

  4. John Sanders

    This unfortunately

    Does not mean that any mayor competitor (Evolution/Thunderbird) will implement pst support any time soon. Implementing any mayor MS technology (properly that is) takes years as it is overcomplicated in purpose.

    Besides, it does not help at all that the open source folks do not get what Outlook (or exchange for that matter) is all about, otherwise we would have had a better replacement a long time ago.

  5. Rob Dobs
    Thumb Down

    Until Now?

    "These efforts, though, have failed to gain mass market share and left Outlook firmly entrenched as the default email client for business and looking unassailable - until now."

    Umm... I disagree Everyone is still firmly entrenched, and as the half-way one way opening of the spec progresses, I imaging they at least think they will be able to more firmly entrench everyone.

    This is bad and no-one should bite the poison bait. You can read from Outlook, but not write too outlook. This means you would still need outlook.

    Everyone should avoid like the plague until the "promised" write capability is delivered.

    Soon could be 30 years in Microsofts head.

  6. N2

    nothing to do with

    Governments ditching Microsoft bloat and chains in cost cutting excercises then?

  7. pan2008
    Gates Halo

    not apple

    Microsoft is a gentle giant in comparison to Apple. I definitely prefer the future dominated by microsoft, call me conservative at least I know what I get. Cheap and good software, albeit sometimes not as good but definitely half decent. Compare this to other companies and how much they guard their platforms. And anyway, I love Bill Gates, the guy is a hero with his charities.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    This looks like yet another half-baked open sourcing

    It's only use is to confuse IT illiterate decision makers into thinking Microsoft is opening up and has interoperability.

  9. TheOpsMgr

    .OST versus .PST?

    Is the file format for an OST (offline cached mode) the same as a .PST?

    Either way, the Outlook and Exchange combo is here to stay (which to be honest, is fine by me. Outlook does what I need in a corporate environment, and Outlook 2010 is particularly good IMHO).

    The main question I have is "does the PST format have OTHER uses or is it highly email specific?".

    Given that we are moving to "cloud apps" with "offline modes" (think Google Gears) I wonder if MS is positioning the PST format as a more generic offfline data store (as opposed to SQLlite used in Gears).

    Dunno, just a thought.

    1. Rob Burke

      Was also wondering

      Yes, the PST Data Structure View Tool can also open OST files.

      When Outlook is in cached exchanged mode, then messages are downloaded to the OST file (basically the same as a PST but it's purpose is to store the current mailbox, not an archive of messages). So Outlook already does what Gmail Offline does.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unnecesairily bad good news.

    Had they opted to play nice and use open standards in the first place they wouldn't've wasted billions and billions of man hours so they can play the good guy now with some after-dinner gravy.

  11. david 12 Silver badge

    Opening up old outdated technology

    Maybe next they will open up DOS and Windows 3.x? If the open source rabbits spend time looking at PST files, MS is going to fall over laughing.

    I think it is good thing for MS to open up old technology. And it's good to be able to extract your data from the back-ups. But that's all it is. Move along folks: nothing to see here.

  12. Tim Bates
    Thumb Up


    I'm sure I'm not the only one here thinking something along the lines of "Finally... Now Thunderbird will be able to import PST files directly instead of having to hack it through Outlook"

    And yes, we do get this at work quite a bit - often when someone buys a new computer for themself, doesn't want Office anymore, and is keeping the old copy of Office on the old computer for the kids to do school work.

  13. Rick Giles

    PST files are evil

    And all they do is take up space on my server.

    People use them to store e-mails from 1991 that have absolutely no relevance to any business purpose they are currently working with. Microsoft should discontinue the stupid thing.

    If you need a stand alone e-mail, that's what Outlook Express is for.

    Mines the one with the tape library full of tapes with PSTs on them.

    1. John Goodwin 4

      PST files evil?

      You recommend using Outlook Express, which seems to store its data in a myriad of .dbx files. At least with Outlook's PST format, you get all data in one easy file. Contacts, emails, calendar etc. It's one of the reasons why I swapped from OE to Outlook years ago.

      Try to restore some poor soul's email data with OE first and then try it with Outlook. I think you'll agree that PST is miles better than OE's .dbx files. Oh, and the .wab/.pab files etc.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Then just prevent your users from using them, put the required space on the mail server and enforce with quotas. Job done.

    3. BongoJoe


      A nightly back-up for a home/small business user, such as myself, is so easy with a stand alone version of Outlook - just copy the .pst files to the servers and back up folders.

      Of course I could always have an Exchange server in house but that's overkill and it's going to need all sort of back-end servers running domains. And that's a bitch to back-up for a one man band trying to concentrate on doing real stuff.

      The .pst file is an excellent format and even if my files are about four gig in size the thing still backs up each day

      Outlook Express? If that is ever an answer then it must be a bloody stupid question.

  14. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    FFS Bill .... If you're not gonna piss in the pot, pass it on to those who can use IT.

    "And anyway, I love Bill Gates, the guy is a hero with his charities." .... pan2008 Posted Monday 24th May 2010 22:44 GMT

    Bill actually has a great chance to rule the world remotely, with all those bozos in media and banking and politics manipulating the news and markets for their ponzis, relegated to where they belong in the minor and miner/metadatamining leagues and eating his shorts, and one does have to wonder what's keeping him from making the move/what's blocking the very simple move.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters


    PSTs are clearly dead, as far as MS are concerned.


    Shit, what will they inflict on us next?

  16. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

    quick lesson from history...

    FAT = royalties

    PST = ????? time will tell

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