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Microsoft Opening Outlook's PST Format

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 4 years ago | from the still-a-long-way-to-go dept.

Microsoft 319

protosage writes to tell us that Microsoft Interoperability is working towards opening up Outlook's .pst format under their Open Specification Promise. This should "allow anyone to implement the .pst file format on any platform and in any tool, without concerns about patents, and without the need to contact Microsoft in any way." "In order to facilitate interoperability and enable customers and vendors to access the data in .pst files on a variety of platforms, we will be releasing documentation for the .pst file format. This will allow developers to read, create, and interoperate with the data in .pst files in server and client scenarios using the programming language and platform of their choice. The technical documentation will detail how the data is stored, along with guidance for accessing that data from other software applications. It also will highlight the structure of the .pst file, provide details like how to navigate the folder hierarchy, and explain how to access the individual data objects and properties."

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Oh no... (3, Funny)

Mr. Roadkill (731328) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878525)

Another sign of the Apocalypse - and it's a doozy. I always figured hell would freeze over before Microsoft opened up something like the .pst specs.

Re:Oh no... (5, Interesting)

caffeinemessiah (918089) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878567)

This is incredibly brave of Microsoft, given that Outlook is so ubiquitous. I can see a number of good and not-so-good reasons for doing this:

(1) They feel that Outlook is genuinely capable of withstanding competition from the likes of TBird and other competitors, and to be fair, the quality of Outlook has improved a lot.
(2) They feel that opening Outlook's specs will give them access to iPhone app-store like ingenuity from the "crowd" (throw in your favorite buzzword here). Basically, let the hackers go at it and come up with neat little means to improve Outlook usability. If more products carry a "Works with MS Outlook" sticker, that can only be good for outlook (in one line of reasoning).
(3) All the old, seasoned outlook engineers have retired or died, and they're hoping that someone can figure out the .pst specs.

Re:Oh no... (5, Interesting)

Mr. Roadkill (731328) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878701)

Expanding on point 2, Microsoft may want to open up the MAPI specs a little more for the benefit of iPhones and the like. At $DAYJOB, we have Exchange 2003 and a number of users with iPhones and we've seen some bizarre things happen on occasion with calendar entries (weirdness when one of a number of repeating appointments is changed or cancelled and not showing up as changed or removed on the iPhone, that kind of thing). While I'm prepared to believe that it's partially to do with Apple testing more thoroughly with and developing against Exchange 2K7, I can't help but feel that a better understanding of how Outlook communicates with Exchange and a better understanding of how Outlook represents the data internally would help other developers produce something that works better with Exchange.

And that could well be Microsoft's strategy...domination at mail-and-collaboration server end. If they open up the client specs a little more, and that makes Exchange 2010 and beyond more attractive, they've won.

Re:Oh no... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29878915)

"MAPI" (Exchange RPC) is being put out to legacy pasture and being replaced with an XML-based API called "Exchange Web Services". That is why Exchange2K7 works better with third party clients.

Re:Oh no... (1)

jabuzz (182671) | more than 4 years ago | (#29879165)

I am not sure that your analysis of the binary RPC version of MAPI being replaced is actually accurate.

However it the binary RPC version of MAPI and the related binary RPC Exchange-Exchange interface has been reverse engineered on more than one occasions now, with the OpenChange project providing public documentation and a reference library implementation.

In addition to that, I believe that the protocols are documented under the E.U. mandated API documentation settlement.

Re:Oh no... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29879563)

That's entirely incorrect. I can tell you as an insider that MAPI is going nowhere, as MAPI defines Exchange. Outlook 2010 will communicate with Exchange Server via MAPI, as will the version after that.

Exchange Web Services replace WebDAV, which was used by OWA in versions past.

Re:Oh no... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29879363)

MAPI has absolutely nothing to do with it. The iPhone is not a MAPI client. It is an ActiveSync client, which functions purely over Outlook Web Access in Exchange 2003. In this scenario, the front-end server acts as the client to the back-end server, and proxies the requests for mailbox information between the back-end and the front-end.

Re:Oh no... (3, Funny)

davester666 (731373) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878727)

In other news, Microsoft disables the ability for all of it's software to import and/or export PST files...

