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: