April 24, 2019

Migrating from Outlook to Mozilla Thunderbird in Linux (part 1)

Shy on Bling, Loaded With Useful Features

  • February 17, 2009
  • By Eric Geier

Moving from the Microsoft and commercial software world to the open community means you'll need to find open source or Linux alternatives to the many Windows applications you've been using. In this tutorial we'll concentrate on your email client. More specifically, we're going to discuss moving from Outlook to the cross-platform email application Mozilla Thunderbird. At first glance, Thunderbird� may seem too basic and lacking features. However, it still can be a great Outlook alternative. We'll discover how to transfer over your settings, mail, notes, tasks, and more.

Your first Thunderbird experience

You might not be that impressed with Thunderbird at first. It will look like a no thrills email client. There's no sign of a calendar, tasks or to do lists, or other non-email Outlook features. Just as bad, it doesn't give you much help in importing your Outlook data from another computer or OS. However, by the end of this tutorial you'll have a open source email application full with your existing data.

When you start up Thunderbird for the very first time in Windows, you are greeted with a Import Wizard. You can select Outlook and import the existing server settings, mail, and address book. However, if you are moving to Thunderbird in Linux, importing won't be so easy. Nevertheless, we'll tackle how to manually export and import your data. Plus we'll see how to grab your other existing data; your calendar, tasks, and notes.

Tip: If you are staying within the Windows platform but changing PCs, you may consider first installing Thunderbird on the machine that Outlook is installed on. This way you can use the automated import wizard to load the data. Then you could move the Thunderbird profile to the desired computer. Just remember you still must manually bring in other data, if you want your old calendar, tasks, and notes. Since you could encounter errors when moving the profile to a different OS, you may just want to go the manual route for all data when migrating to Linux.

Copying over the server settings

One of the only items that isn't very easy to migrate over to a new OS or computer is the server and account settings of Outlook. You'll need to manually input these settings into Thunderbird. When you start up Thunderbird for the very first time in Linux,� you should see the Account Wizard. To bring this up again, click Edit > Account Settings and hit the Add Account button on the dialog. Then use the Account Wizard to configure your email, RSS, Gmail, or newsgroup account. It may help to bring up Outlook on the other PC so you can refer to the server and account details. Thunderbird's configuration screens differ from Outlook, but you should be able to figure out what goes where. Once the initial setup is done, you can go back to the Account Settings dialog to configure advanced settings.

Tip: Until you have Thunderbird completely ready-to-go, you may want to check the Leave Messages on Server option on the Server Settings tab. This lets Thunderbird check for and download messages, but leaves them on the server. This way you can still receive and reply to messages from Outlook, until you are ready to move to only using Thunderbird. You might also want to enable the same feature in Outlook if you are going to use it during the transition.

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