How to Export your Mails from Evolution to Thunderbird

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If you want to Export your Mails from Evolution to Thunderbird here is the simple procedure to follow

Preparing Your Thunderbird

Create a new mail account in Thunderbird (this is so that if everything goes pear shaped nothing else will be affected).

In Thunderbird choose Edit -> Account Settings -> Add Account

Select Email Account and click Next

Leave identity settings as they are and click next

Set the Incoming Server to "localhost" and REMOVE the tick from "Use Global Inbox" Click next

Leave the Incoming user name as it is. Click Next

Change the Account Name to something relevant such as "Evolution Mail"

Once the settings are created return to Edit -> Account Settings and select the "Server Settings" option under the "Evolution Mail" account. Take note of the "Local Directory" Setting. It will be a string like "/home/yourloginname/.mozilla-thunderbird/a2ti6rsz.default/Mail/localhost". This is where all mail is stored for this account.

Now that the account is created and you know where to find it you can transfer the emails from Evolution.

Transferring mail from Evolution to Thunderbird

Open up two windows to your Home Directory. Navigate in one of the windows to the path that Thunderbird has assigned for your email storage above. HINT: CTRL+h in your home folder will show all hidden files and folders so you will be able to see the ".mozilla-thunderbird" folder. Once you are in this folder you will see some files in there with names such as Inbox, Inbox.msf, Junk.msf and so on.

In the other window from your home folder navigate to ".evolution/mail/local" This is where any locally stored mail from Evolution is placed. There are a similar set of files to what you see in the Thunderbird folder, Inbox, Drafts and so on.

Copy the files named Inbox, Sent, Outbox and Drafts from the evolution folder to the mozilla-thunderbird folder (dragging and dropping while holding down your ctrl key will copy rather than move the files). When it asks if its ok to overwrite them just say yes. Its ok, nothing bad will happen. Its just a copy. You can trust me. Honest.

If you have your mail folders organised in evolution under your Inbox there will be a sub directory called "Inbox.sbd" under the .evolution/mail/local/ directory. In that directory you will find files named the same as your folders such as Humour, Humour.cmeta, Humour.ev-summary, Humour.ibex.index and so on. Of course, this depends on what you've called your folders.

For any of the folders you want to move to Thunderbird chose the file WITHOUT any extension and copy it to the localhost folder where you previously placed the Inbox and other files.

Thats all there is to it! Open Thunderbird and you should see all your mail and the relevant folders under the "Evolution Mail" account. You can keep the mail there or move it around in Thunderbird. The choices are yours.

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34 thoughts on “How to Export your Mails from Evolution to Thunderbird

  1. Great instructions! Just googled and find this page!

    Simple and easy.

    Anyway, the reason that I migrated is that Evolution is not “poping” emails from one of my gmail’s account. Thunderbird s working fine.



  2. Hi

    Thanks a lot for giving tips. I moved to my localfolder instead adding new localhost account. It worked fine.


  3. This did not work for me in Debian. Evolution had the files as mentioned, but thunderbird (icedove) uses .msf-files. What I could do was to re-send the whole evolution inbox to myself like this:

    cat $HOME/.evolution/mail/local/Inbox >> /var/mail/$USER

  4. hi folks,
    I got a bunch of emails into Evolution when experimenting with my new Ubuntu installation (btw: installed with wubi on a Win machine, a breeze …). That was not what I wanted though. I download my emails from gmail into Thunderbird. And yeah, still under Windows, but that’s gonna change, I can tell ya ;-).
    Just used the above instructions to move those mails from the Ubuntu Evolution, to my Windows Thunderbird, on another machine. I copied the Evolution Inbox file to an usb stick from within Ubuntu, and simply copied it from the stick to the right folder on the Win system. It worked flawlessly ! No problems with lf cr+lf neither (as I expected, sorry). All those “lost” emails nicely available where I wanted them.
    Wonderfull guys, those open source programmers. Not afraid to keep open to each others work. Many thanks !

  5. Thanks for the procedure it worked. Great work dude.
    And again thnks.

    Sourav Mohanty

  6. I’m having problems receiving the e-mails in Evolution. When it’s happened I used mozilla-Thunderbird to receive the e-mails and import it from evolution..
    With this tip I’m going to use M.T., because I have a lot of e-mails in evolution that I need.

