Modernizing an email client

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Reader John Ramette is considering a long-delayed move. He writes:

I would like to purchase a new Mac except my email is in Entourage 2004, which, I’ve been told, will not transfer to a Mac running Lion. I’ve also been told that upgrading to Office 2008 will fix that, but no one at the Apple store seems confident in that solution. What are my options to transfer all my email while making the leap to Lion?

You’ve been given some erroneous information. While Entourage 2004 may not run on a Mac powered by Lion, there’s nothing to prevent you from moving those old messages to a new Mac and then importing them into a Lion-compatible email client. You simply need to transfer the Office 2004 Identities folder (found in your user folder/Documents/Microsoft User Data) to your new Mac. As I'll explain in a bit, Entourage 2008 isn't the ideal avenue for doing this, but since you mentioned it, follow along.

1. Launch Entourage 2008 and choose File -> Import.

2. In the Begin Import step in the Import window choose the Entourage Information From an Archive or Earlier Version option and click the right arrow.

3. In the Choose an Application step select Entourage 2004 and click the right arrow. You’ll be told that your imported mail will be saved in a new Entourage 2008 identity. As you’ll be starting fresh with Entourage 2008, this is fine. Click the right arrow again.

4. If your old email is still stored in its default location your old identity will appear in the Select an Identity window that appears. If you’ve placed this folder elsewhere, click the Browse button and locate it. Once you’ve done so, click Choose. Click the right arrow yet again and Entourage will import your email into a new identity. Click Finish to close the Import window.

5. From the Entourage menu choose Switch Identity. Click the Switch button in the resulting dialog box and in the Entourage window that appears, select a new identity (likely called Main Identity 1), and click OK. A new Entourage window will appear that holds your old email messages.

As I hinted earlier, before you fling your chapeau into the air in that Mary Richards kind of way you might consider this: Office 2008 is no longer the fish of the day. That honor goes to Office 2011, which dispenses with Entourage and instead uses the Mac version of Outlook ( ) as its email client. The good news is that the procedure for importing Entourage 2004 email is almost exactly the same. The important difference is that Outlook doesn’t place the imported email into a new identity, it simply merges it with the current email database.

While you’re considering, you might also think about this: Since you’re moving email clients anyway, you could choose one that lacks the Microsoft name. Many people like Apple’s Mail, for example, particularly as it’s free. If you do choose to move from Entourage to a different brand I’d urge you to save your Entourage email in the mbox format, a format that can be imported by any email client. To do that within Entourage 2004, simple drag to the desktop any mailboxes you want to import into your new email client. Those dragged mailboxes will be converted to mbox files, ready to be imported to your new email application.

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At a Glance
  • Pros

    • New interface makes many tasks easier to access
    • Improved Exchange support
    • Faster than Entourage
    • Redesigned AppleScript dictionary
    • No longer reliant on a single database
    • Better support for Time Machine and Portable Home Directory Sync
    • Redesigned preferences make setting up the application easier
    • UI more compatible with Outlook on Windows


    • Assorted 1.0 bugs
    • AppleScript implementation holes mar improvements to AppleScript Dictionary
    • Exchange support requires Exchange Web Services
    • Exchange 2003 and earlier not supported
    • Exchange support limited to what EWS allows
    • Time Machine limitations
    • UI changes hardest on existing Entourage users
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