I am an email packrat. I first started using email at college back in 1990. Back then, all I used for reading email was the UNIX "mail" program. As I became more sophisticated I began to use Elm. For one reason or another, I was saving all my email, and eventually, I wanted greater control over it. So, I started using Eudora to manage my email from my dorm-room Macintosh Centris 610.

When I got out of college, most employers didn’t provide email, but mine did. It was considered somewhat of a perk and using it for personal correspondence was perfectly acceptable. As in college, I was once again saving all my personal email. Integrating it with my college email archives wasn’t a big deal since the company I worked for also used Eudora. But after a while, the big software companies discovered that professional email tools were a big market, and that is when the problems began.

The changes at work were based on corporate policy, but the changes at home were necessary to keep up with my email usage needs. In seemingly rapid succession, I went from using Eudora at work to using Apple’s PowerTalk, and from that to using WordPerfect Office (aka Groupwise), Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Notes, and finally Microsoft Outlook. Then, to further complicate matters, I went from using Eudora at home to using Apple’s PowerTalk, Claris Emailer, and Netscape Mail, back to Eudora again, and then finally Apple’s Mail.app that came with Mac OS X.

All of these new email applications that I had to use seemed to save email to the disk drive in their own special proprietary way. I can only guess that the big software companies created proprietary file formats for some kind of competitive advantage or product lock-in strategy, but regardless, I found myself in a situation where I had years of archived email saved in files created by several different applications that no other application could read.

Sure, some of the new email applications did allow me to import certain types of files, but they often didn’t do a very good job or they required the old email application to be installed. So, the majority of my email was still stranded and unreadable. With most new email applications, even if I could import my email there would be no way for me to export it back out again!

After much frustration, I realized that if I could at least “normalize” my data — that is, convert it all to the same format, it would be a step in the right direction. And if I could get everything into some kind of industry-standard format, any email application that comes along should be able to read it.

So, back in late 1996, I began writing Emailchemy to do exactly that, and ever since I’ve been building more converters and utilities, trying to build out Emailchemy into a powerful yet usable tool for everyone.

Why I Made Emailchemy
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