– Filing and archiving e-mail /20
saved. Most e-mail client programmes support several export formats (.eml, .txt,
.html, .msg, .oft, .rtf, etc.). Criteria for selecting an export format are:
the inclusion of all essential elements of the e-mail message
the embedding of the transmission and contextual metadata must be
the reading, answering and forwarding of the filed e-mail must remain possible
after exporting and filing
it must be a suitable source format for migration to the preservation format for
It is advisable to establish one export format for filed e-mails in the organisation.
Ideally, this export format should also be the archiving format for e-mails, but in
practice the suitable archiving formats for structured text documents (PDF/A, XML,
ODT, TIFF) cannot be reopened, answered or forwarded by the e-mail client
programme without difficulty. For these reasons, the Antwerp city archive chose the
message format (.msg) as the export format for filed e-mails. The message format
is not a suitable archiving format, but is the undocumented and native application
file format of MS Outlook. The filed e-mails can be reopened in MS Outlook, so
they can still be read, answered or forwarded
. This is an important condition for
getting e-mails with record status filed as soon as possible after receipt or sending.
If this is not possible, or if the e-mail client does not permit it for the export format,
then many users will tend to keep their e-mails in the e-mail system for a long time
and postpone filing them in the electronic classification system. The selection of
.msg as the filing format means that e-mails with archival value still must be
converted to a suitable archiving format before they are included in the digital
. The attachments are exported in their original computer file format and
in most cases will also have to be migrated to a suitable preservation format.
Before moving e-mails out of the e-mail system, the attachments are exported and
separated from the e-mails. For long-term preservation, it is better for e-mails and
attachments to be separated. Since they are separate documents and are only
related to each other, it is not good for them to be preserved as one computer file.
By preserving them separately, the documents can be identified and reused more
easily. It’s also very likely that the various types of electronic documents (text,
illustrations, audio, video) will require different approaches for tackling the digital
durability problem. Separating the attachments from the e-mails makes it possible
to use the most suitable archiving solution for each type of electronic record.
However, within the default configuration of MS Outlook it’s possible to export e-
mails with embedded attachments to a file system.
For exporting e-mails and attachments from the e-mail system to an electronic
classification system build in a regular computer file system, it is possible to use the
standard functionalities of MS Outlook. A pilot project for e-mail archiving in the
agency for human resources of the city of Antwerp, however, indicated that this is
not easy within the standard configuration of MS Outlook:
a lot of users did not pay no attention to the file format in which e-mails are
saved. E-mails were saved as .msg, .txt, .rtf, .html and .oft files
See also DOD 5015-2, C22.214.171.124.8.
A variation on this approach is the simultaneous exportation of all e-mails in an export
format that is also a suitable archiving format. Although this is perfectly implementable
technically, this option was not retained for implementation by the city of Antwerp. Only filed
e-mails with archival value are migrated to the suitable archiving format after selection.
In MS Outlook the formatting of the message body determines which file format is
preselected as the export format.
File formats for
filed mails and
Filing with the