New Office for Mac 2011 users are busy importing their Entourage mail or Windows .pst files and panicking when they see everything has a Date Received of “right now”. What happened?
Exactly what is suppose to happen.
What you should be asking is “Why have both of these types of dates? Aren’t they the same thing?”
No, not at all.
Dates and data and metadata! Oh my!
Every E-mail message that is received is stored with two types of information. The first type is called data. Data is the actual message itself and everything that goes into making that message. It’s the original content as it was sent.
The second type of information is called metadata. Metadata is information about the data. That may sound confusing but it’s really very simple to understand. A phone number, such as +1 (212) 555-1212, is a piece of data. But we also know that the “+1” means this is a number in the United States and that the “212” is a New York City area code. “United States” and “New York City” are metadata that give us some meaning about the phone number.
When you click the Send button in your E-mail application, you are creating a new piece of data called a message. A message includes the subject, addressee, content and a lot of hidden information about the mail servers sending the message. It also includes a time stamp about when it was sent—the date sent. The date sent will never change and is a permanent part of the message.
When your recipient receives the message in his Inbox, he is receiving the message as it was sent. His E-mail application is not changing the data. However, it is creating some information of its own about the message—the date received. The date received, though, is not stored within the message. Instead, it’s stored separately to preserve the original message and is considered non-vital information.
By default, many E-mail applications show the Date Received for a message. This is usually what’s important to him. It gives him some frame of reference for when he should act on the message. I received it yesterday and should respond to it today!
When many messages are received at once, such as when importing from a .pst file or archive file, the date received suddenly has no meaning. Everything is being considered as received the moment it is imported. Remember, data is permanent but metadata is not.
This may cause you some panic until you realize you can sort by Date Sent instead of Date Received. To do this in Outlook for Mac, right-click or Control-click on the Date Received column header (or any column header) and select Date Sent from the contextual menu.
If you wish to hide either the Date Received or Date Sent column header then right-click or Control-click the column headers again and de-select the item.