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3.5.1   Importing Mail From Apple Mail

Archiving messages from Apple Mail to EagleFiler can speed up Mail and also create a safe offline backup of your messages, as Time Machine backups normally don’t include the full contents of all your messages in Mail.

The recommended way to import from Apple Mail is to select some messages or mailboxes and press the capture key. (By default this is the F1 key, but depending on your Mac’s keyboard settings you may need to press fn-F1.) EagleFiler will copy the entire message (including attachments) to its library, along with the message status and flagged indicators from Mail and any keywords, projects, and notes from MailTags.

Note: On macOS 10.14 and later, the first time you press the capture key you will need to grant EagleFiler Full Disk Access.

By default, EagleFiler imports a single selected message as a .eml message file and multiple selected messages as a mailbox file. Please see the Importing Mail section for more information about these formats.

Importing Multiple Mailboxes

To import multiple whole mailboxes at once, first select the mailboxes in Mail’s sidebar. (Make sure that no messages are selected.) You can either Command-click to select individual mailboxes or select a whole range of mailboxes by clicking on the first one and then Shift-clicking on the last one. Once the mailboxes are selected, use the Edit ‣ Select All command to select all the messages (or make sure that none are selected). Then press EagleFiler’s capture key. It will import all the messages in the mailboxes, as well as any submailboxes.

Importing Message Files

To import multiple messages as individual .eml files instead of as mailbox files, capture one message at a time or use the Import From Apple Mail script. You can also drag and drop individual messages from Mail to EagleFiler. Unlike using the capture key, this will not import message metadata or MailTags into EagleFiler.

Note: It is not recommended to drag multiple messages at once, as on some versions of macOS only the first message will be sent to EagleFiler. There are also some cases where Mail may not save the dragged message to disk, and thus EagleFiler will not be able to import it. You can work around both of these issues by importing using the capture key or by dragging first to the Finder and then from Finder to EagleFiler.

Importing Mailbox Hierarchies

Another way to import from Apple Mail is to drag and drop folders or mailboxes from the Finder. This makes it possible to import whole hierarchies of mail. The mailboxes are stored in the folder:


(See How can I open the Library folder?.) Inside the V8 (or other V# folder for previous versions of macOS) is a folder for each account (named with a UUID or your e-mail address, and inside the account folder a folder for each mailbox.

When importing .mbox folders from Mail, you generally do not want to import via the To Import folder or the Files folder, as this would prevent EagleFiler from converting the mail to the standard mbox format. It is better to drag and drop to the Dock icon or into EagleFiler’s window, or to use the capture key from the Finder.

On macOS 10.14 and later, the first time you import from Mail’s folder you will need to grant EagleFiler Full Disk Access.

Importing via Mail’s File Menu

Yet another way to import from Apple Mail is to use Mail’s File ‣ Save As… menu command. This works even if EagleFiler is not running, and you can select anywhere in The Files Folder or the The To Import Folder to save the file. Be sure to choose Raw Message Source from the Format pop-up menu. If a single message is selected, Mail will save it in .eml format. If multiple messages are selected (and you have macOS 10.12 or later), Mail will save them in mbox format. For larger mailboxes, it may initially look like the save didn’t happen, but Mail will eventually create the file.

Importing Attachments

EagleFiler tries to import complete messages, including any attached files. For messages downloaded from POP mail servers or stored in local (On My Mac) mailboxes, this should always succeed because Mail stores the attachment data with the message. For messages from IMAP and Exchange mail servers, the attachment data may or may not have been downloaded to your Mac. If you try to import a message whose attachments have not been downloaded, EagleFiler will report a Missing Apple Mail Attachment error and import only the non-attachments parts of the message. This is good because it alerts you to a message that needs to be fully downloaded, so that you can end up with a complete offline copy of the message, whereas a Time Machine backup would only contain the parts of the message that Mail was currently caching.

