Backup individual items

Backup Individual Items

Today we’re going to discuss how to backup individual items in Entourage. Previously, we’ve discussed backing up your entire Identity, but for many users it’s important to also backup individual items like Mail, Contacts, Calendar Events, Notes and Tasks.

Why do I need additional backups?

  • Restore a single item(s) after a bad sync
  • Create a new Identity when rebuild fails
  • Restore data from a older version
  • Save in a format that can be used universally
  • Save Groups as tab-delimited file
  • Export your contacts as .csv file
  • When your data is important, having multiple backup file types increases your chances of restoring your data


Remember floppies and zip disks? Just like the problem of what type of media to store your data, you need to consider how to save your data so any future version of Entourage or any email application can access it.

Suppose you are trying to access data in an Identity that was saved from a previous versions of Entourage that you no longer have installed. If you only had a backup of the Identity, you would have to import the Identity into your current version of Entourage before you could access the contents. Upgrading an Identity can often be troublesome. Even now Entourage 2008 has trouble importing an Entourage X Identity. If you had saved the data as either .rge or MBOX file, you could simply import that file.

Previously, in Restore single item from backup we discussed using export as Entourage archive file to restore calendar events, tasks, notes and contacts after a sync wiped out your data. Restoring a previous backup of your Identity would wipe out your current data. Because Entourage stores it’s info in a database, there is no restore for a single item type.


If you keep several years worth of data in your Identity and it become corrupted so badly that rebuild does not work and you can no longer open the Identity you have lost everything. If you had saved each years mail as MBOX files, you could simply drag those MBOX files back into Entourage and your precious data would be restored.

It’s important to have multiple types of backup in cases where data is not recoverable using the rebuild database option. Create a good backup strategy and do it!

Let’s examine the options

When you select Export under File in the Menu bar you have two main options.

  1. Export your contacts as a list (tab-delimited text)
  2. Export as an Entourage archive (.rge) file.

In addition to the Export items feature in Entourage, you can also save messages as an MBOX file using a script, or by dragging a folder to the desktop. An MBOX file is a specially-constructed text file, usable by any text editor, which contains mail messages within the file.

File Types

An Entourage archive file (.rge) can contain e-mail messages, contacts, events, notes, tasks, and project files. You can use a .rge file to back up your information or use it to create a new Identity in Entourage.
If you compare the size of an Entourage archive file that contains all items in your Identity to the size of your database, you can see how much “wasted” space is included in your database. Wasted space is not all bad in a working Identity, but you don’t want your backups to include this extra space. I exported my 1.13 GB Identity using File –> Export as .rge file in 3 minutes. The resulting file was 368.8 MB.

  • Pro: very small and quick to create, useful to create tab delimited files for groups. Can export individual items or all items.
  • Con: can only be used by Entourage, could become obsolete over time, not all items maintain categories.

An MBOX file contains a set of mail messages that you can import back into Entourage or into some other mail applications. Because each folder is saved as an individual MBOX file, the files are small and can be very specific. Suppose you were involved in litigation. Saving all messages related to this event would be easy to do using the MBOX method.

  • Pro: can be used by most email applications and are cross platform, only contain messages, standard file format and unlikely to be discontinued.
  • Con: Just contain messages.

A tab delimited file is a special kind of plain text file with a tab between each column in the text. When imported into Excel, for example, the tabs allow the columns to line up neatly.

  • Pro: Can be used by any text application, cross platform friendly, standard file format, small.
  • Con: Just contains contacts, no categories

Exporting Entourage archive file and categories

When Entourage archive (.rge) files were introduced in Entourage 2004, they extended how we can save our data. However, not all items include the category when exported. Only messages and contacts retain the category when exported as .rge file.

  • You can get around this using Entourage export options, but it’s not what I call user friendly. Select Export under File in the Menu bar, select Items that are in the category, check only the item. Select the category from the popup menu and save. When you import the data into a new Identity, you can then select all and assign a category to those items. Rinse and repeat for each category assigned for that item.
  • See below for scripts to save category

Example of export individual item by category:

Using scripts to save category

Export-Import Scripts: If you need to save your calendar events, tasks and notes with categories, you can do this with Paul Berkowitz’s Export Import Scripts (shareware). Currently there is a problem with the “unlock all scripts” if you are using Leopard. I found that if I opened each script individually, I could enter the code using Leopard. It’s only the unlock all script that fails. (at least, that’s my experience using this method)

These scripts work with Entourage 2008. Don’t be concerned about the directions using the older versions.

A collection of over 50 scripts to export and import almost everything – Contacts, Groups, Calendar Events, Tasks, Notes, Messages, Folders, Accounts, Signatures, Mailing Lists and Categories – from one identity of Entourage X or 2004 to any other, to and from Entourage 2001, and to transfer Contacts, Calendar, Tasks and Notes to and from other PIM programs on the Mac and Windows, with special converters for Microsoft OUTLOOK, Excel and other programs.

Sync Categories: You can download Sync Categories hosted on Corentin’s blog. This set of scripts allow you to save category names (assigned to contacts or events) to the notes and to restore them from the note to the actual categories.
This is useful if you are trying to use Exchange accounts, or even SyncServices/.Mac/Me.com since both these protocols loose categories in the transfer. This script works with Encourage 2004 or 2008.

If anyone is aware of another third party application that saves category info on exported items, please let us know.

Export as tab-delimited files

Tab de-limited files are useful when cross platform compatibility is needed. They are also useful in creating contacts for Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo and other mail clients that need .csv files. Excel can import a tab de-limited file and save as a .csv file. Categories are not saved as part of the tab de-limited file. Some users will enter the category in one of the custom fields.

Exporting Groups: Exporting your contacts as a tab-delimited file gets all contacts. You cannot select to export a group or just one category as a tab-delimited file so they can be imported into Excel. However, this can be accomplished using export as .rge file.

To export as a tab-delimited file, use this workaround: Export as an .rge file. Select the category for that group and export that category only. THEN create a new Identity in Entourage and import the .rge file. NOW you can export it as a tab-delimited file.

Note: Barry Wainwright has a script Export a group’s entries to an Excel spreadsheet you might want to try.


Again, let me remind you to store your backups on another drive or media. If your hard drive dies or is stolen, you will have backups. Having a copy off site is also something you should consider. Find a strategy that works for you. You don’t want to find out too late you’ve lost everything.

Continuing the series on backing up Entourage, we going to have other authors share their backup solutions.

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