Re:Oh no... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29878941)

They're switching to OpenPST files (.pstx)

Re:Oh no... (3, Funny)

oatworm (969674) | more than 4 years ago | (#29879371)

Oh God... a 20 GB Unicode XML file! The horror! The horror!

Re:Oh no... (4, Insightful)

Technician (215283) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878739)

I think it is much more likely the reason is (4).

(4) As standards committees and governments adopt open formats, Outlook is at risk of being rejected for the closed format. Opening the format ensures the benefits of the Outlook/exchange server will remain the industry standard in software and support purchases. Like IE, expect some features to simply work better on an Exchange Server with Outlook on Windows while unsupported applications on a foreign OS may have random errors and glitches.

Re:Oh no... (5, Insightful)

diegocgteleline.es (653730) | more than 4 years ago | (#29879171)

Let me add another reason:

(5) They don't care about the outlook format because Sharepoint is the new closed format. They don't care if your outlook mailboxes (or .doc or anything else) is in an open format because you put it all in sharepoint. You still can read your mailbox with another program, but because the "metadata" of your IT infrastructure (which isn't a single file, but a lot of files with owners and relationships between all them) is stored in sharepoint you're tied to it for the eternity. This is a brilliant move - Microsoft can convice governments that their outlook and office and all their apps are using open formats, but no government will ask about the openness of sharepoint because it's not an application that reads some kind of document.

Re:Oh no... (2, Interesting)

oceanicicefloe (1122533) | more than 4 years ago | (#29879207)

I think the most likely explanation is that PST files are deprecated in the next version of Exchange... they are pushing for people to move to server-integrated archiving instead. That will make PSTs somewhat redundant so why not open up the spec if it gets you warm fuzzies from the industry.
A comment from an Exchange developer on the EHLO blog:

"To put it simply you need to move away from PSTs. Larger mailboxes are the answer here. In addition you can leverage, single item recovery, and our messaging records management 2.0 with a personal archive mailbox to retain needed data and manage your quotas."

http://msexchangeteam.com/archive/2009/09/25/452632.aspx [msexchangeteam.com]

Re:Oh no... (2, Interesting)

gerf (532474) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878745)

and to be fair, the quality of Outlook has improved a lot.

I love how Outlook uses almost 300MB of virtual memory at work. Seriously, wtf.

Re:Oh no... (2, Funny)

tsm_sf (545316) | more than 4 years ago | (#29879057)

Well to be fair you do need to have templates like 'balloon party' ready to go at a moments notice.

Re:Oh no... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29879467)

Exactly what problem does that cause? Virtual memory allocations don't have much of an impact. That's just how much memory the application has allocated for use. It does not correlate to how much it is actually using at any given time. Do some googling of "private bytes" and "working set" to get a better idea.

Re:Oh no... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29878849)

4. The new version of outlook doesn't use pst files and insists that you convert any old ones to it's new closed format.

Re:Oh no... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29878861)

(3) All the old, seasoned outlook engineers have retired or died, and they're hoping that someone can figure out the .pst specs.

From the looks of it, that's why ooxml was made, too

Re:Oh no... (1)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878877)

(4) They're about to change the pst spec to a different closed standard with some backwards compatibility.

Re:Oh no... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29878951)

It's because they're moving to a web based model, so PST's are of limited use in vendor lock in going forward.

Re:Oh no... (5, Informative)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 4 years ago | (#29879203)

Reality check:

The PST format is rather useless. You can already access all the data on a Windows machine (which you have already to create it anyway) using Outlook plugins, either a COM Outlook Object Model plugin or a Exchange client plugin, depending on what you need.

So okay, now things like Thunderbird can import the mail from Outlook, which is good for people who use POP3 I guess, IMAP and Exchange store the mail on the server so theirs no real need.

Products won't carry a 'Works with Outlook' sticker because of this, the file is locked when Outlook is open, you you have to use an Outlook plugin if you want to do anything useful with it for normal people who use Outlook.

As someone who writes Outlook plugins for a job, this is rather useless for much other than exporting data from a backup without reinstalling Outlook after a crash of your system.

I.E. useful only in a limited set of circumstances that are really a corner case.

This doesn't do anything for communicating with Exchange, which is really what you want.

