Mac Mail - bulk conversion

I am moving from Apple to Fedora. Slowly getting closer to making my Yoga 7 work nicely (thanks to many of you here, Hammerhead Corvette in particular but many others too)

One of the biggest things holding me back from zeroing my rifle on my old iMac and finally saying goodbye to the forbidden fruit (in other words being able to go to Fedora full time), is EMAIL!

I have perhaps 15 years or more of Mail in Mac Mail. I haven’t fully decided which mail package to use on Fedora yet but at this point Thunderbird seems easiest as I must have local folders (99% of my mail in in local folders).

I was told by someone (I think on here) that there is software that can convert Mac Mail files to other formats like Thunderbird. Can anyone recommend such a program, or if possible, a free way to do such a thing?

Until I have all my local folders on this machine (a lot of data) I have to keep the imac on life support but really hoping to watch it die soon :smiley:


I’ve never done it, but a quick startpage (which i use in lieu of google) came up with several hits. This one from Mozilla.

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Years ago my group switched from using email on NeXT systems when Windows became the “enterprise standard” mail system. The biggest issue with migrating mail (probably using ftp back then) was the number of attachments that triggered malware detection on Windows. Most users had large mbox files (including ones from their university days). One message with malware blocked transfer of the whole mbox file. Converting to maildir format (one message per file) meant that only the messages with malware failed to transfer and cold be inspected with a text editor. I found clamav did a good job of detecting malware (probably because enough time had elapsed to
get older malware into the ClamAV database).

Apple uses EMLX format for local messages, but should be able to export to Mailbox format.

It seems easy to go from Mailbox to maildir. Macports (for macOS) and Fedora both have mb2md packages, but Thunderbird support for maildir is “experimental”.

Thunderbird ImportExportTools addon claims mailbox and EMLX support.

Thanks… I have already looked but they all look like that one, where the user is on a mac and wants to go from Mac Mail to Thunderbird, ON a mac. I assumed, seeing as I am on Fedora now, that such processes wouldn’t work the same. But as an old friend never let me forget, assumption is the mother of all mistakes (put more politely than he did!)

Thanks George, bit over my head that.
I am not concerned with scanning for malware etc. I should also have mentioned I am on an Intel Mac using OSX Mojave (way out of date now), which I BELIEVE makes the process easier as it changed with the move to Silicon. But I am half guessing.

That link looks promising thanks. it mentions ‘mbox files’ which I am pretty sure if the format my message folders are in, will double check and if so maybe I can convert ON the Mac, then bring over the Thunderbird folders to Fedora. Really not sure what#s the best way and a bit nervous due to the sheer volume involved!

When I escaped from the Microsoft outlook email world a long time a go I changed to using an IMAP server I control so that I do not need to care about how clients work.

You could setup dovecot locally on your fedora system.
Now setup an email account in mac mail using that IMAP service.
You can now drag and drop your emails out of the local storage into the IMAP service.
Note you must configure mac mail not to delete any messages in IMAP.
once that is done you can tell thunderbird to use the same IMAP service and import the emails.

I choose to have the IMAP service be the master copy of my emails.
That means that I can connect more the one email client to my emails.
I have thunderbird, mac mail and ipad mail all hooked up and working.

It also means that I cannot use the clients to fetch emails.
I use user services to poll for new emails and automatically download them in the background into dovecot.

That sounds very very clever! Beyond me for sure, but clever.
even if i was able to set something up similar to that, I seriously have over 20 years of email here and no idea how much data but definitely in the gigabytes.
99% of it is only stored as I am the sort of person who never throws anything out! Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t have all the spam I’ve received :smiley: but it does contain all sent items, I like to have a record of everyone I have ever emailed, sometimes it has been very useful for legal or other similarly important reasons.

Dovecot is not that have to setup. You could have a try at running it and ask for help if you get stuck,

I also looked at mac mails export and it seems to create mbox files from folders of mail. I looked at one quickly and it looked as I expected.

Why can’t you use those files to import into a fedora mail client?

That is likely the best approach because there are many Thunderbird users on macOS so a better chance that someone will have encountered any issues you have importing from Apple mail. Apple often makes unadvertised changes to software, file formats, and file attributes that can make files unusable with linux applications, so Thunderbird’s own format is more likely to be useful on linux (and easy to test).

You are usually able to create multiple accounts in your email client, and then use one to fetch the mail, and then move the messages to where the would belong. Some client even have automatic features to sort incoming mail and store the messages to various mailboxes.

I have never used anything but Mac Mail (well not since Outlook pst files). I have no idea here really, do you think Apple Mbox files would work with some kind of email client on Fedora?

Thats exactly what I have done for years on Mac Mail, tons of rules to keep IMAP folders clean and move them to local folders.

mbox is not an Apple Mail format. It’s an open standard for email stored on disk.
Apple mail can export from its propriatory format to the standard mbox format.

I’d expect open source email tools to happily import the mbox files.
But I have not tested this myself. It should be easy to test for yourself.

Removed comment, use suggestion below

I think you’re suggestig I just install Thunderbird on the Mac where all the mbox files are (mac mail folders), and see if it understands them?
I know this sounds simple to most of you, but its years since I ventured into the mail folders, there are bazillions of the things!
I will see if Thunderbird can indeed do that, great if so, thanks!

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Mac mail is not stored in a standard format.
But mac mail can export to a standard format, that is exactly what i tested and its works.

You can copy the exported mbox files from your mac to the fedora system.
Then tell thunderbird to import from those copies mbox files.

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This should be the best solution then

Thanks Barry. Two things if I may:

  1. Where would I put those MBOX files in Fedora file system?

  2. I have heard from the dev behind BetterBird (which I will use once I get thunderbird working, if I have to go for Thunderbird, but hoping to try Evolution first!)… he said that whilst Mac Mail does have .mbox files, once you drill down into them the actual emails/data is stored in .emlx format, so I am told anyway. Hence I am not sure how well it will work but i am going to try exactly what you suggested thanks

That is why you are better off sticking with Apple tools so if you need help there will be people familiar with .emlx files.

I don’t understand. I want to leave Apple, so have to move away from Mac Mail.