Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

Email solutions

I have a problem. I like to keep every email (excluding spam) I recieve, although I'm notoriously bad at it.

I currently have about 70MB of mime format text files loafing around on my drive.

Why text files you ask? Because I have an aversion to storing email in proprietary formats.

What I'm looking for is a "simple" email client which could be run from a CD, display a directory structure of emails, and decode & display mime formatted email text files including embeded images, and html,  etc.

I guess basically I want an email explorer.

I've tried a number of email clients to see if they fit the bill:

Anyone have any suggestions or know of any clients out there that might work?

Jack of all
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Eudora stores all it's email in standard MBX format (which is plain text).  I have every email I've ever sent and most emails that I've received.

It can also be run without being installed (I copy my entire Eudora directory from computer to computer as I go).

Now, obviously, Eudora isn't mail explorer or anything.  But if you have an aversion to proprietary formats it might be a good choice.  Also, it has a good search function that I use all the time to find that one-in-a-million email I'm looking for.

Almost Anonymous
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Just tried it. Eudora stores email folders in one big text file.

In my mind this means that data corruption could screw ALL emails. Am I wrong?

I also couldn't figure out how to display attachments (images) inline, but that could just be me.

Jack of all
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

> In my mind this means that data corruption could screw ALL
> emails. Am I wrong?

Just back it up occasionally.

Matthew Lock
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Most so called proprietory formats can be read with a text editor, or imported into a standard database as long as they are not encrypted.

Moreover, it is trivial with Outlook for example to export all your data to an Access database, or if you are really paranoid and like headaches to a comma delimited file for DOS.

Keeping emails separatately is a mess for searching. You're making a problem where none exists

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

My mail file is nearing 2GB. Outlook 2003 (dropping the 2GB limit) was released just in time.

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Dear Just me,
                    Simply archive stuff. Another thing to do is to get rid of attachments and have a link to the folder where you have stored them. Keep all your attachments in one folder and have that in the same directory as your .pst file, and you can use relative links.

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

My e-mail, stored by The Bat! has 1 GB and almost 40000 messages.

I keep e-mail since the beginning of 2001.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

My email store goes back to 1998. I have about 30,000 messages because I keep all the newsgroups; I have started to archive those older than three months however. I am also going to strip out the attachments and save them to a folder in the same directory.

This should bring down the size even more, and I can simply keep a synchronized copy on my USB pen file (or maybe keep the original on the pen file and synchronize to the HD).

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, January 06, 2004


I have no problems with the full 2GB file, so why bother?

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

If you are using a real mail client, use MailDir format, scales very well, I mean going through a 1gig mbox file to update one message as being read, is quite silly. Maildir will keep one file per mail and just read the directory.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Just reading Stephen's comment there about his mail  backup since 1998 and when I formatted my machine recently has got me thinking is backing up *every* single e-mail really that necessary.

Stephen - do you actually even use that archive or access anything from 98?

My Outlook file is currently somewhere around 60mb And I think I've already probably got 500 msgs I don't need.

Just another of those things we do because we can.

James 'Smiler' Farrer
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Dvorak commented back  in 1998 that we didn't bother to clean out our hard dirves any more because storage had got so cheap.

I would say that 99% of the emails are messages I couldn't care less about. They are mainly newsgroups or technical newsletters. However it is a lot easier to search them in Outlook then it woud be if I saved them all to file, apart from the extra effort that would entail.

However that leaves the extra one percent. Now the problem nere is that I don't know which messages I want and which I don't. If I start culling I'm sure to end up deleting something I'll need later so why bother.

Computers are by far the best machines for data storage, and above all fast data retrieval. The problems with storing paper mail is that if you store everything it beocoms a nightmare to find it. With computers that doesn't exist.

With regard to Just me's point there are advantages to keeping your primary mail store less than 2 GB in size |(apart from saving on the upgrade cost to Outlook 2003!). They are the fact that you can search more quickly (we have a 17,000 message folder at work and getting all mails from a specific contact takes ages), but most importantly the fact that it is a lot easier to back up the file. Keep it less than 500MB and you can back it up dailiy to a CD/RW. Keep it less than 256MB and you can back it up to a $60 pen drive. It was the ability to do the latter, combined with the shock of getting a primary hard drive failrure message, that meant I opened an archive folder in the first place.

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

MBX format isn't particularly subject to corruption; if the file gets damaged, only the messages in the damaged location are hurt.  The rest of your file stays intact.

It's an absolutely terrible format for storing a message archive though. There's nothing resembling indexing, so locating a message means processing the entire archive to find it.  Heaven help you if you need to update that message, because you'll be re-writing the entire archive.  Same goes for adding messages.  Look at the file sometime (it's just a text file) and you'll see why.  Eudora compresses the messages, so it will look like a binary to you, but underneath it's text.

The Maildir format really is a lot better for handling large archives. Each message is it's own file, so accessing a single message is much more efficient. The only client that I know for sure uses Maildir is pine, which does not have the utilities that you're interested in.

Clay Dowling
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Mahogany might suit you, altough I don't use it so I can't say how good it is.  Its website says that it supports MH mail format, which is a one-file-per-mail format which is simpler than maildir.

Tim Evans
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

I'm starting to feel inferior. I've only had 3000 messages since 1999. I've turned my spam filter off now to help bump up the numbers

Sunday, January 11, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home