Transferring/Importing Emails Between IBM Notes Accounts

There are days when IBM (Lotus) Notes makes me lose my faith in the forward progress of humanity, and specifically of the idea that most people do, in fact, care about their jobs and the products they build. This is one of those days.

I am not the least bit convinced that anybody who works in the Notes unit (except perhaps the designers, who have made huge strides lately) gives a flying &^$% about their jobs. Definitely not their users. People: how hard is it to add a hotkey for “REPLY”, for chrissakes? FORWARD too, maybe? How about “File this message”? Is this all crazy talk, or are the people in Notes-land living in some other parallel universe where their users don’t actually use Notes principally as an email client? Or perhaps in their universe it’s still 1998? And Notes is still awesome. 

But I digress.

Today’s topic is import/export between accounts. I recently switched from contractor to full-time at my employer, and for my hard work I was rewarded with a full-on IT nightmare. Avoiding digression again, let’s focus on Notes: they created a whole new Notes user file for me. 15 months of old mail is stuck in the old user account. While new mail is coming to the new account. (Skip to the bottom for the solution that actually worked. Ranting in-between.)

For starters, Notes folks, why is there no comprehensive import/export process here, like an Outlook .pst? Is there something out there that my entire support department is unaware of, on either the server-side or the client? Anybody? In Notes land, do employees never switch employers, business-units, hiring statuses, etc? According to my support folks (who are simply dealing with what they’ve been given, from Notes-land), they do not.

Forgoing a comprehensive migration solution, I was looking for a simple way to move emails from one account to the other. Logically, I started with the “Import” and “Export” items under the File menu. That was really, really aggravating. I figured that if I exported a folder full of messages, I could import them into a new folder in the new account. No. I now have hundreds of email messages that exist only in the “All Documents” folder. I can find no hint of a way to use “Import” in any other way. (In a way that might, for an actual human being, be useful.)

So, I tried the old drag-and-drop approach. Back in, oh, 1998 or so, I can remember being able to drag whole folders out of Outlook Express or Entourage and have them make nice little .mbox files on the desktop? How about Notes? Oh! That’s useful! I get a… shortcut to my folder. Seriously?

How about drag-and-drop of a whole bunch of selected messages? Oh! Fascinating! Instead of getting a whole bunch of little .eml files (or, heaven forbid, a big single one), I get… about 70% .eml files and about 30% shortcuts to the others. Which would be great if I’d been trying to run a script that would destroy an arbitrary 30% of my mail during the import process. But that urge is not striking me, today.

Support person #6 today told me that copy-and-paste is actually the way to go. Really. You select all the messages in a folder from one account, copy, then move over to the other, create your new folder, and paste. And that does it. That’s how you migrate accounts in Notes. One folder at a time.

To the people in Notes-land, I say: clever. Way to combine the least-useful import/export functionality in the universe of email with the absolute last interface methodology that any slightly technical person would ever think of using for moving hundreds of messages at one time. Well. Done.

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