Email storage theories

While I was on my powerbook, I poked around at the latest release of Mozilla Thunderbird. I’m impressed by what little of it I saw (it doesn’t seem to import email yet, so I never got to see how it dealt with a bunch of messages). If I didn’t have years of Eudora—which features an archaic interface, but a sensible method of storing emails and a lightning-fast search—under my belt, I’d be quite tempted to try Thunderbird. Anyway, this new email client trial reminded me of some thoughts I had, long ago, when I chose Eudora as my email program:

It seems that email can be stored in one of three ways. The first way, which Microsoft Entourage uses, is to store all messages in one massive database; this is a pain for backups, as one new message means the entire database needs to be backed up again. It also means that if that one database file gets corrupt, you lose all your email.

The second way, which I first saw in the now-dead Claris Emailer, was to store each email in its own individual file; while ideal for backups, I didn’t care for the mess it made for the OS (probably just a personal thing).

Eudora struck the perfect balance, for me, by creating a file for each mailbox you made. (For example, I have my “inbox” for all new messages I receive, and I also have a mailbox entitled “inbox (2003)” for all email I received last year. These two mailboxes are stored in two files: “inbox” and “inbox (2003).”) No real file system mess, but no putting all emails in one basket, either. Backups are manageable this way, too, since archival mailboxes don’t change too often and so aren’t backed up every time.

Yes, back in the day I actually thought about all this. I don’t know what theory Thunderbird uses… maybe I should look into it more.

If you found this exciting, just wait for the day I feel like ranting about the stupidity of prescription drug importation! (This will, sadly, be rehash for Eric.)

You only think I’m kidding.


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