opening really old AOL mail messages

Discussion in 'OS X Yosemite (10.10)' started by Yukon Jack, Dec 20, 2014.

  1. Yukon Jack macrumors member

    Joined:
    May 14, 2010
    #1
    Without going into a long story, we recently upgraded from a 2006 Mac Mini running Leopard to a 2009 Mini running Yosemite. My wife had an extensive (>20,000) collection of historically-significant (for her) AOL email messages. It was her way of keeping notes.

    Unfortunately we can't open them in the latest iteration of AOL Desktop. These messages have the old pre-OS X creation goodies such as File Type = AOLM and File Creator of AOp3.

    Is there a script or app somewhere that would easily convert these to either a plain text text or readable by current AOL?

    Any good tips would really be appreciated by my wife, who has her last 25 years of research tied up in those old messages.

    Thank you and here's hoping everyone has a safe and warm holiday season!

    Jack
     
  2. simonsi macrumors 601

    simonsi

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2014
    Location:
    Auckland
    #2
    have you tried opening them with textedit? Many files are given names by developers so the app can recognise "its" files, but they may still be a plain text file...
     
  3. Yukon Jack thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    May 14, 2010
    #3
    @ simonsi: Thanks for checking in. Actually, yes I have used TE and it does read them, though they are filled with a lot of extra characters that I presume are formatting and other AOL-specific code. If we get stuck, I suppose I can take a week and go somewhere quiet and extract the text from all of those messages :-( and save them as plain text files. I can't even imagine a script that would be able to distinguish the actual parts we want saved (from, to, date, subject, body) from the garbage. That's why it would be best to be able to convert them.

    -Jack
     
  4. simonsi macrumors 601

    simonsi

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2014
    Location:
    Auckland
    #4
    OK - check out Automator, I'd bet there is an "extract text" type action that you could apply that would sort through them and remove the formatting/odd chars...
     
  5. Fishrrman macrumors G4

    Fishrrman

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    #5
    OP:
    Do you still have the OLD Mini, with the OLD AOL application?

    The time to think about "file translation" is BEFORE you move things to the new platform.

    If there is any way to get the old Mini running again, I'd suggest you set it up and see what options AOL offers insofar as exporting the old emails.

    Other than that, what was suggested above -- opening the individual emails with a text editing application, and literally "re-composing" them -- might be the only way.

    IF this is possible, just save the old emails "as is". It doesn't matter that they -all- need to be re-edited. What's more important is that you understand how to re-edit an individual message when necessary.

    Final thoughts:
    The latest release of "LibreOffice" seems to have built-in translators that are able to read all sorts of older file formats (such as AppleWorks). I'm wondering if opening the old emails using LibreOffice might help?
     
  6. SlCKB0Y, Dec 21, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2014

    SlCKB0Y macrumors 68040

    SlCKB0Y

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2012
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    #6
    Hi Jack,

    Could you upload a sample of these files somewhere (one which doesn't contain any sensitive information) for us to download?

    The best way for us to work out a solution is to get our hands on one.

    Edit: http://astroblahhh.com/software/tips/aol-pfc-files-and-how-to-convert-them-for-free.shtml

    That jar file opens without issue under Yosemite as long as Java is installed. Convert PFC to mbox.

    Windows software: http://www.datanorm-software.de/aol-dump/aol-dump.htm

    Further Info: http://www.emailman.com/aol/
     
  7. SlCKB0Y macrumors 68040

    SlCKB0Y

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2012
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    #7
    Pretty sure the AOL emails are in a proprietary binary format. :(
     
  8. simonsi macrumors 601

    simonsi

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2014
    Location:
    Auckland
    #8
    Read post #3 we covered that and TE can read them.
     
  9. SlCKB0Y macrumors 68040

    SlCKB0Y

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2012
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    #9
    TE can open any file....but with a binary file you will get junk characters interspersed with text. It doesn't mean it is the "right" way to do something.

    My assumption when responding was that the OP didn't want to sit there for a week mindlessly converting 20,000 proprietary files.

    If you had even done a basic Google search before replying you would have known this though...there are search results going back more than 15 years cursing AOL about this.
     
  10. simonsi macrumors 601

    simonsi

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2014
    Location:
    Auckland
    #10
    Wind down, your post gave the impression that nothing could be done with a proprietary format, whereas the OP has found he can read them, if necessary on an as-required basis....once saved as text files even spotlight will enable searching the content...
     
  11. Yukon Jack thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    May 14, 2010
    #11
    thanks to all...

    To all above who have taken the time to research and respond to my query:

    I've been off the air for a while and am grateful for the extended discussion below.

    Many thanks for the tips, especially the links provided by Sickboy.

    Per request I'm attaching a zipped example file. The file on my Mac shows up as one of those nebulous "Unix executable file" types but is readable using TE.

    In answer to the points made by "fishrrman," I do have the older Mini but it's in the repair shop now. Whether anything on it is recoverable is up in the air at this point. All I have right now is a folder that I managed to copy filled with the AOL stuff. We thought we had a backup drive but that seems to be lost.

    One other thing was when we fired up her newer Mini and discovered this problem, we checked the AOL menus and found one that gave the option to import 20,000 messages from an older version. That was where I got the 20K figure from. when we tried this, things seemed to go quite well but then on each of several tries, the import stalled at 30%. Calls to AOL have so far been unproductive, hence the question here.

    I'll keep trying to get help from AOL after the first of the year, as well as check out the offered suggestions here.

    Thanks again, we really appreciate the input.

