SmartSave to export folders tree with messages in EML format

User Help for Mozilla Thunderbird
Posts: 5
Joined: March 3rd, 2008, 7:41 am

Post Posted September 15th, 2008, 7:47 am

Issue: moving from thunderbird to outlook 2007 as I have office enterprise 2007 installed now
problem: exporting and importing all my 66000+ messages in hundreds of folders from thunderbird to outlook 2007
solution: smartsave to export to a directory tree with eml messages / importing this tree with windows mail (vista) using the windows mail_7 import function / then importing them from windows mail (vista) into outlook 2007.
result: 100% mails moved automatically from thunderbird to outlook 2007.

the biggest hassle was smartsave - a thunderbird add-on:
it is a great tool but it has some problems in certain situations but they can all be solved....

how will you encounter less or no problems with smartsave:
put your smartsave directory in a short path (I used c:\ssave)
the reason is that file names in smartsave can get quite long and the path is part of the file name in the windows file system.
file names which are to long can result in lost exported messages......

use a short user defined format - I used: [YEAR]_[MONTH]_[DAY]_[RANDOM]
again this is to ensure short file names and still make sure that you have no duplicate names (= random number)
also this way you avoid message names which are not compliant with the NTFS file system (also see below about folder names)

make sure you do NOT have any 'forbidden file name characters' in thunderbird folders.
a folder named 'software/hardware' will not be exported as the slash is forbidden in the windows file system.
rename this filder 'software-hardware' and it will export without problems...
note that such folders can also cause a number of following folders in the tree to fail exporting!

make test runs counting the messages of a folder/subfolders in thunderbird using search (messages with a size greater than 0).
make sure that your exported directory tree contains the same amount of messages (use windows folder properties).
when you have made sure that you can export all thunderbird folders/subfolders without any loss then you have reached it almost....

you might also want to change the timeout value for thunderbird scripts from 20 (seconds) to 2000 (seconds) to make sure that you do not need to tell thunderbird to continue running the script..... see options/general/config editor and go to dom.max_chrome_script_run_time - then double click on it and change the value to 2000.

good luck!
Last edited by nirawan on September 17th, 2008, 5:32 am, edited 2 times in total.


Post Posted September 17th, 2008, 2:54 am

Thanks for sharing your solution to the bug!

I'll keep you posted whether I was able to export all my messages or not.

Keep it up!


Post Posted September 17th, 2008, 3:27 am

The solution you gave is perfectly working!

Thanks again for the great tutorial!


Post Posted September 21st, 2008, 12:17 pm

Brilliant!! You saved me hours of work and brain-ache!!

56k emails exported in less than an hour.

Thanks a million for sharing your solutions with us.

Let's hope the import (to Windows Mail) works as smoothly.

What do you think of Windows Mail? Would you recommend I use Outlook?


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Post Posted September 21st, 2008, 1:09 pm

I just installed version of SmartSave and tried to export my GMX IMAP account. I got a "The current command did not succeed. The mail server responded: Microsoft, please fix the Outlook..." However, it did export all of the messages in all of the folders and was smart enough to drop a slash from the subject when creating the filename.

Some of the comments in the add-ons web page report that it doesn't always export all of the messages. I suggest anybody using this extension keep a close eye on the number of messages that you are exporting and how many were actually exported. If they don't match consider using one of the following:
  • The ImportExportTools extension . Unfortunately it only exports all of the messages in a single folder as .eml files so it would take more steps to export multiple folders.
  • IMAPSize . It is a standalone utility that can convert the contents of multiple mbox files into .eml files.

Posts: 5
Joined: March 3rd, 2008, 7:41 am

Post Posted September 22nd, 2008, 12:04 am

yes - I think it is crucial that the number of exported emails and the folder size in windows explorer match 100.0% but it should be no problem to my logic as all obstacles I found could be avoided. of course NOT using sender names or subjects etc. in the exported file name is part of the trick as these names can contain 'bad characters'. so the described process is fine for moving emails to another mail client but not the ideal world for searching a specific email in your windows folder structure (unless you then use desktop search which looks into the file content).

I personally think than windows mail is a fine small and easy mail client which actually is much more open than outlook express was in earlier windows versions as windows mail stores the mails pretty much the way you export them from thunderbird with smartsave (in eml files in a folder related tree structure). but frankly I would never move from thunderbird to windows mail because of the truly lightning fast search of thunderbird which also allows virtual folders. if I would not have received office 2007 enterprise almost free I would not have changed back to outlook 2007.

I changed from outlook 2003 to thunderbird half a year ago as I moved to vista and vista does not support outlook 2003 any more and thunderbird was also defintively better than outlook 2003. but then again outlook 2007 is a little bit better for me than thunderbird but really it is nitty gritty stuff which made me go back. I think thunderbird is a great and powerful mail client. and as long as it is used stand-alone (not for cooperative working) I think it comes very close to outlook 2007.

btw. I also tried the ImportExportTools and the IMAPSize but at least for me they did not do the job I wanted to be done.

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Joined: May 3rd, 2004, 1:20 pm

Post Posted September 22nd, 2008, 1:17 am

tanstaafl wrote:The ImportExportTools extension . Unfortunately it only exports all of the messages in a single folder as .eml files so it would take more steps to export multiple folders.

The 2.0 version can import eml files from nested folders, keeping the structure.
It's possible the next versions will add also this feature for export.


Post Posted September 30th, 2008, 4:16 pm

Thank you Nirawan, all that speeded up the whole process. I'm generally computer illiterate and had to back up things for work - this saved my sanity (and maybe my job!)

Thanks again

Posts: 122
Joined: January 16th, 2004, 5:55 am

Post Posted October 3rd, 2008, 12:45 am

Hi nirawan,

Thank you for offering a work-around.

Have you considered modding the SmartSave Thunderbird Extension, so as to integrate your fixes directly into it? I ask, because the SmartSave extension by Stefano Anelli appears to be dead in the water, i.e. it has not been updated for some time now, and neither does Stefano respond to email.

Just a thought. Ok, and a question. :-)


Posts: 5
Joined: March 3rd, 2008, 7:41 am

Post Posted October 3rd, 2008, 1:17 am

hi laurence

I am just a marketing guy with a good understanding of what is going on logically in a solution or system but I am not a programmer. I just thought that it might be helpful to share a work around which might work most of the time. of course it would be nice if it would be updated so it would work like a charm but somebody else - if possible stefano anelli - would need to do it. it would for sure be well worth it....

ron (nirawan)


Post Posted July 12th, 2009, 3:43 am

This is a very good hint. I do not understand why something like exporting messages is not a basic feature of all browsers. Do all people just send junk around which they can just delete after reading?


Post Posted July 12th, 2009, 4:52 am

I have written a UNIX bash-shell script which can rename saved e-mail messages to <from>_<to>_<subject>.eml; it will add version numbers if two e-mails would get the same name, but differ (full text comparison). It can be also installed under windows. See my blog at WordPress, (or Google Peter Steier Computer Troubles) to get the script.


Post Posted September 13th, 2009, 2:16 am

Smart Save did not work for me. I am trying to export from TBird version to OE and finally to Outlook 2007.

The gripes I have -

I want to export files from only one or selected folders only and that option is not there - its either the Inbox or All messages which I presumes is all messages in all folders.

I did a trial and all the 146 messages from Inbox worked fine.

Then I empitied the Inbox and shifted 900 emails that I wanted to export into the Inbox, it was able to export just 201.

I tried keeping under 200 emails in the Inbox and running the Export command - it exported just 81.



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