Locked into Outlook on Linux

Locked into Outlook on Linux

Today L writes,

I use LinuxMint MATE on a 2nd pc dual booting with Ubuntu Unity 14.04 (soon to be MATE 16.04) but my main pc runs Windows 8.1 (pardon the expression…)
The only thing keeping me from ditching Windows is that i use Outlook 2010 and have many .PST files with email, calendar, and contacts which I need to keep.
I have googled replacements for Outlook such as Thunderbird and Evolution both of which would work going forward but have not found any app that can read and convert the proprietary MS .PST files. There was one app that escapes me that was able to convert the email in the .PST to a format that Evolution could read but it did NOT retain my subfolder structure which is how i keep things straight. It put ALL the individual subfolder contents into 1 huge Inbox. So that doesn’t help me.

One alternative would be to run Win7 in a Virtual Machine but i really don’t want to do that. So do you know how I can convert .PST files keeping the folder/subfolder structure and bring my Outlook Calendar over?
Thanks and sorry for long-winded…

Many years ago, I was in a similar situation. I was dual-booting between Windows XP and one of the popular distros of that time. In my case, it was worth it to me to simply walk away from Outlook and start over. I did this by using one of those programs for Windows you mentioned, that convert PST files into mbox. The mbox file type is compatible with just about any email client, so I was able to get everything moved into Thunderbird without much trouble.

Your situation differs, unfortunately, as your have extensive subfolders and whatnot within Outlook. And I honestly don’t have an answer that will maintain the directory structure as you export everything to mbox format.

My advice is this: From Windows, use one of those PST to mbox exporter apps. Next, boot back to Linux and install Outlook in WINE. This will give you access to the directory structure you need, but allow you to still use Linux full time.


Option 2

A second and untested idea would be to subscribe to an Exchange provider. Many of them offer Exchange access for under $10 per month if you shop around. See if it’s possible to import your PST file into the Exchange account. If this works and maintains your directory structure, awesome!

The next step would be to get Thunderbird open and to install the paid version of ExQuilla. This addon will work with most Exchange servers and would maintain the Exchange directory structure…inside Linux. I use ExQuilla for one of my gigs that requires Exchange and it works really well.

Lastly, as an Option 2a, you might investigate and see if one could export your data to Outlook 365. No idea if this would work, but considering the bind you’re in, it seems reasonable to try it.

Any any rate, hopefully one of these options provides you with some relief!

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Matt Hartley
Freedom Penguin’s founder & talking head – Matt has over a decade working with Linux desktops, his operating system experience consists of both Windows and Linux operating platforms. In addition to writing articles on Linux and open source technology for Datamation.com and OpenLogic.com/wazi, Matt also once served as a co-host for a popular Linux-centric podcast.

Matt has written about various software titles, such as Moodle, Joomla, WordPress, openCRX, Alfresco, Liferay and more. He also has additional Linux experience working with Debian based distributions, openSUSE, CentOS, and Arch Linux.

8 thoughts on “Locked into Outlook on Linux”

  1. The best solution is to connect Outlook to an IMAP server. This could be a public service like GMail, or you could install an IMAP server like Dovecot on one of your other machines. Then copy all of the messages and folders from Outlook into the IMAP server. Then reboot back over to Linux, connect to the same IMAP server, and pull down all the messages into your new mail client.

    The nice thing about using IMAP is it completely skips the entire “convert the PST file” issue. The messages are processed into IMAP messages by Outlook, which best knows how to extract them from the PST, and then stored on the IMAP server, which hands them to the new mail client, which can store them in whatever format it prefers.

    For calendars and contacts, you are probably going to need to do an export to iCal and vCard files.

    • I would suggest the same thing, using an IMAP server and connecting to it from your Outlook. In most cases you should be able to drag entire folders from your Outlook PST tree to your IMAP account (not sure whether nested folder structures can be moved all at once). Since you presumably want the content of your PSTs locally on your Linux box, set up Dovecote on the Linux box. Copying tons of messages will go faster if it stays in your LAN rather than going via the public internet, so that is another reason for setting up a local server.

      Going forward I have been very happy with Thunderbird with the Exquilla plugin. At $10/year it is extremely reasonably priced and allows you to connect to most recent versions of Exchange including Office365. As I recall it handles contacts as well, and there are plugins for interfacing Exchange calendar with Thunderbird’s Lightning component as well.

  2. IMAP to convert the emails…..for contacts outlook will export to a CSV then most other programs will allow an import from CSV…..we use outlook at the office and it is the absolute worst product Microsoft makes….pst errors grrrr…..outlook without using IMAP is like juggling dynamite and hoping it does not go off.

  3. I’m running Outlook (and the rest of the applications from MS Office suites) on Ubuntu using CrossOver from CodeWeavers, worth the $59.95 that I paid for it.

  4. Use “Kontact – Kmail” with ‘davmail Gateway’. Everything works perfectly from Mail (with insta-search – IMAP), Calendar Integration, Tasks Integration, LDAP Contacts. I would HIGHLY recommend it.

    There are few howtos out there, thats what I followed. My co-workers are able to use “Davmail Gateway” with “Thunderbird” but, the performance of KMail is way faster, especially with search.

    Keep in mind that I’m using the Linux Mint 17.3 with the KDE 14.14 Desktop and Akonadi with Baloo is what makes the search and integration so fast.

    A Caveat to note. about once every 2 months so far, i’ve had to run:

    ‘akonadictl restart’

    and one of the times i had to kill all “kontact” processes. That being said, its been 2 months since I last ran it so any day now… LOL!

    But I would give it a try.

    The other option is to use “Playonlinux” and run the Microsoft Office 2010 installation. Outlook works well, but It didn’t have insta-search as that is what is integrated with the Windows Desktop.

  5. Probably the easiest way is to install Thunderbird on the Windows box, and during the install say yes to importing all your settings, mail, and contacts from Outlook. Then copy the resulting Thunderbird files to your Linux box’s Thunderbird folder and import the profile.

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