Import Messages to Outlook from AOL Personal Filling Cabinet
Departing from the standard, this week's tip has nothing to do with Excel. I ran across an amazing product, it worked, and I wanted to pass it along. Bill asks: I have years worth of AOL mail stored in an AOL Personal Filing Cabinet. How can I import these messages to Outlook?
When I launched MrExcel, all of the e-mails were forwarded to my AOL account. For a couple years, they all were downloaded into a massive personal filing cabinet within AOL.
In 2000, when I took the leap, quit the day job, and started doing MrExcel.com full time, I switched over to Outlook. The nagging problem was this entire history of e-mails in AOL.
There are plans to write a book, and those e-mails and answers needed to be organized. AOL 6 has improved in this regard, but they don't have the great folder interface that you could find in Outlook.
So, while researching this problem, I found one guy who has what he calls a Beta version of software that will extract files from your AOL personal filing cabinet.
It is written in Java, so you have to download some seriously large Jave Runtime Environment files first. It is beta software, but with some tweaks, I was able to get it to work, and work wonderfully!
Here are some hints that I discovered along the way:
- Download and install the beta mailbox software, the Java Run Time Environment. Follow Duncan's instructions for editing your autoexec.bat and restart your computer.
- Copy your personal filing cabinet files from your AOL directory to the C:\Aoleave\ directory
- Start a DOS session, navigate to the AOLeave folder with:
C:\Documents and Settings\MrExcel>cd \AOLeave
- The upper and lower case of the following is absolutely critical. If your mailbox is called mrexcel, then use this command:
C:\AOLeave\>java MailBox mrexcel
- The program will start to fly and will create a aolmail.mbx file in C:\AOLeave\.
As it turned out, I had a half dozen AOL PFC's spread across 4 computers. I repeated the process for each PFC. The program always creates a file called aolmail.mbx, so you need to import into Outlook after each run of the software.
I believe the .mbx is a Eudora filetype. Here were the steps I followed to get the messages into Outlook:
- Open Outlook 2000
- From the menu, select File > Import and Export...
- From the Import and Export Wizard, scroll down to "Import Internet Mail and Addresses". Click Next.
- From the Outlook Import Tool dialog, select "Eudora (Pro and Light) 2.x, 3.x, 4.x. Make sure that Import Mail and Import Address Book are checked. Click Next.
- In the Import Addresses dialog, select the appropriate choices about how to handle duplicate addresses. Click Finish.
- Assuming you do not have Eudora on your computer, Outlook won't know where to look for the files and will bring up a "Browse for Folder" dialog. Browse to the folder with your AOLeave files and click OK. The import will start. An import summary will report how many messages were imported. Click OK.
- If you have multiple PFC's to import, you can rename the AolMail folder to a unique name for each PFC. Under View, make sure that Folder List is selected. In the folder list, right click AolMail, select rename and type a new name for the folder.
There are two improvements that will hopefully come some day.
If you have already done some organizing of your AOL PFC into folders, that folder information is lost.
The other hassle is attachments. AOL stores the attachment someonewhere on your hard drive, so Duncan could not retrieve those. I did mention that it would be great if he could at least get the file name associated with the attachment and slip that in the message.
This is an amazing program. It took me a few hours one night to fire off the various imports, but soon I had 40MB of AOL PFC's in Outlook, where they could easily be sorted, organized etc. As I wrote to Duncan that day, "This is absolutely incredible. AOL should pay you a million dollars just to keep this hidden..." Bottom line - if you have old AOL personal filing cabinets, and would like to be able to import to Outlook or some other program, check out Duncan Mackenzie's AOL software.
New information posted Dec 2005: The program worked up through AOL 6, but several people have noted that it would not work with AOL 7.