Friday, February 15, 2008

Moving to Mac. The Entourage / Outlook Import and Conversion Story

Alongside moving to a new blog, I've also been working on moving to a new Mac, a Macbook Air to be exact. And when I say "moving", I mean moving from a Sony Vaio and Vista to Mac and Leopard. I've tried this before, not from my the Vaio but from various other devices and always given up after a couple of weeks of effort. This time I think it's different. And that's not famous last words. Why?

- The MacBook Air is the first Mac I've seen with a decent screen that can compete for lack of weight against laptops such as my Vaio. The Vaio is about 1.7kg plus the power brick, call it 1.9kg. The MBA is about 1.3kg with the brick (previous Macs were about 3.3kg at best). Ok, it doesn't have a DVD drive - but I never use it except for installing software, and that works fine using my iMac drive shared across the network.

- Office 2008 is a significant leap ahead versus previous Mac Office versions. It's as good as Windows Office 2008 - some would say better (there are fewer interface changes which means fewer leaps of logic to understand where, say, paste special has gone)

- Third party tools such as Parallels or VMware fusion let you run the few Windows programmes (I have some stock charting software and my money management software) that you need to run. I say "need" - I'd like to replace them, but nothing so far works as well

Now, on to the things that are still hard:

- Moving email from Outlook on a PC to Entourage on a Mac. What a palava. Microsoft could not have made this harder if they'd set out to from the beginning. Some instructions that might help (I've found most guides on the web are near useless or, at best, confused).

So, how to import from Outlook (on a PC) to Entourage (on a Mac) via Thunderbird (on a PC)

1. Install thunderbird on your PC.

2. When you start Thunderbird it will helpfully bring up an import menu with only one option which is "don't import anything." Don't worry about this and let it carry on.

3. Configure your email box if you must, but set it so that it doesn't fetch new mail (otherwise you quickly find you've got yet another email inbox)

3. On the file menu, you'll find that you can import from outlook. This function fetches everything - all the subfolders and so on - but it takes a while. I have about 3gb of email and it must have taken a good hour or so.

4. Now you'll have all of your email in Thunderbird. Well done.

5. Go to this site and download the import script

6. Go to the tools menu and pick addons. You can then install the script you just downloaded.

7. You'll end up with a file that is probably as big as your pst file in outlook. Mine was a 3gb folder with many sub-folders

8. Copy that folder to your shiny new Mac. There are a bunch of spurious files and folders in there with various extensions (such as .sbd) and sometimes there's a file (inbox, for instance) as well as folder with the same name.

9. Select each file that you want to import to Entourage and rename it ".mbx" - I suspect you'll find that none of the files have any extensions and show up with icons that look like TV screens (they do on mine)

10. Nearly there. Visit this page all about Entourage and download the script that converts files to text files. Select each file you want to convert (all the ones that you renamed as .mbx) and run the script. You can do it one by one or as a bulk convert - just keep track when you import with which ones you have and haven't done.

11. Go to the Entourage file menu and select "import". Pick "contacts or messages from a text file" and then "import messages from an MBOX-format text file" (note that whilst this says MBOX it means .mbx)

12. Choose the file - this time you have to do it one by one.

13. Entourage will go quiet for a while. You won't be able to press anything but there will be no spinning beachball. You just have to wait.

14. Eventually - depending on how big your files are - it will say "finish". Click that and you'll have to wait again, but you will get a beachball this time. This seems to be a shorter wait, but a wait nonetheless.

15. The folder you have just imported will appear on the left hand side of the screen under the "on my computer" menu. You can then decide what to do with it. I copied all of the inbox file straight into the inbox, one for one, but moved the sub-folders under it. This actually copies all of the folders rather than moves them so, once you're done, you have to delete the old ones.

I'm about to do my contacts now, but expect that's a similar process. Sadly, all of my iphone contacts are synced with Outlook, but iTunes won't let me sync them with Entourage - which would be a one step process. Like I said, they have made this too hard for no good reason. And don't babble on about monopolistic suppliers and not wanting people to convert, this is just too hard for no good or defensible reason.

It can be done. And, like I said, this time I think it will stick. If only because half way through this process, my reliable (seriously, I'd had no issues) Vista laptop crashed. When it recovered it asked if I wanted it to search for a solution. It found one and said "Vista, by Microsoft, cause this problem. Download this patch" or something like that. I downloaded it and installed it. Only for the patch install to say "this patch is not suitable for your system". Well, thank you, that was kind.

There are, though, some problems still. I don't have an external DVD and I can't figure out how to install Vista under Parallels via the Remote Disc (which installed Office without a hitch); Parallels doesn't allow this to work (they say that the MacBook Air doesn't but, as I said, it installs Office - but what do I know?); I know I don't know anything about this kind of thing, but surely, given I have a valid licence key (which it verifies before telling me I can't actually do the install), it could just get the image file off the web and download it?. Doubtless there are more of those to come.

I really, really hope that this isn't famous last words.


  1. Anonymous12:06 pm

    Frightening; I'm also sitting here moving everything from my Vista based Vaio to a Mac Air using entourage!

  2. Anonymous12:11 pm

    I'm trying to use O2M to handle the transfer from )ffice 2007 to entourage - it looks like it should work but only about to start

  3. Carlos1:25 pm

    It took a couple of times of reading this to get it to work, but thankfully it works great!! Thank you, thank you!

  4. Anonymous1:12 pm

    Work Properly, Everything is OK Thanks for that. ufffff :)

  5. Lucille10:47 pm


    I don't usually bother sending feedback, but in this case, my gratitude obliges me to do so.

    I started the overhaul using the littlemachines software (becuase it seemed less manual) and couldn't figure out why I was getting stuck on the import, until I reread your comment about the .mbx instead of .mbox.... very tricky indeed for the PC minded.

    Anyway, it's all done now. Thank you!

  6. Anonymous7:29 pm

    Hmm. I got to step 7, but then could not figure out what command to use to export my folders/subfolders in Thunderbird. I selected my folder and did "Export folder with subfolders (with structure)" but nothing happened, no file exported, nothing. Any suggestions?

  7. Anon ... the export command is on the tools menu if you've installed the addon script. it should read "import/export in mbox/eml format"

    if you haven't installed the addon, go back a couple of steps and try that again.

    (when i just started up thunderbird to check this, it upgraded my addon to v1.7)

  8. The link for the add on script isnt live anymore does any one know the name of the site?

  9. Hey John ... sorry it isn't working.  I found this

    Says it will directly import PST files ... might be worth a go?


  10. Keenan3:05 am

    Hi John,

    I converted from Outlook to folder containing over 500 .MBOX files, each one with the original file path as it's file name. eg. "PersonalFolders_Inbox_BusinessServices_IT.mbox". Once I had imported these into Entourage 2008 for Mac, I now have (you guessed it) over 500 folders with the same original file path as the name. 

    Is there a quick way to create folders/subfolders within Entourage, or perhaps change all the .MBOX files before importing using Automator? Microsoft really haven't made it very easy. I've only been using Entourage for a week now, and this is the 2nd of two huge issues with the software.


    Tech Head Solutions

  11. did you use this script?