I work with some chaps who espouse the benefits and virtues of open source software. Me I just use what fulfils my needs…

Anyway – until recently I’d been a user of Mozilla Thunderbird as an email client – it fulfilled my purposes perfectly. Of late however I’ve been doing a bit of contracting and the needs of my changing role(s) have demanded a switch to MS Outlook.

I used to use Outlook and when I converted to Thunderbird it was a simple as clicking on the “import from Outlook” button in Tbird to get it all going.

Backwards compatibility I figured would be similar….. not so. In order to get my mail into Outlook I had to do the following;

  1. Install Netscape communicator 4.7
  2. Cope and paste a whole bunch of email folder files from my Tbird profile to Communicator
  3. Open Communicator
  4. Open every single mail folder to allow Communicator to build the mail folders in it’s own format
  5. Close Communicator
  6. Open Windows mail and import
  7.  Open Outlook and import

Now I’m sure my aforementioned colleagues will tell me this is a failing with Microsoft rather than Mozilla – that I don’t buy given that Outlook exports readily – if MS were shutting down competition they’d not exactly have an export function front and centre.

Similarly statements like “once you’ve used open source you don’t need anything else” get me all fired up. I am uniquely qualified to decide what app works for my unique situation and please do not usurp my ability to do so.

Anyway – it’s all in Outlook now (took a few days but it’s there) and I’m mailing with abandon – shame it was so hard though!

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

  • Now look here…

    Of course it’s a failing in Microsoft (as you prefigured this is the line I would take). It’s exactly the same as when back in the day Windows wouldn’t read Mac floppy disks but Mac would read Windows ones. If you are on the right side of a monopoly there is no advantage in interacting outside of your internal standard.

    When you install Thunderbird Outlook does not ‘export’, Thunderbird has to go in and grab the data in a fairly arduous manner. Microsoft could easily write code to get at Thunderbirds mail and settings file (as they are in an open format) but they haven’t because it would promote migration to and from their product, and they know that if that is an easy process people will be prone to discovering alternatives.

  • Comment appreciated however I’m not so sure. I can export from Outlook in a number of formats expressly for the purpose of using the data in another aplication. If MS were as closed as you intimate there would be no export functionality. Further if Thunderbird were as happy for users to switch platforms they would (at the least) have an easy export that other apps could then import.

    This is one argument that I am under no delusions that you and I will reach an agreement on!

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