Re:Oh no... (3, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 4 years ago | (#29879325)

I think a much better idea would be to rewrite Outlook to use a real database as a backend. They already have SQL Server. Why not just store all your mail in a SQL Server database? You wouldn't have problems with maximum file sizes. You would have much better scalability for those with gigabytes of email, and you could have a common interface working with the data in the terms of running SQL queries. I don't know why no other email client like thunderbird wouldn't do the same. Make it easy to access your email store, and you could easily write tons of applications to access your email.

Never even heard of it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29878529)

I don't use Microsoft products, but am I missing something here? What is .pst used for exactly?

Re:Never even heard of it (4, Informative)

zn0k (1082797) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878535)

"Data portability has become an increasing need for our customers and partners as more information is stored and shared in digital formats. One scenario that has come up recently is how to further improve platform-independent access to email, calendar, contacts, and other data generated by Microsoft Outlook.

On desktops, this data is stored in Outlook Personal Folders, in a format called a .pst file"

Straight from the link in the summary.

Re:Never even heard of it (1)

zenray (9262) | more than 4 years ago | (#29879577)

Outlook personal data files *.pst files hold the archived data. The copy of the Exchange database is in the *.ost file. Let microsoft release that file format and we might be able to replace the Exchange data store.

Re:Never even heard of it (2, Informative)

lbalbalba (526209) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878551)

What is .pst used for exactly?

The 'PST' or 'Personal STore' file contains the Outlook/Outlook Express Message Mail Box.

Re:Never even heard of it (2, Informative)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878627)

Outlook Express never used PST files (but it could import them).

Re:Never even heard of it (1)

lbalbalba (526209) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878667)

Outlook Express never used PST files

Sorry, My Bad...

Re:Never even heard of it (2, Informative)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878561)

It's MS's overly complicated version of a mail spool file.

Re:Never even heard of it (1)

elronxenu (117773) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878871)

With a 1980s-era 3-character file extension, to be sure.

A documented binary format is better than an undocumented one, but it would be better to enable import/export of XML files or some other standard encapsulation.

Re:Never even heard of it (2, Insightful)

schon (31600) | more than 4 years ago | (#29879089)

A documented binary format is better than an undocumented one

As long as

A) the documentation describes the stuff that exists in the real world, rather than what it would look like in some alternate universe (as is MS's usual tactic.)

and

B) the documentation isn't a bunch of "OOMXL"-like "implement this like Outlook 97 did"

Re:Never even heard of it (4, Funny)

RichardJenkins (1362463) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878875)

That's like saying a blimp is an overly complicated way to cross the street.

Re:Never even heard of it (1)

calzones (890942) | more than 4 years ago | (#29879059)

the most witty comment I've ever read on slashdot. thank you for a hearty laugh :)

Re:Never even heard of it (1)

ettlz (639203) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878601)

I don't use Microsoft products, but am I missing something here? What is .pst used for exactly?

Dunno. Think it's something the "need-a-machine-to-run-my-life" types use.

Re:Never even heard of it (1)

ZarathustraDK (1291688) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878607)

It's the file that's supposed to contain the imbecile users mail-archives and private folders as a local backup when they save them as such. Only thing is, users keep forgetting to put a mark in "include subfolders" and so they loose 3 years of mail when the EEEEEVIIIIIILL supporter shows up to swap their old POS for a new shiny one. BOOOOOHOOOOO.

Re:Never even heard of it (3, Informative)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878765)

the fun part is when they let the pst grow to 1G or so and the file corrupts itself.

Re:Never even heard of it (1)

Com2Kid (142006) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878913)

Try upgrading to a version of Outlook that isn't so archaic. I have 10GB+ PSTs laying around.

Re:Never even heard of it (1)

The Wild Norseman (1404891) | more than 4 years ago | (#29879083)

Try upgrading to a version of Outlook that isn't so archaic. I have 10GB+ PSTs laying around.

Seriously? And this is brag-worthy how again?

Re:Never even heard of it (1)

alexborges (313924) | more than 4 years ago | (#29879141)

"I have 10GB+ PSTs laying around."

Ah, its you who have been eating up all the cycles in the Cray.

