MS Outlook document properties…


Microsoft Outlook is one of the most commonly used email engines (second only to Webmail and free programs such as Outlook Express). It can also capture calendar diaries, contact details and much more. However, there are some inherit limitations.

Whilst Outlook can sometimes search well, sometimes its searches leave a lot to be desired. Sometimes it is constantly updating its index, meaning that full results are not available. And sometimes it cannot search more than one folder at once (for example, in Public Folders).

Emails are very important to modern business. It is also important in disputes, meaning that emails may need to be disclosed.

Also, Outlook creates one (or perhaps) two files for the entirety of your emails, meaning that you cannot directly give some of your emails to others. Therefore, you have to export them somehow.

MSG files are objects which have been exported from Microsoft Outlook. They can be calendar entries, contacts, journals, tasks and notes. However, below I’m going to concentrate for the time being on emails.

Emails can be exported from Microsoft Outlook in one of two ways:

  • As a pst file. This creates a single file which can be accessed in Outlook, and can be emailed or otherwise copied to others. However, it is not 100% straight-forward to do.
  • As MSG files. This can be done by dragging files from Outlook to Windows Explorer, and is therefore the most straight-forward way to export them. Additionally, some email extractors also export it into this format.

In one case, my client received the electronic disclosure from the other side, which was a hard drive with all of their relevant emails. ALL of them.

161,000 of them. Gulp. And it was my job to show our client where to start with them.

But what were the obstacles?

Problems with MSG files

There are several problems with MSG emails:

Altering of date information. If you copy emails from Outlook to Windows Explorer or the Desktop, the date modified of the MSG file becomes the date that you copied the file, not the date of the email.

There are ways to check these dates. You can open individual emails, and check the date sent or received. The information is available as part of the MSG, and is called “metadata”, or “document properties”. Other properties include things such as

  • the sender’s name,
  • the recipient’s name (To, CC, and BCC).
  • the subject,
  • the date it was sent/received,
  • the attachment names, and
  • the body of the email.

So far, so good. But there is a second problem.

The metadata for Outlook msg files is not visible in Windows Explorer. 

Normally, there would be a way for viewing this data. Right-hand click on a file, and go to Properties, then Details. You can do this for Word document, photographs, and video files among others to see all the document properties. But not for MSG files.

So how can I see this MSG file metadata? Because of this problem, we wrote two programs to extract this information – I’ll talk about it later – but you can download them now.

Try it now

But what other document properties are available?

Common Outlook metadata

In addition to standard document properties, Outlook metadata common to more than type of msg file include:

MSG Metadata - Part 1

  • Sender Name
  • Categories
  • Companies
  • Contact Names
  • Conversation Topic
  • Creator Name
  • Disable Full Fidelity
  • Display To
  • Flag Due By/Icon/ Status
  • Attachment number and names

MSG document properties - Part 2

  • Last Modifier Name
  • Message Code Page
  • Message Delivery Time
  • Mileage
  • Normalized Subject
  • Outlook Version
  • Priority
  • Reminder
    • Override Default
    • Play Sound
    • Sound File
    • Minutes Before Start
    • Time
  • Sensitivity

The body text can also be extracted in three different ways:

  • Body (i.e. the plain text),
  • Body Html Text, and
  • Transport Message Headers

The latter two are only exported when the “Less Common Email metadata” button is selected.

What other document properties are available?

The other metadata is dependent on the type of MSG file.

Emails metadata include Recipients (To, CC, BCC), the time it was sent, and whether there are any receipts. See more Microsoft Outlook Email document properties.

Calendar metadata include start and end time and date, duration and the time zone. See more Microsoft Outlook Calendar document properties.

Contact metadata include addresses, telephone numbers and other details about the contact. See more Microsoft Outlook Contact document properties.

Journal metadata include start and end time and date, together with the type of journal. It can be used to determine what files have been accessed on an individual computer. See more Microsoft Outlook Journal document properties.

Task metadata include when the percentage complete or the quantity of work. See Microsoft Outlook Task document properties.

How can I view MSG metadata?

As stated above, MSG metadata cannot be viewed in Windows Explorer.

However, both Filecats Professional and Filecats Metadata are able to extract over 150 fields of document properties relating to these files.

The details of contacts are exportable; notes are retrievable; calendars are searchable; and as for emails – how much detail do you want? Addressees, subjects, details of the attachments; even the text of the email body can be exported into Excel. And all searchable and filterable.

Want to see it in action? Have a look at the video or the spreadsheet below.

Why not try it for yourself? Download a 7-day trial now, and see what you can catalog. What have you got to lose?

Download Catalog of Emails
Including email body.
Microsoft Excel sheet [4.7 MB]

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