Oh, that dreaded “Outlook cannot open the file because it is not associated with the default identity” message! We see this when Spotlight finds an Outlook mail message and try to open it. It’s an Outlook message! Why won’t Outlook open its own messages!?
This problem is prevalent in the Microsoft Answers Outlook for Mac forum. After seeing it one more time this weekend I decided to add an entire page on the subject in our Outlook section. For help with resolving this issue read Outlook cannot open the file because it is not associated with the default identity.
As part of the page I included an AppleScript for taking those files that Outlook won’t open and making them open anyway. Read on for a quick overview of the problem and how to use the script.
An identity is nothing more than a folder containing Outlook preferences, account settings, mail messages, contacts, calendar events—all the stuff that makes up the content of what we see while working in Outlook. Let’s dig into that a little bit further.
Your identity is located in your home folder here (where ” ~ ” denotes your home folder):
~/Documents/Microsoft User Data/Office 2011 Identities/
Most folks who look in that Office 2011 Identities folder will see just one more folder called “Main Identity”. That’s Outlook’s default name for the identity it created when they launched Outlook for the first time and started using it. Additional folders may have a name like “Main Identity [Backed up 2011-08-15 08.59.00]“. This is a copy of an identity that was created when running the Microsoft Database Utility application to repair an identity that was having problems.
Each folder inside the Office 2011 Identities folder and its contents comprises a single identity but Outlook uses only one identity at a time. It’s not designed to look at anything other than the one set as the current default identity. The rest are just sitting inert mostly because the Outlook user doesn’t know they exist or is afraid of losing old information.
The messages that Spotlight finds but Outlook won’t open are from those inert identities. My Scavenge Outlook Messages 1.0 AppleScript can help open these messages so long as they are still part of their old identity folder structure.
First, download the script and unzip the file. Copy the Scavenge Outlook Messages.app to a convenient location such as the Desktop or add it to your Dock.
When Spotlight displays a message that Outlook won’t open then you’re ready for the script:
- Hold the Option and Command keys down and click the message in the Spotlight menu to reveal the message in the Finder.
The file name will look similar to “x00_27612.olk14Message”. This is not the actual mail message but rather a pointer to the mail message source file.
- Drag the found file onto the Scavenge Outlook Messages.app script. If the found file is still within its old identity folder then the script will locate its corresponding message source file and open it in Outlook. The script will also convert multiple .olk14Message files dropped onto it.
For a detailed view of how the script works read Salvage a single message on the Outlook cannot open the file because it is not associated with the default identity page.
The Scavenge Outlook Messages.app script will save salvaged messages to a folder named “Scavenged Outlook Messages” on the Desktop. To copy these messages back to Outlook (into the current identity) just drag them into a folder in the Outlook window.
Scavenge Outlook Messages.app is free for anyone to use.