Re:Never even heard of it (1)

raddan (519638) | more than 4 years ago | (#29879221)

You have to upgrade to Outlook 2007 to get sane behavior, though. For some odd reason, Outlook 2003 refuses to use the 2k3 PST format when doing anything BUT Exchange. If, e.g., you are communicating with an IMAP server, it still uses the old Outlook 97 format for its cache file. This means that if you're say, the kind of person who might like to move large amounts of email around (e.g., IT person or other mail administrator), you cannot use Outlook 2003 unless you want to remove and re-add the IMAP account to Outlook every few minutes. Outlook 2007 fixes that one, but it took, what, 10 years to fix it?

In Outlook 2007, you still can't select an entire mail folder (where message count exceeds something like 300 messages) and expect to move that mail to another folder. Outlook complains that it is out of memory. This bug has been in Outlook forever. This is a joke-- a freshman CS student should know how to solve that one.

Outlook 2007 made my machine grind to a halt. So I'm back on 2003, because I HAVE to use Outlook at work.

Re:Never even heard of it (1)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 4 years ago | (#29879471)

Firstly, the reason it saves it in "Such an old format" is because it is the least common denominator. ODBC for data storage if you will.

Nextly, the "bug" is likely the way the underlying libraries handle the situation, not the application itself. That doesn't make it any better, but MS is great about keeping old code around. Nobody has probably looked at that code in literally years. No freshmen CS is going to be able to outcode management's blind decisions.

Lastly, no one in 2009 is still plagued with these problems unless they live under a rock. Unfortunately, there are still way too many of them.

Re:Never even heard of it (1)

GIL_Dude (850471) | more than 4 years ago | (#29879557)

Yes, folks who are running older versions of Outlook do indeed have a 2 GiB limit - and it will approach and hit that limit without warning and corrupt. Newer versions of Outlook have a PST format that doesn't have such a limit, but even with the newer Outlook executable if the users are still using files in the old format the 2 GiB limit applies. For new files, in the last couple versions of Outlook - not so much.

Re:Never even heard of it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29879021)

Or maybe the stupid admin should learn how to support users that aren't technically savy in such a way that doesn't loose those users' data.

A user that doesn't know how to admin a machine and perform lossless backups and restores is just ignorant.

An admin that doesn't know how to perform lossless backups and restores is incompetent.

Re:Never even heard of it (1)

bensode (203634) | more than 4 years ago | (#29879257)

You forgot about the lazy admin that painstakingly documents the step by step process (including screenshots) of creating and maintaining PST files for users but neglects to inform them to never ever EVER copy a PST file that is open in an Outlook session. Oh and my favorite scenario is when there are hundreds of PST files on a single file server that open with Outlook and remain open/active all day/night without forced logoff policy. I love when I stumble on admins that recommend that they use the PST on a network share so they can be "backed up".

Re:Never even heard of it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29879227)

It's the only format that even semi-reliably can be used to import/export data to/from Outlook.

I've tried working with some of the other "formats" Outlook "supports" (years ago admittedly, I think Outlook 2000). They were horrible and twisted enough that at the time I just couldn't explain it with pure incompetence...

My trust in human incompetence has since increased so I'm not accusing them of maliciously messing with the more open export formats they claimed to support. Still, it was quite clear that the people who were given the task of designing those formats and implementing those exporters were totally out of their league and their work wasn't really tested.

WTF ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29878533)

Is this because of the EU pressure ? It's gotta be, right ? Like, 'No Way In Hell' that Microsoft is doing this out of their own free will ?

While we're at it, Entourage database format? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29878559)

This is another undocumented file format from The Beast, and one that's particularly nasty once it's become corrupted in any manner (the recovery tools supplied by MSFT generally Won't Work[tm].

I'm not really sure I care (3)

ifwm (687373) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878573)

It's nice, but like everything else related to MS, they wouldn't be doing it unless they had something to gain, and anything good for MS is bad for everyone else in the long run.

I don't believe anyone cares (1, Flamebait)

jcoy42 (412359) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878589)

If we had actually wanted it, we would have gone ahead and figured it out for ourselves.

Re:I don't believe anyone cares (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29878633)

Mod parent up, for heaven's sake mod parent up.