  7. brilliant, cheers! funny when in fact simple operations can make you so happy.


  8. Thanks a lot, Evolution has been a royal pain in the butt. I lost all my mail and then all it would do is crash when I tried to get new mail. Thunderbird is way better, and now I have my mail back. Your instructions were a life saver.

    ubuntu 9.10

  9. Hey man. i have no words. It was realy usefull for me. I have been fighting with this for more than 3 days and u gave me a simple way to do it. thks.

  10. > Leave identity settings as they are and click next

    “next” is greyed out if you leave ID empty. Which version of thunderbird were you using? It doesn’t work on 3.0.3

  11. Perfect!
    Do you have a tip to transfer the whole addressbook from evolution to thunderbird as well ?

    Thanks a bunch!

  12. Totally amazing how simple and efficient some instructions are, yours are there amongst the best of bests because they get the job done.
    Thanks a million.


  13. Thank you!

    Worked perfectly for Ubuntu 10.10

    Some info that might help somebody:

    In the new version of nautilus, gnome’s file manager, if press F3 and you get extra pane on the right hand side (very handy instead of opening two separate windows)

    Also if press the ‘/’ key, this will allow you to type the path directly rather than browsing manually through all the folders, I found this very useful when you copy/paste the new account directory location from the thunderbird account settings

    Hope this helps somebody, great article!

  14. An associated issue going from Evolution to TB:
    I just migrated from Evolution to Thunderbird. I found a REALLY EASY to convert the contacts/address book info. In Evolution Contacts, select File–>Save Address Book as vCard. Then use this website to convert from .vcf to .ldif:
    Once you have the .ldif file, you can import into Thunderbird Address Book, and every single bloody detail comes over (at least it did for me).

    You can also copy the php script from that webpage, for future use, if needed (if that website is ever taken down).

  15. I tried to do this for mail from evolution 3, but it seems that doesn’t work. Has anybody found a way to migrate from evolution 3 to thunderbird?

  16. Peter — Here is a trick to find the exact location to put your files from Evolution. Install Thunderbird. Set up the account and bring in the mail that’s on your server. Send yourself some e-mails, if that’s necessary to have enough. Using Thunderbird, create several different subfolders in your Inbox (randomly named — you will delete them later), and then place a couple of e-mails in each of those subfolders. These are just dummy subfolders, so you can see where the real files go. Be sure to leave a few e-mails in the main Inbox folder. Now do the same thing with the Sent box — send several e-mails, make dummy subfolders and place some (but not all) of the e-mails in those folders. Now, when you follow the instructions above, you will see the folder/file structure that Thunderbird wants. Then, open Evolution and make sure you have an updated e-mail list, then close Evolution and bring the equivalent folders/files over in your file browser, from Evolution to the Thunderbird locations. This way of creating the folder/file structure made it clearer to me that I was doing it the right way.
    Caution: Don’t zap out Evolution right away! I tried Thunderbird for a week and hated their fussy and (for me) laborious “Search” function. I much prefer the faster and more efficient “Search” (using the e-mail fields) and “Advanced Search” functions of Evolution. Also, I really like the “Backup settings” and “Restore settings” function in the File menu of Evolution — really superior for insurance against losing your e-mails, and great for synchronizing e-mails across more than one PC. Thunderbird has nothing like it. So, you MAY (or may not) decide to go back to Evolution after a trial period, and you don’t want to go through the hassle of moving all of these files back from Thunderbird!

  17. @minnesotajon,

    first of all thanks for replying. The problem with evolution 3 however is that they changed how the naming of the files. I tried following the instruction, but it doesn’t seem to work. At least not for me. Finding the evolution files is not the problem. Neither is the location of the thunderbird files.

  18. Evolution switch to maildir storage format instead of mbox since its thirs release (available in Fedora 15). So you need to convert your maildir file to mboax file in order to import them into Thunderbird.

  19. @Cameleon Thanks. Now I only need to find out how to convert my maildir to mbox. I guess google is my friend there, but if you should know than I’d be obliged if you’d tell me.

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