Thank you, Andy Warwick! I'm leaving the following article online, just so I remind myself how much time I wasted on this. However, the comment from Andy (#9 in the chain) pointed me to what I was doing wrong. So for anyone who hasn't imported their email yet, the trick to using the Mail for OS X import function is this: simply point it to your old user's Library/Mail folder, no deeper.
I still think Apple's language could have been clearer (see my #10 comment), but I retract the other nasty things I said about the import routine. When pointed at the correct folder (I just tested it), it worked like a charm. Good job, Mail team. Now how about making the import screen read simply "Please navigate to the previous Mail folder"?
This is a follow-up to my The Art and Science of OS X System Upgrades article. I'm (still) in the process of upgrading my main drive, having just finished migrating my email archives last night. Why did it take so long? User stupidity plus, in my opinion, some poor functionality in 10.4's Mail import routines.
As noted in the earlier article, I had chosen to do an upgrade install on my main drive, but to not automatically copy over my user's folder (due to all the cruft in it). It was this decision that ended up costing me many hours of email migration labor. Why, you might ask, did it take so long?
After I got 10.4 up and running, before doing much of anything else, I launched Mail and set up my two primary accounts, just so I could keep up with email while doing the rest of my work. Mail may have asked me about importing old email when I first launched it, but I don't think it did -- my ~/Library/Mail folder was empty, since I hadn't moved the old Mail folders over. Apparently if you allow the user information to migrate, Mail will automatically import your old Mail messages. Ah, I should be so lucky...
So I went merrily about my business, setting up my accounts. Once that was done, it was time to start the (very large) import. So I went to the File: Import menu option, selected Mail for Mac OS X, and then navigated down to the mailboxes in my 10.3 Mail folder. When I selected one and clicked Go, however, I was greeted with a message:
How odd, I thought, given that I was trying to import messages from the 10.3 version of Mail.app. Nothing I could do seemed to make this menu item function. Apparently, and this is what I consider to be very poor functionality, the "Mail for Mac OS X" import item is only useful if you have messages from another 10.4 version of Mail. If someone can prove me wrong, I'd love to hear about it -- even though I've spent the time now to finish the project.
Instead I had to use the Other import option, which required individually pointing to every single one of my archived mail folder -- I have over 60 folders, so this was a non-trivial task. Each time you run an import, Mail creates a new Import-X folder for you, where the "X" is an increasing number. Inside of that is a folder called mbox, which contains the imported messages. So for each of the 60+ folders, I had to do an import, rename the mbox folder, move the mbox folder to its new home, and then delete the Import folder (and, of course, wait for the import of each mailbox). Needless to say, it took a long time to do this. I spread it out over three evenings, probably spending about three or four hours on it in total. Now that it's done, hopefully someone will comment about some nifty workaround I could have used, and then we'll have a hint for the main site :). The only hint there now is basically to do what I did -- use Other to import old Mail messages.
I'm not sure why the Mail team didn't consider that people might wish to import their old messages at a time other than the first run of the new Mail; that seems like a glaring oversight to me. Ah well, at least it's done now. Time for PHP, MySQL, Geeklog, and the local copy of hints!