Re:I don't believe anyone cares (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29878649)

Are they also going to release the source for the various data-destroying bugs in Outlook? 'Cause the PST format isn't complete without those, and some arbitrary 2GB limits as well...

Then explain this (5, Informative)

ifwm (687373) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878665)

If we had actually wanted it, we would have gone ahead and figured it out for ourselves.

Um, ok, then explain this

http://kb.mozillazine.org/Import_.pst_files [mozillazine.org]

and this

http://www.five-ten-sg.com/libpst/rn01re01.html [five-ten-sg.com]

Re:Then explain this (4, Insightful)

jcoy42 (412359) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878807)

Well.. um.. the first one shows that we don't care, and the second one shows that we would figure it out if we wanted it.

Re:Then explain this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29879453)

Don't tar us all with the same brush. You use "we" as a term for "similarly narrow-minded people who put in cheap shots at Microsoft because they've nothing constructive to say", I guess?

Re:I don't believe anyone cares (5, Interesting)

sparkydevil (261897) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878673)

Count me as one who cares. I've had .pst file of old outlook mail sitting around for at least seven years waiting for this kind of news. Being able to import it directly into gmail would be very useful.

Re:I don't believe anyone cares (2, Informative)

jcoy42 (412359) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878733)

You can just drag those messages off to another machine running IMAP and then have google pop them off from there.

Re:I don't believe anyone cares (1)

benbean (8595) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878757)

You may already be aware, or just be wanting a completely non-Microsoft solution, but just in case, assuming you still have access to Outlook you could always open the pst in Outlook, set up your Google Mail as an IMAP account in the same Outlook instance and drag and drop your old mail.

Re:I don't believe anyone cares (1)

Shag (3737) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878709)

I support or endorse the parent post. I'm struggling to think of a file format less desirable than PST, in any area of computing. PICT images maybe?

Frist =stop (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29878603)

Goodbye...5he had Are about 7000/5

Simple: three words (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29878613)

DO NOT WANT.

Why would someone purposely subject themselves to the abomination that is .pst ?

Nice (1)

ZarathustraDK (1291688) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878621)

Should make migration to Zimbra easier.

Re:Nice (1)

Galactic Dominator (944134) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878723)

for bloated, hard customize, even harder to build pig zimbra is, may as well use exchange.

Try Horde and maintain system requirements more inline with *nix standard workloads on a per user basis.

Standard Slashdot response (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29878645)

This is yet ANOTHER example of Microsoft's continual battle against the open source community! This company is EVIL and needs to be destroye..

Oh wait.

Yet another MS "spec"... (2, Insightful)

hugortega (721079) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878659)

Re:Yet another MS "spec"... (1)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 4 years ago | (#29879027)

Quote from the link you gave:

How many other fast-tracked ISO standards have no conforming implementations.

Answer: at least one. ODF.

Did you have a point?

I can't help but wonder what their motives are... (1)

mirix (1649853) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878661)

But regardless, open is a good thing.

I don't see much use for it though.

Re:I can't help but wonder what their motives are. (1)

maxrate (886773) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878685)

Attitudes are changing at Microsoft - they are still a business and can't go 'open' over night however. I don't see much use for opening up PST either... maybe I'm missing something.

Re:I can't help but wonder what their motives are. (2, Insightful)

elronxenu (117773) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878953)

Sorry, but I don't see any evidence of Microsoft's attitude changing.

I hear lots of talk and activities such as the Codeplex Foundation, but scratch a little under the surface and it all looks like more of the same old microsoft: crush competitors, destroy alternatives to Microsoft dominance on the desktop, make tactical partnerships and strategically ruin the partner.

Basically when Microsoft holds out the hand of friendship, first check if there's a knife in the other hand.

Re:I can't help but wonder what their motives are. (4, Insightful)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878751)

Their motive is probably to make money, like always -- and like any business. Even RedHat. Sure, RH may employ kernel devs, Gnome devs, etc., but at the end of the day its just to make the system that they sell better.

