How to make use of MS Outlook's .pst files on Linux

A transition from Windows to Linux is not always an easy undertaking, especially when you used to get the work done with Microsoft software and saved the work into it's proprietary file formats. Outlook is no exception from that rule. But luckily their is a solution available.

What happened beforehand

A few months ago the screen of my mother's laptop stopped working and stayed black. As I had a still quite usable IBM ThinkPad R60 lying around I decided to hand that to my mother as a replacement. Unfortunately my mother has been a Windows user for ages now and I had no Windows disk and license available so I used that opportunity to make her familiar with Linux finally. Before that I always wanted her to try a switch but she kept resistant until lately. I decided to go with Linux Mint 17.3 for her and it turned out to be the right choice. Not only that Linux Mint is extremely stable, it is as well very intuitive and easy to use with it's Cinnamon desktop. That was proven right with my mother being able to use it right from the start as she had never done something else.

Although the transition this way turned out a complete success I was left with a single problem to be solved. Until the switch from Windows to Linux she used to do e-mailing with Microsoft Outlook. As she started with POP and not IMAP as the protocol to receive e-mails she was missing some older mails which still only resided in Outlook's .pst file which turned out to be useless for Linux because Evolution - the Outlook replacement I installed for her - resisted to import it.

Finding a solution was not that easy but with some research I finally found one: pst-utils.

About how to make use of pst-utils

The pst-utils are in fact some command line tools which are able to read .pst files and extract it's data in a readable and usable form under Linux.

I opted for extracting it into simple text files to keep Evolution as clean as it currently is. This can easily done by executing

$ readpst -S Outlook.pst

If you want your e-mails to be extracted in a form that makes importing into various Linux e-mail clients easy you can simply execute

$ readpst Outlook.pst

This will transform your .pst file into an mbox. Other possible options are -k for making the data KMail compatible or -u to make it compatible to Mozilla Thunderbird.

I hope with this short HowTo I made it a bit easier for others to find a way to make use of .pst files on Linux.

As always: Questions or other solutions are welcome in the comments section or via e-mail at blog@crowbyte.org!

Further reading