Outlook 2011 mac pst import and export

I’ve been using Outlook 2011 for a few months now, and I have to say I like it. No, it’s not as fully featured as Outlook 2010 for Windows, it always seems to be that the mac versions are watered down somehow. However for the most part all those extra features aren’t used, sure there are some people who do try and use them all, but in day to day busy corporate environments you pretty much need to send/read and file mail, contacts and appointments.

There is 1 niggling aspect of Outlook 2011 I don’t love. Handling of .pst files.

In short, it doesn’t handle them, it doesn’t open pst and it doesn’t export to pst. What Outlook 2011 does offer is an import option for pst files to display them in the ‘On My Computer’ section. You can display this if you go to the Outlook menu, Preferences->General and untick the ‘Hide On My Computer folder’ box. (I also untick the ‘Group similar…’ as for me it looks cleaner, but that’s down to personal preference.)

To import a pst is pretty simple, there is a built in wizard to do so, I won’t spell it out, as Microsoft has done it for us here: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2413370

There are a few things to note though while you’re doing this.

  • Depending on the size of the pst, you need to give it time to do the process. This sounds obvious, and it is, but you would be amazed by how many times it goes wrong just because of impatience.
  • Put the pst you’re importing from on the local disk of the mac, I’ve had issues with doing it from a networked drive.
  • The mail does NOT go via Exchange, if you monitor your server based mailbox it shouldn’t show any difference before and after (assuming no new mails have been sent to you)
  • Although the import procedure will import your calendar entries, it seems Outlook 2011 won’t let you drag and drop entries back into your live exchange server based calendar, which is probably more likely for most users rather than mail items. All imported entries are displayed in a separate calendar. At present the only way I can think of to overcome this (should you WANT to do it) is to import only the calendar entries via Windows outlook onto the server directly from the original pst file.

Once imported, the information isn’t held in just 1 linked file like it would be for Outlook 2010, it’s effectively imported into the local database on your mac. Under ‘…\Documents\Microsoft User Data\Office 2011 Identities\Main Identity\Data records’

If you look in this folder using Finder, you will see a Database file, typically around 200Mb (completely dependant on the size of the pst import of course) described as Microsoft Outlook database. Also in that folder, you will see folders for Message Attachments, Images etc. These are all Outlook storing not only your cached mailbox from exchange, but the various parts of your pst distributed amongst them. Personally I feel this is a backward step, with the linked pst, it was a simple matter to disconnect the pst and walk away with it. Outlook 2011 for mac makes this impossible, you will need to export your mail, which has a few gotcha’s also.

When it comes to getting your mail back out of Outlook 2011, you will need to export it. Outlook 2011 only supports exports to a .olm file. At present I don’t know of any way to migrate from .olm to .pst directly. The only way I could think of doing that would be to push the ‘On My Computer’ mail back into Exchange (say into a separate folder) and then connect to Exchange with Windows Outlook and export to .pst. If you have a quota’d mailbox, you may well have sizing issues doing this.

I’m hopeful that these procedures will get better and give us more options in either the service pack or later versions, it’s not bad as such, just not very feature rich around pst archive handling.