Thursday, October 18, 2007

Converting Contacts from Outlook 2007 Trial to Thunderbird

Yesterday, my sister asked me for a copy of Outlook so that she could plug in her backed-up .pst file and get back to work after formatting her system and resinstalling Windows.

"Not so fast," I warned. I explained that pirating Outlook is no good, and that she should rather install Thunderbird with the Lightning extension for calendaring.

What I was really saying is "let me remotely access your machine and get you set up."

I figured it wouldn't be a big deal to import her Outlook info to Thunderbird as I had done it myself previously. Well, I had Outlook installed when I attempted that, and she doesn't have Outlook, obviously. Here's the approach I took, complete with snags. Since it took me all night to figure everything out, I thought I'd share it with the Web, to save other people some time.

1. I downloaded a trial version of Outlook 2007 from here. I grabbed the Standard version to save download time, as all I was interested in was Outlook.

2. I didn't set up any accounts in Outlook. The trial version doesn't allow importing .pst files or otherwise managing data files, so I was forced to simply copy the backed up .pst file to:

C:\Documents and Settings\Sarah\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook\Outlook.pst

The next time I opened Outlook, it kind of choked, but after rebooting and opening Outlook again, it was happy with the new .pst file.

3. Using Thunderbird's "Import" feature, I selected "Mail" and then "Outlook." This part went smoothly.

4. While admiring my fine handiwork, I got a call from my sister. I let her know that everything went well. She then asked me if I had restored her contacts. I had not.

5. I attempted using the same method to import her contacts. All was not well:

Either there is no default mail client or the current mail client cannot fulfill the messaging request. Please run Microsoft Outlook and set it as the default mail client.

After much toil and troubleshooting, I arrived at a solution. If you don't receive the above error, then you're good. You're great. If you do, try this:

Since Outlook and Outlook Express use the same terminology, it is way easier to go from Outlook 2007 -> CSV file -> Outlook Express -> Thunderbird than it is to go from Outlook 2007 -> CSV file -> Thunderbird.

- Open Outlook Express and make it the default mail client.

- Export your contacts from Outlook 2007 into a CSV (comma separated values) file. Don't worry about mapping fields at this point.

- Import this file into Outlook Express and be sure to map the "Email Display Name" field to the "Name" field. That should be the only field map you need, besides the defaults that should all be checked.

- Now simply use Thunderbird's "Import," "Address Book," and then choose "Outlook Express." Bingo.

Then you should be able to uninstall Outlook. You have converted your Outlook data to Thunderbird without having purchased Outlook or Aid4Mail.

Let me know how it goes.