Emerging Tech

Microsoft unleashes two open source tools to deal with PST archives

To help IT better manage PST files, Microsoft has released two new tools to allow developers to access and manipulate the data inside of PSTs.

To help IT departments and corporate users better manage PST files, Microsoft has released two new tools that will allow developers and third-party utilities to access and manipulate the data inside of PST mail archive folders. Microsoft also decided to make both tools open source in order to allow the IT community to extend them even further.

Dealing with mail quotas has long been the biggest headache of using Microsoft Outlook with a Microsoft Exchange mailbox. It's necessary because when the mailboxes get too big they can take too long for users to load and can also clog up the Exchange servers. As a result, most corporate users are encouraged to regularly archive their inboxes. That creates another problem: .PST files.

PST files have been a pain point for IT because they once they get too big they become unstable and so some heavy email users will often end up juggling multiple PST files (a new one every year, for example). It's also difficult to browse and search those PST, and you're mostly limited to Outlook and Windows Desktop Search as ways to access them.

IT professionals have been groaning about managing PST files for years (as this quick TechRepublic search shows), so I'm sure any help in dealing with PST files will be welcomed by IT. The fact that Microsoft decided to make them open source is an intriguing factor as well. It will be interesting to see if a trend develops there.

Here are the two tools that Microsoft released:

  1. PST Data Structure View Tool - Microsoft call this "graphical browser of internal data structures for .pst files that enables a developer to better understand .pst file content"
  2. PST File Format SDK - Microsoft describes this one as "a cross-platform library that allows developers to read data stored in .pst files and develop applications accessing the data. In the near future, the capability to write data to .pst files will be added to the SDK."

You can download them for free from the MSDN library.

Below is a quick video from the Microsoft team that developed these tools:

About

Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the upcoming book, Follow the Geeks (bit.ly/ftgeeks).

13 comments
CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I'm not a developer and wouldn't know where to start. I hope it won't be long before utilities for admins and technicians trickle down to the help desk.

BarryGill
BarryGill

Looks like Microsoft is starting to see the power of having third parties develop applications that will lock their customers in even further... finally :)

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Heck, even the ability for other mail clients to export/import PST or mount the data file and work with it natively.

TheProfessorDan
TheProfessorDan

It is an interesting tool that will be helpful to developers. I was wondering if it might offer something to those who have to support the se PST files and have to deal with corrupted PSTs but it doesn't offer anything for the area of support.

Wave_Sailor
Wave_Sailor

I think it's great but what about OST files? How can we access and read them?

thoward37
thoward37

OST and PST are fundamentally the same, and they are already supported in the SDK.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

are just local copies of what's on the Exchange server. If you open Outlook but aren't connected to the Exchange server, Outlook opens the .OST file by default.

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