Microsoft to open up Outlook data

Microsoft will release documentation for the .pst data format, so third-parties can work with Outlook data.

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Microsoft is to open up the data system for its Outlook email system, allowing third-party developers to create applications or services.

"Data portability has become an increasing need for our customers and partners as more information is stored and shared in digital formats," wrote interoperability group manager Paul Lorimer in a blog post.

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"One scenario that has come up recently is how to further improve platform-independent access to email, calendar, contacts, and other data generated by Microsoft Outlook," he added.

To help this along, Microsoft has promised to release the technical specifications about how the .pst data is stored and accessed, as well as how the file structures work.

At the moment, .pst files can be used with Messaging API or Outlook Object Model, but Outlook must be installed on the computer.

By sharing documentation for the .pst Outlook data format, Microsoft is allowing developers to work with the data however they'd like, to use the data on mobile devices or other operating systems not running Microsoft products.

"This will allow developers to read, create, and interoperate with the data in .pst files in server and client scenarios using the programming language and platform of their choice," said Lorimer.

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Microsoft didn't specify when exactly this would happen, but said it was currently working on it.

Microsoft's interoperability move follows a similar one by Google, which unveiled the Data Liberation Front to help keep data free for users.

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