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E-mail as metadata
Authored by: tomem on Nov 24, '05 06:32:27AM

After struggling with this for way over a decade, my new approach is to stop thinking of e-mail as e-mail and start thinking of it as searchable metadata for the attachments. E-mail is clearly the method of choice for file sharing now, so why not go with the flow? This is particularly true with the advent of Spotlight. So I suggest that you keep your attachments attached, and use the Finder only for source files you create yourself.

It used to bother me a lot that we set up parallel file hierarchies inside our e-mail caches. Way back before OS X, I used shareware called MacPost because it stored email messages as simple text files in Finder folders. That was before attachments, and it wasted a lot of disk space. Then we got Eudora, which fails to keep the attachments attached, making a huge mess. Then we got Outlook Express and Entourage, which create parallel universes of e-mail and attachment databases that can only be accessed via the current version of the program.

Now, finally, we have and the mail files are relatively decoupled from the software that created them, but well integrated with the OS so they can be searched and used as metadata for the attached files. I was happier with it when mboxes were used, but apparently that did not support mail searching very well, so we have emlx files. At least there is a slim chance that these files will be readable beyond the current version of, since they do not reside inside a proprietary database.

Metadata is a big problem for file systems, but in the use of email to document our files, it appears we may see a glimmer of a future in which all files can be documented as extensively as we like with a combination of database fields (To:, From:, Subject:, Data:, etc.) and free form text (the message).

Crofton, MD

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E-mail as metadata
Authored by: tracymccarthy on May 18, '07 01:18:33PM

Hi Tom, I'm searching for a way to turn almost 3000 plain-text emails from an online form submission, into an Excel spreadsheet.
I have a found the folder in Library/Mail/Mailboxes, that I put them all into.
Any ideas? I am not super highly evolved, technologically speaking.
10.4.9, with Mail v2.1
Thanks, Tracy

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