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10.4: Export Mail messages to Thunderbird, revisited Apps
Tiger only hintApple Mail v2 does not use the .mbox format as the Panther version did. At least, that's what it looks like.

While trying to move my mail to Mozilla Thunderbird, I could not find a way to export my mailboxes. However, if you open Apple Mail and drag and drop a mail folder onto the desktop, the folder is called Foldername.mbox, with Foldername being the name of the Apple Mail folder. I had no trouble importing this folder into Thunderbird.

[robg adds: This hint covered another way to do this, though it relied on a third party program, and included some fixes for potentially troublesome emails.]
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10.4: Export Mail messages to Thunderbird, revisited | 7 comments | Create New Account
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10.4: Export Mail messages to Thunderbird, revisited
Authored by: sorghum on Mar 30, '06 08:34:51PM

This trick works for Entourage too.

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10.4: Export Mail messages to Thunderbird, revisited
Authored by: djgraphite on Mar 30, '06 09:51:28PM

Actually Mail went from the single file .mbox format to the multiple file .message format (which is also an open format). The purpose of this was for spotlight searches.

But as has been pointed out, Mail will still export to an .mbox format.

If you dig around the mail folders, you can see the mbox files.

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10.4: Export Mail messages to Thunderbird, revisited
Authored by: dirtidarlene on Apr 13, '06 11:22:37AM

Call me an idiot, but I can't seem to make this work. How do you import the foldername.mbox into thunderbird?

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10.4: Export Mail messages to Thunderbird, revisited
Authored by: cdjohnk on Jun 29, '06 11:27:21PM
Yes, the new mail format saves mailboxes in a *folder* with a .mbox extension. Within that folder is another folder, Messages, where each file is stored individually as an emlx file that spotlight can find and search.

You can't drop the .mbox *folder* into in to the 'Local Folders' directory in your thunderbird profile the way you could drop a .mbox *file* into your 'Local Folders' (see the comments at for more info). However, you can convert the .emlx files back to a .mbox file using a neat little utility at, and the resulting .mbox file can be dropped into thunderbird using the directions.

First download and start up the conversion utility. Then open up a finder window and navigate into the .mbox folder you want to import into thunderbird. Open the Messages folder, and select all of the .emlx files. Then drag and drop the files onto the list box in the utility. When the file names show up in the list, click the save mbox button. I saved mine to the default name, 'Messages', on the desktop.

Next, open up the new folder('Messages', in my case) that the utility creates. Inside that folder will be a file named 'mbox'. Change the name of this file to '[My Name Here].mbox'. The name can be anything you want, but it needs to have the .mbox extension on it. The system will prompt you, asking if you really want to add the '.mbox' extension to the name. Click 'Add' - you want to do this. The icon for the file will change to a mailbox icon.

Following the aforementioned instructions at, drop this new .mbox file into your thunderbird profile directory. The next time you start up thunderbird, your messages will show up.

Thanks to Cosmicsoft for this handy little utility!

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Just use Save As...
Authored by: gemsling on Jul 06, '06 08:22:39PM

MacOS Mail can create an actual mbox file (as opposed to a folder of individual message files, called *.mbox). It's just that they don't call it "Export". Just select all messages, choose Save As... from the File menu and set the Format as Raw Message Source.

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Just use Save As...
Authored by: mjt on Aug 17, '06 11:16:17AM

The resulting file may look somewhat like mbox format, but it is in fact not a valid mbox. For example, Mail does not escape lines that begin with "From ", so the message boundaries won't be correct if you import the file into another mail program.

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Just use Save As...
Authored by: djdawson on Aug 18, '06 10:30:54AM

I just now tested this and Apple's Mail *does" escape leading "From" lines, but it does it with a space rather than the traditional ">" character, and it only does it if there's text after the leading "From" that could possibly be interpreted as an address. The "elm" program on Solaris was perfectly happy with a mail folder I exported that I intentionally tried to break with leading "From" lines in the body of the messages.

So, it looks like Apple's Mail really does save as a valid mbox format, but I only tested the "From" processing. Since that works, however, I expect Apple considered other issues as well. Does anyone have any more details on why these files might not be valid .mbox files?


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