Sunday, March 12, 2017

Escape from Outlook Notes - export as text files, import into NvAlt or other

Back in 2010 I wrote Gordon’s Tech: Escape from Outlook Notes - ResophNotes, Simplenote for iPhone and Notational Velocity.

Seven years later ResophNotes, Notation Velocity (I now use nvAlt), and Simplenote are still around — despite lack of a revenue stream for any of ‘em. Not only are they still around, but it’s still possible to keep notes in plain text or RTF — which is as future proof as computing gets.

They are still around — but not in great health. ResophNotes was last updated in 2012 or so and it is donation ware (always was). Simplenote was purchased by Automattic (WordPress) and is now open source and apparently run as some kind of charity operation [1]. nvAlt is ancient but Brett Terpstra recently updated it to run on Sierra (a notoriously buggy version of macOS).

These apps are old and kind of worn — but so am I. So we’re a good fit. 

Recently I had another set of Microsoft Outlook Notes files to move to Simplenote. Talk about old and kind of worn! Outlook Notes is old, odd, and useful. It’s a winner in a category of one. Functionally it’s a lot like Simplenote — though you can’t print from Outlook [2].

The problem with Notes isn’t that it’s old and odd, it’s that everyone has given up on it. Microsoft tries to make it invisible. Apple dropped support for Notes sync via iTunes/iCloud — though I think Exchange sync may still work. Google ignores them too.

Which is why I needed to again move a data set of out Outlook Notes. I think export to Outlook CSV them import to ResophNotes is still the best bet. From there to Simplenote and from Simplenote to nvAlt, etc.

There’s another way to go though. You can use VB to script export from Outlook to c:\notes:

Sub NotesToText()
    
Set myNote = Application.GetNamespace("MAPI").PickFolder
  
For cnt = 1 To myNote.Items.Count
        
noteName = Replace(Replace(Replace(myNote.Items(cnt).Subject, "/", "-"), "\", "-"), ":", "-")
        
myNote.Items(cnt).SaveAs "c:\notes\" & noteName & ".txt", OlSaveAsType.olTXT
   Next
End Sub

The key thing is this script creates file names with the note title. It’s not a perfect result because the top of each file looks like this:

Modified: Thu 1/12/2017 2:36 PM

accidents and injuries

In this case ‘accidents and injuries’ becomes both the file name and the third line of the note. The “Modified: …” bit is just annoying. I suppose it could be removed using regex and a text editor that can iterate over a set of files … or script the removal.

I imported the plain text notes into nvAlt where they got the title from the file name so it looks something like this:

accidents and injuries

Modified: Thu 1/12/2017 2:36 PM

accidents and injuries

A bit of redundancy in there, and, of course, the Modified string is still around.

Overall this doesn’t work quite as well as the ResophNotes method, but it’s helpful to have options.

- fn -

[1] Automattic recently released a redo of the macOS Simplenote client. I haven’t tried it, but I hope it fixes the perennially broken search of the current client. In any case, Simplenote is not dead yet.

[2] Outlook 2013 broke Notes by essentially removing the list view — I think this might have been fixed in Office 365.

Update 3/13/2017

Speaking of ResophNotes, the current version has an impressive set of import options. Outlook CSV, Toodledo Notes CSV, text files, single file with note separator …

ResophNotesImport

I donated years ago, time to send another donation.

1 comment:

Sean Wallace said...

I'm a long-time reader, apparently, since I started using Simplenote and nvAlt based on the earlier article you mentioned. Anyways, a very belated thanks -- I still use them most every day.