Microsoft is planning on unveiling the secrets of their .PST file format used in Outlook, with the aim being to guarantee interoperability.
The Microsoft Office Interoperability team announced Monday that specific details about their .PST data format would be released. No publication date was announced for the publication of this documentation which is happening under the Open Specification Promise which sees Microsoft giving rights to developers to freely use certain specifications (not the royalties), without being prosecuted or enduring difficulties.
This has come about mainly due to pressure being applied by the European Commission, with Microsoft deciding in February 2008 that they would release a series of principles which would allow for interoperability, to which they will continually conform. Microsoft has also made technical documentation freely available to allow easier communication in the Windows environment and their product API’s. A good example of how developers may be able to benefit from this information is in relation to the Exchange/Outlook combination.
To allow for better data portability The announcement made yesterday should see improved access to Microsoft product from independent platforms ranging from email, calendar, contacts and other information stored in Outlook. Currently this information is stored in the .PST format file (Personal Storage Table), containing Outlook’s personal folders. The technical documentation which will soon be released will "allow developers to read, create and operate the data stored in .PST files in different scenarios like client and server, while allowing for the use of any programming language and platform of their choice", indicated Microsoft.
At the current time, it is possible to access data stored in a .PST file via API Messaging (MAPI) and Outlook Object Model. The brake currently on this access, which will soon be lifted, is the fact that Outlook absolutely has to be installed on the computer.