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The Lotus Notes email client doesn’t play nice with others.  Its native export facilities only support a handful of document formats (text, CSV or Lotus 1-2-3), and few programs support importing directly from Lotus Notes.  So your email is effectively locked within the client unless you are willing to lose email metadata during the manual export process, or pay at least $50 USD for a third party application that makes up for the client’s woeful support for exporting.  I don’t know about you, but I have a moral issue with spending my hard earned cash on functionality I only really need for a few hours and should have been built into Lotus Notes in the first place.

If you have Outlook installed you might be able to try the Outlook 2003/2002 Add-in: Notes Connector from Microsoft.  This allows you to use Outlook as your client for accessing a Lotus Notes server and copy emails to another PST that way.  Unfortunately administrators are known to prevent the connector from accessing servers because of performance or email policy concerns.

I’ve been using Lotus Notes for almost a decade now and up until recently I’ve just lived with the limitation, but a new email policy at our workplace has changed all of that.  We are now required to be good corporate citizens and manage our email not just by volume, but also by its age.  I can’t begrudge them the change – they are really just forcing me to do what I should have been doing anyway – but it has created a dilemma around the personal email I receive at work.  I don’t want to lock my personal email away in an archive file I can’t access using the email client I have installed at home (Outlook), but they block the only free tool I know of to extract email from Lotus Notes.

An extended Google search session eventually located an article including code to export Lotus Notes email as .eml messages (registration required).  This free way to export email looked like the answer I was looking for, but unfortunately it:

  • Required Designer to allow creation of a form in your Lotus Notes database
  • Occasionally produced blank emails, emails with sections missing, or emails that were gibberish
  • Occasionally stopped during the export process without identifying the problem message or exact error encountered

Obviously this wasn’t an end-user ready solution I could .rely upon for exporting my email.

Rather than giving up on it I found a copy of Lotus Domino Designer, spent some time researching Lotus Notes development, and tried to rework the code to resolve the issues.  The result is the Lotus Notes Email Export project, which has successfully exported a few thousand emails from a couple of different PCs so should now be ready for public consumption. 

Downloads and install instructions for the Lotus Notes agents can be found on the Lotus Notes Email Export homepage.  Once installed, exporting email is as simple as selecting the documents to export, running the agent, and emails will be exported to your HDD as individual .eml files in the directory of your choice.  In a future post I’ll explain how I’ve imported these into other email clients and directly to IMAP servers for use via webmail clients.

I hope you find this code as useful as I have, and please feel free to share your experiences with us using the comments section below!

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