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27 October 2009, 11:06

Microsoft promises open Outlook PST files

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Zoom Microsoft's Outlook: Soon to reveal its secret format
Microsoft has announced that it is offering documentation on the format of Outlook data files, known as PST files, under its Open Specification Promise, making the format free to use without licence or patent issues. In the past the file format, which is used to contain the email, calendar, contacts and other Outlook generated data, had to be reverse engineered to gain access to the information.

On Windows systems with Outlook installed it has been possible to read and write PST files through the Messaging API (MAPI) or through the Outlook Object Model, both of which are documented, but with this new documentation, developers should be able to directly access the data on platforms other than Windows, and without Outlook installed.

This should allow open source developers to create, for example, bulk import utilities for mail clients, making migration easier for users, or to directly update information in Outlook from a synchronisation application. According to the Paul Lorimer, Microsoft Office Interoperability Group Manager, the documentation is "still in its early stages" and they are "engaging directly with industry experts and interested customers" to ensure the the documentation is clear and useful. Once complete, the documentation should cover how data is stored, how to access it and explain the structures of the folders, objects and properties within it.

No date was given for when the documentation is expected to be complete.


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