Internet Tips: Tricks for Exporting Your Precious Outlook Data
Sure, Microsoft Outlook is (for the most part) great for e-mail, contacts, and calendars. But what if you want to switch to another program? We now have cell phone number portability--why not personal information and e-mail portability?
Why not? Ask Microsoft. The software giant has done little to help you get your e-mail, addresses, calendar appointments, and other data out of Outlook's .pst files. To see for yourself, choose File, Import and Export, and select Export to a file. The only options are a variety of comma- and tab-separated text formats, plus Microsoft's Access, Excel, and .pst formats (see FIGURE 1
Outlook, Look Out
Fortunately, makers of other e-mail programs want to help you liberate your Outlook data. If you're switching to the capable e-mail program in the Mozilla and Netscape browsers, the conversion is smooth. With Outlook still installed on your PC (the Mozilla 1.5 release notes state that Outlook must be the default mail program), open Mozilla or Netscape, press Ctrl-2 to launch the Mail & Newsgroups module, and choose Tools, Import.
In my experience, it made little difference which of the three options I chose in the next dialog box. Selecting either 'Address Books' or 'Mail' always imported all of my Outlook addresses and mail folders; choosing 'Settings' always resulted in an error message stating that the settings were not important. I entered my e-mail server account information by hand (choose Edit, Mail & Newsgroups Account Settings, and then click Add Account).
Mozilla and Netscape don't have a calendar, but after you install the free and surprisingly good Calendar plug-in from the Mozilla site, you'll possess a full-featured Outlook alternative for both browsers. Launch either program and choose Window, Calendar to start scheduling your appointments.
Calendar can't import Outlook contacts directly from the .pst file, but it can read a comma-separated text file created with Outlook's file export feature. To export your appointments from Outlook, choose File, Import and Export, select Export to a file, choose either of the comma-separated formats, and click Next. Select the Calendar folder as the export source, click Next, give the file a name (or accept the default), click Next again, and then click Finish.
To import contact data into Calendar, choose Tools, Import From File, click OK to discard duplicate appointments, and then select Outlook Comma Separated from the 'Files of type' list in the Open dialog box that pops up. Browse to and select the .csv file you created in Outlook, click OK, and be sure to click No when Calendar asks if you'd like to open every appointment in the course of importing them. Look out for the occasional botched appointment listing--the import process isn't perfect.
Google Those Newsgroups
Newsgroups--online forums with names like alt.politics.democrats and comp.os.ms-windows--are a free source of up-to-the-minute information that can be difficult if not impossible to find elsewhere. Even if you use a dedicated newsreader, such as Forte's Free Agent, Google is a fast and easy way to search or browse newsgroups.
Start by visiting groups.google.com, where you can click one of the top-level group links (alt., comp., and rec. are good places to start). To search all of Google's thousands of archived groups, type a term into the search field and click Google Search. To browse other message threads in the same newsgroup as your search results, click the newsgroup link at the bottom of each result. To run the search on the Web, click Google's Web tab.