Opening PST means being able to more freely move Outlook data between mail programs such as Evolution. The more interoperable the mail client is, the less it matters if all your engineers are on Linux and all your marketers are on Windows, as this is likely just a step towards being able to have say, Evolution, fully support being able to talk with an Exchange server. If you can get all of the features of Exchange across platforms at the expense of opening specs of a mail client that they don't really make that much money off of anyway, then they'll likely be able to make some more sales of Exchange server.

From a purely technical point of view, that may or may not be optimal, but if every part of the business could tie in with the Exchange server regardless of what operating system they need to run for the rest of their tasks, then it makes it all the more attractive from a business standpoint.

I could just be off base though, but it seems like that is a possible eventuality. This just has to do with data storage I think, but even being able to import contact lists, mail boxes, etc, more smoothly is a good start, I'd say.

Re:I can't help but wonder what their motives are. (1)

koiransuklaa (1502579) | more than 4 years ago | (#29879309)

this is likely just a step towards being able to have say, Evolution, fully support being able to talk with an Exchange server

What? .pst is a import/archive format, it has absolutely no relation to Evolution talking to Exchange.

PST format a dad design idea from the start (5, Insightful)

bomanbot (980297) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878677)

Its good to see Microfsoft open up the Outlook PST format, if only to improve importing into other mail clients like Thunderbird etc.

But honestly, using the PST format in other applications sounds like a terrible idea to me: Those monolithic PST files, which Outlook uses to store mail data get corrupted easily (at least in my experience) and storing all your email data in one gigantic file always struck me as a really bad design choice anyway.

Re:PST format a dad design idea from the start (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29878731)

SQLite called, they want you to stop dissing the "one gigantic file" concept :(

Re:PST format a dad design idea from the start (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29878835)

mbox called, they want you to stop using sqlite as a good example of a mail program storing things in one big file.

Re:PST format a dad design idea from the start (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29878981)

Haha, mbox, the lol format that used to break if an email contained the word "From". Classic example of kludgejob unix ineptitude.

Re:PST format a dad design idea from the start (4, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878797)

Exactly that is why they are opening it. The next version of Outlook will use a new format.

Re:PST format a dad design idea from the start (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29879111)

The corruption isn't a fault of the spec, it's the implementation. A proper implementation wouldn't have this problem. This also means you'll eventually be able to take .pst files form your day job (where they might use Outlook) and keep a copy at home in Thuderbird. I really don't see a down side to this.

Re:PST format a dad design idea from the start (1)

Eil (82413) | more than 4 years ago | (#29879271)

Ask anyone who's worked in the capacity of corporate I.T. helpdesk peon what they think of .PST files and your answer every single time will be a punch in the face.

Sounds like good news. (1)

WhiteFluffyChest (1101403) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878683)

I like pst files because my whole mailbox can fit into just one file, which is very neat and tidy.

But I wonder about the complexity of them internally. Also, they may have features from Outlook that are legally protected. So if you implement all the features you could in effect be copying Outlook or be restricted to the Outlook feature set.

Who cares about PST files anymore? (3, Interesting)

spectre_240sx (720999) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878725)

I'd wager that Microsoft is willing to do this because the .pst format is becoming irrelevant. Medium and large businesses already want nothing to do with them due to issues with performance and management. That leaves small businesses and a small number of home users. With hosted exchange options becoming more common among small businesses, the need for .pst files is going away very quickly.

Re:Who cares about PST files anymore? (5, Informative)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878965)

.pst is an Outlook message database, not Exchange message database. It doesn't matter where your Exchange is hosted, if you use Outlook to connect to it, it caches local copies [wikipedia.org] of all data you worked with in a .pst file on your machine.

Re:Who cares about PST files anymore? (4, Insightful)

Bazman (4849) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878991)

Our central IT dept gives us something like 100MB of quota on the Exchange server. Running out of quota? The official advice is 'save your stuff in a PST file'.

Of course you can't save your PST on the IT dept-supplied backed-up network drive because MS say "don't do that". So people end up with PST files on unbacked-up local storage on a particular machine...

