Moving from Outlook to Evolution

Moving from Outlook to Evolution isn’t easy, and there is no single solution at present which will convert your .pst file (the file in which your Outlook information is stored) into a format Evolution can read. This is because the .pst format is proprietary to Micro$oft, and Micro$oft wants to keep your business.

However, I have successfully moved from Outlook to Evolution, so in the interest of contributing to the Open Source community, I am offering my recipe for this procedure here. In order to use this recipe effectively, you will need to already know how to do the following:

  • Use your Window$ search function to locate files on your hard drive.
  • Install programs in Window$
  • Install programs in Ubuntu
  • Find and use the import/export utilities in Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird and Evolution
  • Use a terminal window in Ubuntu to execute command line arguments


Step One: Clean up your mail, contacts, calendar, tasks, notes and journal entries so that you only have to deal with those items you actually want to move. Archiving these as a .pst file in Outlook is a good idea if you don’t mind having to read that archive with Outlook whenever you want to access those items.

Step Two: Locate your .pst file and make a copy of it in a location on your hard drive you can easily access.


Step One: Open the .pst file you just copied and un-nest any nested Outlook e-mail folders, since nested folder structures will not survive the export/import process and you will have to re-create the structure in Evolution anyway. While you are doing this, give your e-mail folders simple, short names. I found that the nomenclature I used for Outlook e-mail folders did not survive the transition to Ubuntu, and I had to rename the folders in Evolution.

Here is an example:

  • Family and Friends
    • Aunty Em
    • Tin Man
    • Dorothy of Oz

Would become:

  • aunty_em
  • tin_man
  • dorothy

Step Two: Install Outport and use it to convert your e-mail messages to the format of your choice. This process will cause one folder to be generated for e-mail messages and another to be generated for associated e-mail attachments. Neither the e-mail messages nor the attachments can be imported to Evolution from these saved files, but since the next step strips the attachments from their associated e-mails, I thought it might be a good idea to provide you with a way to store e-mail messages and their attachments outside of Outlook for future reference.

Step Three:Install Mozilla Thunderbird in Window$, and use the import utility to import your e-mail from the .pst file you copied to Thunderbird (this converts your Outlook e-mail to mbox format, which Evolution can read). Please note that you will lose your e-mail attachments during this process. Locate the folder on your hard drive where Thunderbird has stored your e-mail, and copy it to a location you can access from Ubuntu.

Note: Evolution comes pre-installed in Ubuntu but does not come pre-installed in Kubuntu. If you are using Ubuntu, proceed to the next step. If you are using Kubuntu, use your Adept Package Manager to install Evolution now and then proceed to the next step.

Step Four: Use the import utility in Evolution to import the e-mail you just converted to mbox format.


Note: This part of the recipe is adapted from Ketil Froyn’s web page and closely resembles the process I went through to import my contacts into Evolution.

Step One: Open your Contacts page in Outlook, and hit Ctrl+A to select all of them.

Step Two: Select Actions -> Forward as vCard.

Step Three: Send this mail, which will have many attachments, to an account you can access from Evolution.

Step Four: Open the mail in Evolution, and save it to a file (File -> Save As…). The file name is not important, but the following argument assumes the filename is “mail”.

Step Five: Run the following command in a terminal window:

cat mail | perl -ne 'chomp; if ($_ eq "BEGIN:VCARD") { $p=1; }; print $_,"n" \
if $p; if ($_ eq "END:VCARD") { $p = 0; }' > vcards.vcf

Step Six: In Evolution, go to File -> Import, select single file, choose vcards.vcf, select vCard file format, and import the file into your Evolution address book. This should cause all of your contacts to populate correctly.

Calendar & Tasks

Step One: Using Outport, convert these items from the .pst file you copied into Evolution format and save them to a place you can access from Ubuntu.

Step Two: Copy the files created by Outport into Evolution. This is explained in Outport, but essentially it will be a .ics and a .xml file for calendar and tasks. These go into the calendar/local/system and tasks/local/system files of the .evolution folder for your user (e.g. /home/ceallaigh).

Note: Step Two was adapted from the forum post located here.

Notes & Journal

Step One: Using Outport, convert these items from the .pst file you copied to text files and save them to a place you can access from Ubuntu.

Step Two: Open Evolution in Ubuntu and copy/paste these items into memos.


Step One: Shut down and re-start Evolution. Your files should all be available now.

Final Thoughts

Evolution is not as robust a solution as is Outlook, but it is far less costly, and it does help to liberate the user from Micro$oft. You have to be prepared for a slight downgrade in functionality, and you should know that Outlook 2007 supports RSS feeds as e-mails while Evolution does not. However, even Outlook 2007’s iCal support is somewhat proprietary and far behind every other solution I’ve encountered, which was all the more reason for me to make the switch to Linux. On balance, I think what I gained in freedom (as in free speech, not free beer) was well worth the functionality I lost.

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