To successfully import attachments, you should:

  1. Make sure that Mail is set to always download attachments from the server. To do this, go to the Accounts pane of Mail’s preferences and (for each account) tell it to download the attachments:

    macOS 10.15 through 10.12: On the Account Information tab, for Download Attachments choose All. Additionally, do not use the new Optimize Storage OS feature to automatically remove e-mail attachments.

    macOS 10.11 through 10.9: Mail always downloads complete messages.

    macOS 10.8 and earlier: On the Advanced tab, for Keep copies of messages for offline viewing choose All messages and their attachments.

  2. If you get a Missing Apple Mail Attachment error, e.g. because of messages that were downloaded before (or purged after) following the instructions in #1, you can tell Mail to download the attachments and then tell EagleFiler to import the messages again. The way to tell Mail to download the attachments is to view the message in Mail. The easiest way to do this is to select the error(s) in EagleFiler and Option-click the Reveal button. This opens the message files in Mail. Once the attachments have loaded in the message windows, you can close the windows and then try the import again.

If you have a lot of messages whose attachments need to be downloaded, you can Option-drag and drop the entire mailbox to the On My Mac section of Mail’s mailbox list. This will create a local copy of the mailbox with all the messages fully downloaded. (Mail does not allow you to copy special mailboxes such as Sent. However, you can temporarily create a Sent2 mailbox and assign that as the special Sent mailbox in the Mailbox Behaviors preferences. Then Mail will let you copy the original Sent mailbox, which now appears with a regular icon.)

Please note that moving or copying an IMAP message to an On My Mac mailbox will not cause Mail to download the attachments. It may, in fact, mark the attachments as downloaded even though they are missing. And if you then open the message it will be disassociated from the IMAP server so Mail will not be able to fetch the attachments. Thus, it’s best to import the IMAP messages directly from their original mailbox so that EagleFiler can warn you if any attachments are missing and Mail can download them if necessary.

Importing Conversations

If you have View ‣ Organize by Conversation checked, Mail behaves differently depending on whether you have Use classic layout checked in the Viewing preferences.

To import both sides of a conversation, Command-click in the mailbox list to select the Sent mailbox as well as the mailbox containing the received messages. Then Mail’s conversation view will show both types of messages in the list. You may also find it helpful to use a smart mailbox to display related messages from different mailboxes, and then capture from the smart mailbox.

Importing an entire mailbox is much simpler. You can always use Edit ‣ Select All to select all the messages, regardless of whether Mail is in conversation mode or which triangles are expanded.

Importing Only Newer Messages

If you’ve previously imported some messages from Mail and now want to do a new import without creating additional copies of the old messages, there are several options:

Importing New Mail Messages Automatically

It’s most efficient to import messages in bulk from Apple Mail, as described above. However, you can also set up a rule in Mail that uses the Import From Apple Mail script to automatically import each new message into EagleFiler as soon as Mail receives it.

Apple Mail “.mbox” Mailboxes

Apple Mail stores its mail in two types of folders whose names end with .mbox, however neither of these uses the actual mbox format:

Capturing When Mail Is Busy

In order to safely read Apple Mail’s message data, Mail should not be in the process of downloading messages from the server or moving them between mailboxes when you press the capture key.

macOS 10.12 and macOS 10.11: You can look in the Activity pane at the bottom of the mailbox list to make sure that Mail is idle. EagleFiler will report an error if it tries to import an e-mail message that was not completely written to disk.

macOS 10.10 and earlier: EagleFiler will report an error if Mail is busy. The Activity window is a more accurate measure of this than the Mail Activity pane in Mail’s main viewer window. If you press the capture key and EagleFiler detects that Mail is busy, it will suggest that you try again later. You can click Cancel and wait until Mail has finished downloading mail or use the Mailbox menu to take it offline. You can also click Capture Anyway to proceed if you know that Mail is not doing anything with the messages that you had asked it to capture.

apple mail activity

Duplicate Message

When importing from Apple Mail, EagleFiler automatically skips a message if it is an exact duplicate of another message in the same mailbox that was already imported. Thus, it can be normal for the mailbox in EagleFiler to show fewer messages than the mailbox in Apple Mail. When EagleFiler skips a message, it includes a line in the note of the imported mailbox to tell you this.

Mail Perspectives

If you have a Mail Perspectives window open (and it’s frontmost), EagleFiler will capture the selected messages from that window, rather than from the regular viewer window.

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