Re:Who cares about PST files anymore? (3, Interesting)

Monoman (8745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29879293)

Bingo! I believe MS has already banned PSTs in house. The writing is on the wall where I work. Too many times PST get corrupted which turns into support nightmares for the VIP customers. Once the VIPs (they sign the checks) are sold on getting rid of PSTs and expanding the mailbox sizes they will pay the bill.

what happen to the obligatory tag? (2, Insightful)

MoFoQ (584566) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878749)

what happen to the obligatory tag that gets added on Slashdot to a post about Microsoft "opening up" something, the "itsatrap" tag.

here are some prime examples:
Microsoft Partially Opens Proprietary XML Format [slashdot.org]
(mainly because this happened: Microsoft Open Document Standard Not So Open [slashdot.org] )

Microsoft Releases Linux Device Drivers As GPL [slashdot.org]

in fact, there are plenty of other examples in the " itsatrap [slashdot.org] " tag-egory

Re:what happen to the obligatory tag? (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 4 years ago | (#29879091)

Maybe nobody is yet sure that the current action is really a trap... Altough, comming from Microsoft, it is quite likely, that is why people are trying to figure the plot here.

Re:what happen to the obligatory tag? (1)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 4 years ago | (#29879101)

We can also tag the sky "blue" if that helps you.

Re:what happen to the obligatory tag? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29879233)

Parent poster is a typical slashbot freetard, covered with hair and grotesque body odor and bad ideas.

In reality, nobody uses PST for data exchange and the format was reverse-engineered decades ago. There is no strategic upside to a embrace-extend approach here. itsnotatrap.

Re:what happen to the obligatory tag? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29879601)

"itsatrap" would only apply if anybody actually gave a fuck about *using* .PST. Given that the only interest anybody's likely to have is, "how do I get data *away* from this .PST", it's less of an issue.

Link to the RFC (1)

hey (83763) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878829)

So where's the link to the RFC or other plain text document describing the .PST file?

Re:Link to the RFC (3, Informative)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878995)

Note that the title of TFS is "Microsoft Opening Outlook's PST Format", not "Microsoft Opened Outlook's PST Format".
The primary source [msdn.com] says that " documentation is still in its early stages and work is ongoing".

Re:Link to the RFC (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29879053)

It's in the summary, dumbshit. They're working on it, AKA not done yet.

little bit risky (1)

postmortem (906676) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878847)

now trojans and spyware can scan outlook data for private information with ease... but yeah openness also means issues with format will be public and fixable.

Re:little bit risky (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 4 years ago | (#29879005)

Trojans don't need .pst format to scan Outlook data - they'd just use MAPI to access it.

Unless you're speaking of Linux trojans... ~

Who will benefit from this? (3, Interesting)

zhilla2 (1586095) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878925)

People who program different migration utilities benefit from this, and of course users of such tools. Even wild ideas like Fuse filesystem that mounts it as Maildir.
So, converters, importers, exporters, indexing tools, repair/forensics, optimize/defragment/find duplicates tools, sort, grep.
Also, if its a standard than it needs to be STANDARDIZED, so no special treatment for own products.

Re:Who will benefit from this? (4, Insightful)

Shados (741919) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878957)

Its not a standard. Its just documentation about an internally developped format that was never fully documented before so that the european union finally shuts the hell up. Nothing more. If people find it useful, so much the better.

kckman (1)

kckman (885561) | more than 4 years ago | (#29878955)

First thing many corporations turn off is the ability to save mail in PST files. One of the better Group Policies IMHO.

Named Socket interface (2, Informative)

RichMan (8097) | more than 4 years ago | (#29879011)

Make your named socket a .pst file and outlook can access your real email database through the defined interface.
Nice and spiffy and you don't end up tied to the Microsoft format.

Embrace... (2, Funny)

mcbutterbuns (1005301) | more than 4 years ago | (#29879085)

Embrace
Extend
Extin... oh wait

It's a trick (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29879307)

... get an axe!

I Don't Have a .PST (2, Interesting)

Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) | more than 4 years ago | (#29879331)

I have an .ost file on my laptop you insensitive MS clods. Does this great revelation include them?

Who cares? (1)

Dogbertius (1333565) | more than 4 years ago | (#29879445)

People have been creating plugins for $10 a pop to do this for nearly a decade now. How about instead of opening a broken format, they open up some Exchange connectivity so that we can use a proper mail client (ie: NOT Outlook) with Exchange? TBird comes to mind. I know that there are workarounds, but why should one mail server be married to one mail client?
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