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Converting Linux Users to Windows

written by: Kristen Grubb•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 5/24/2011

Many people have written about converting Windows users to Linux, but what about the Linux user that wants to (or has to) convert to Windows? This article discusses switching email and calendars, and converting documents from common Linux applications to Microsoft programs.

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    Converting Email

    Thunderbird and Evolution do not currently have an export feature to make the transition easy. Instead, it takes a few steps and a third party application to convert your email into something that Outlook Express (and eventually Outlook) can read.

    Both Thunderbird and Evolution hold email in mbox files.

    Thunderbird files can be found at

    ~/.thunderbird/xxxxxxxx.default/ (where xxxxxxxx is a random string of numbers)

    Evolution files can be found at


    For each folder that you have in Thunderbird or Evolution, there are two corresponding files in the default directory. One file will simply have the folder name with no extension, and the second will have a .msf extension. For example, Inbox will be split into the INBOX and INBOX.msf. The mail files are in mbox form in the file with no extension. This is the file you want to back up for conversion.

    Once you move your files to Windows, there are two third-party applications that will perform the conversion from mbox to .eml.

    IMAPsize is a graphical application that is meant for managing IMAP mail accounts. For our purposes, we will only be using one portion of the software, the mbox2eml conversion. Open the mbox2eml option and select "all files" to find your backup mbox files, choose the location for your new files, and then click convert.

    mbx2eml is a nongraphical Windows application that performs the same conversion as the IMAPsize conversion tool without any added functionality. If you are relatively comfortable using a command line in Windows, it works very well. At the Windows command prompt type

    mbx2eml <file specification> <output directory>

    where <file specification> is the directory holding the mbox files and <output directory> is where you want the .eml files to be held.

    Once you have converted your email, you can use Outlook Express to open it. Open OE and then drag and drop your .eml files into the application. If you are going to be using OE, then you are done. If you are going to be using Outlook, you have to export your mail. From the file menu, select Export. Your email will finally be in a format that Outlook will understand.

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    Calendar, Tasks, Memos, and Contacts

    If you are using the Evolution calendar system, the simplest way to make the conversion to Microsoft Outlook is to save the calendar, tasks and memos as a comma separated value (csv) files.

    1. In the Evolution window, right click on your calendar, tasks or memos.
    2. Choose "SaveAs" and save the file as a .csv file.
    3. In Outlook choose Import/Export and choose your saved .csv file.
    4. You are finished.

    For your contacts you use the same steps, but save it as a vCard.

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    Converting Documents

    If you have been saving your documents in the Open Document Format (.odf) for awhile, you may think that you need to open each document and save it with the .doc extension before making the switch. Fortunately, the kind people at Sun Microsystems have created a plugin for Microsoft Office, that will allow you to open .odf files in Word, PowerPoint and Excel. You can simply backup your current documents and move them to Windows. Once you have the plugin installed, you can then migrate each document as it is needed.

    If you cannot install the Sun plugin, you can always use Google Docs to make the conversion for you. Upload the document that you need to work with, open it, and then download it as a Word document. This step is not much better than opening the document in Open Office and saving it with the correct extension, but it does allow you to move your files and then convert each document as it is needed.

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    The easiest conversion strategy is to use the Windows versions of your Linux software. However, that is not always an acceptable option if your corporate offices insist on Windows software. The steps that are outlined will allow you to take your data with you. Unfortunately, because Microsoft products do not always like to play nice with other products, you will have some work to do before making the switch.