Review: Mail Archiver X

Archiving mail can be easy: you just store your ‘mboxes’ — which you find in your personal Library folder — somewhere offline, and you’re done. But if you archive them that way, you’ll also lose the ability to view messages and reply to them unless you re-import the messages of at least the mbox you’re interested in into Mail, and that can be a problem. If you have a lot of messages, you’ll bog down Mail and will have to remove those messages again afterwards. In one word: it’s not efficient. Mail archiving applications are the answer to the problem.

Mail Archiver X from Moth Software in Germany takes mail archiving to the next level, with support for multiple mail clients, multiple database formats, and its own Mail look-alike interface. By default, Mail Archiver X stores messages in a Valentina database.

The interface

Start Mail Archiver X and you’ll be welcomed by a start screen with icons for a guided tour, the setup, the archiving process and the user guide. You can archive mail from Apple Mail, Entourage, Outlook, PowerMail, Postbox, Eudora Pro, and Thunderbird. That covers about every mainstream mail client on the Mac.

The export capabilities are equally impressive: the internal database (Valentina), Filemaker, XML, PDF, tab-delimited text, Evernote, and mbox. The MySQL functionality has been removed by the developer. She believes Valentina is powerful enough.

I ran Mail Archiver X on a Mac Mini (mid 2009) in order to archive an old Apple Mail system with over 20,000 messages. The software took about 20 minutes to take it all in and clean out the duplicates. I was surprised at the speed of the archiving process, but Mail Archiver X didn’t skip one message. I copied the archive to my iMac i5/3.1GHz (late 2011) with 16GB of RAM and tested the app further on that machine.

I tried out exporting to XML, tab-delimited text, and FileMaker — which you do through the setup dialogue. The first two formats worked without a glitch. I could open the XML file, but not the text file because that was too big (several gigabytes). This is something you should keep in mind before exporting. The FileMaker export was a different story. I first downloaded Moth Software’s FileMaker template — but failed to install FileMaker itself — and nothing would get exported.

There was no error message or window popping open, either. As I hadn’t read the user guide prior to exporting, I could only reasonably guess FileMaker needed to be installed first, but some users might keep scratching their heads. I therefore think a warning message or error message might be useful.

As soon as I had FileMaker installed, though, Mail Archiver X launched the app for me, and exported the whole archive into the template file in just under 10 minutes. FileMaker support is good, as you can export using Applescript or ODBC if you manage to set up the drivers correctly.

PDF export lets you export messages as PDF document. You can select to export each message to its own folder.

Date range selection

In all setups except the text and XML ones, you can also choose to have mail attachments exported to a separate folder or embedded with the message. The setup dialogue further allows you to handle cleaning (which here means removing quotes, blank spaces, etc.), which mailboxes you want to export, and your mail client.

The mailbox export selection tab has a nice surprise: it gives you granular control over what exactly you want to archive. You can set the export to happen only on selected mailboxes, or include/exclude IMAP and Microsoft Exchange accounts. You can also get rid of duplicates and move archived message to the Trash. The most powerful feature, however, is that you can select date ranges in a BIG way.

As the screenshot shows, you can select date ranges by “older than” and “newer than” criteria, but also by a criterion “between dates”. This alone, in my opinion, makes Mail Archiver X a must-have for people who use their mail client for professional purposes. This is an especially powerful feature because you can archive your mail to the internal Mail Archiver X database format and later on decide to export from within Mail Archiver X to another file format.

Whatever way you want to use Mail Archiver X, it is supported. You can start by using the internal database as an offline mail client — you can even reply to messages from within Mail Archiver X via your mail client — and have the flexibility to archive only very specific messages to PDF or FileMaker.

Its flexibility and the feature set in general make Mail Archiver X pretty powerful. What it does, it does well. Having said that, it doesn’t export to MySQL or even SQL anymore (which I find a pity), and I would love nicer designed icons. Mail Archiver X costs €27.47.