    Jack
     

    Attached Files:

  12. SlCKB0Y macrumors 68040

    SlCKB0Y

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2012
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    #12
    I just checked - It is definitely a binary file.

    The jar file in the link I posted earlier will not open that individual email, it is looking for an AOL pfc file (Personal Filing Cabinet):
    http://help.aol.com/help/microsites/microsite.do?cmd=displayKC&docType=kc&externalId=190677

    If you have a PFC file you can feed that app, it should be able to export all the emails to the open mbox standard.
     
  13. Fishrrman, Dec 21, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2014

    Fishrrman macrumors G4

    Fishrrman

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    #13
    I took the file in post #11 above, and in about 30 seconds, had this:
    (see attachment below).

    The point of this exercise is this:
    It's NOT necessary to try to convert 20,000 emails, just so long as you still have them, even if they remain stored in AOL's older and proprietary format.

    It's MORE IMPORTANT to understand HOW to convert an email, when for some reason you need to locate an individual email and open it.

    When I downloaded the .zip file in post 11 above, I put it on the desktop and the drag-and-dropped it onto the TextEdit icon in my dock. The file opened immediately.

    If you double-click on it, you'll get a dialog stating that there's no application to open it, and that you need to choose one. Choose TextEdit, or you could choose any other text editing app or perhaps WP app (I was also able to open the file with LibreOffice).

    Once you open it as such, there will be a couple of "blocks" of garbage characters that can be -quickly- edited out. Again, takes only seconds.

    Then save it as a text (or WP) file wherever you need to.

    Again, it's only necessary to do this work on those files you feel it's necessary to clean up. Even the "un-edited" file is easily readable "around the garbage characters" ...
     

    Attached Files:

  14. Yukon Jack thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    May 14, 2010
    #14
    @ Fishrrman: Thanks for your having taken the time to analyze this. I do appreciate it.

    Having now gotten to this point, I need to go off on another track: We ultimately would like to sort and order these into various topical folders. This will be an enormous undertaking, I'm sure, by opening each one and cataloging it. From my point of view, this whole thing is a mess but it's up to me to put order to my wife's collection of emails. Time to get started! :-(

    Jack
     
  15. BrianBaughn macrumors 603

    BrianBaughn

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2011
    Location:
    Baltimore, Maryland
    #15
    A document organization application might be useful for you.
     
  16. NoBoMac macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2014
    #16
    File might be a Eudora format mailbox (judging from the mail header info).

    So, might want to investigate Eudora capable mail clients. Then can export out of that into a format Mail or Thunderbird can read.

    (OS X Mail is supposed to be able to import Eudora, but can't seem to get it to recognize the file with .mbx extension)
     
  17. SlCKB0Y, Dec 23, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2014

    SlCKB0Y macrumors 68040

    SlCKB0Y

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2012
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    #17
    Is it though? If the email collection is being used as a reference it would be extremely useful if the contents of each email would be indexed by Spotlight. Regardless of the file extension you have appended, your file is still a binary and not text so I can't see it being indexed.
     
  18. SlCKB0Y macrumors 68040

    SlCKB0Y

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2012
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    #18
    That was the email client used by the non-AOL sender of the email.
     
  19. osnola macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2011
    #19
    Hello,
    if your old AOL client is compatible with OSX 10.6, one solution may be to use virtualization : see http://www.apeth.com/nonblog/stories/virtualizingsnowleopardserver.html or http://macs.about.com/od/windowsony...pard-And-Snow-Leopard-Using-Vmware-Fusion.htm , ...

    Note:
    - looking a little at your file, the file format is probably simple: it looks like a sequence of [length(4bytes), data[length], id?(2bytes)] structures where the data block seems to store a text zone + some formatting data ?
    So writing a small convertor which retrieves at least the mail content is probably possible...
     
  20. Yukon Jack thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    May 14, 2010
    #20
    @ Sickboy: Thank you for continuing to follow this discussion and for clarifying such things as binary vs. tet, and whether or not the email was in Eudora format. Your comments are quite helpful to me as well as (hopefully) for others following this thread.

    @ BrianBaughan: Your observation about setting up a document organization program is well taken. I'm thinking of using DevonThink, an app I'm already familiar with. If you have any other ideas, please post them.

    @ osnola: Your link was an extremely interesting read. I hadn't given virtualization a thought and now it looks like an interesting possibility. I wonder if a newer Mac Mini + Parallels + Leopard would be possible. It's certainly something for me to experiment with.

    Also, thanks for spotting the sequences. I'll open a few more emails in TE and see if your observation is consistent. That would certainly greatly simplify the process of extracting just the necessary data.

    ===
    To All: I'm still monitoring this thread during the holidays so if anyone has further ideas to consider, please post them.

    One question: does anyone have any idea where i can obtain or download a six year old version of AOL desktop?

    Thanks to all and Happy New Year!
     
  21. osnola macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2011
    #21
    Hello,
    Macintosh Garden seems to keep a version 5.0 for Mac Classic(*) which is announced as compatible with SheepShaver: http://macintoshgarden.org/apps/america-online-50.

    (*) As your file contains this version string: "AOL v5.0 (5.0 ),version=5(17)", it is possible that it is remain compatible with such old version of AOL, I do not know....
     
  22. Yukon Jack thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    May 14, 2010
    #22
    @ osnola: Hey, great news. I've downloaded both AOL "classic" and SheepShaver (???), and will experiment around. Here's hopin'! Thanks Man.

    -Jack
     

Share This Page