Export Apple Mail Messages and Notes to Text Files


  • This AppleScript will export any selected Messages or Notes in Apple Mail as individual text files to a temporary folder on your Desktop (called "Temp Export Folder");
  • The script also attempts to remove any "illegal characters" from the file name as to avoid the process grinding to a complete halt!
  • If you have Growl installed, the script should detect it and notify you when your export is completed.

The Code

Apple Mail -- Text File Exporter
Version 1.1
January 17, 2011
Project Status, Latest Updates, and Comments Collected at:

Installation: Just double-click on the script!

FastScripts Installation (Optional, but recommended):
--Download and Install FastScripts from http://www.red-sweater.com/fastscripts/index.html
--Copy script or an Alias to ~/Library/Scripts/Applications/Mail
--Set up your keyboard shortcut


property growlName : "MailTextExport"
property appName : "Mail"
property successCount : "0"

tell application "System Events"
    set processnames to name of every process
end tell
if appIsRunning("GrowlHelperApp") then
    set isRunning to true
    tell application "GrowlHelperApp"
        set allNotificationsList to {"Success Notification", "Failure Notification"}
        set enabledNotificationsList to {"Success Notification", "Failure Notification"}
        register as application growlName all notifications allNotificationsList default notifications enabledNotificationsList icon of application appName
    end tell
end if


tell application "Finder"
    if (the folder "Temp Export Folder" exists) then set FolderLoc to (the folder "Temp Export Folder")
    if not (the folder "Temp Export Folder" exists) then
        set FolderLoc to (make new folder at (path to desktop folder) with properties {name:"Temp Export Folder"})
    end if
    set SaveLoc to FolderLoc as string
end tell

tell application "Mail"
        if (selection is not {}) then
            set theMessages to selection
                  set msgnr to 1
            repeat with thisMessage in theMessages
                set myTitle to the subject of thisMessage
                set myContent to the content of thisMessage as text
                set ReplyAddr to the reply to of thisMessage
                set EmailDate to the date received of thisMessage
                set theSource to the source of thisMessage

                (*CLEAN TITLE FOR FILE *)
                set previousDelimiter to AppleScript's text item delimiters
                set potentialName to myTitle
                set legalName to {}
                set illegalCharacters to {".", ",", "/", ":", "[", "]"}
                repeat with thisCharacter in the characters of potentialName
                    set thisCharacter to thisCharacter as text
                    if thisCharacter is not in illegalCharacters then
                        set the end of legalName to thisCharacter
                    end if
                end repeat

                set AppleScript's text item delimiters to ""

                if length of legalName is greater than 32 then
                    set legalName to items 1 thru 32 of legalName as text
                    set legalName to legalName as text
                end if

                set AppleScript's text item delimiters to previousDelimiter
                set theFileName to legalName

                (*EXPORT TO TXT FILE *)
                set theText to myContent
set theFilePath to (SaveLoc & msgnr & "_" & theFileName & ".txt")
set msgnr to msgnr+1
                set theFileReference to open for access theFilePath with write permission
                write theText to theFileReference as «class utf8»
                close access theFileReference
                set successCount to successCount + 1
            end repeat

            (* GROWL *)

            if "GrowlHelperApp" is in processnames then
                tell application "GrowlHelperApp" -- GROWL SUCCESS
                    notify with name ¬
                        "Success Notification" title ¬
                        "Export Success" description "Successfully Exported " & successCount & ¬
                        " Messages to Export Folder!" application name growlName
                end tell
                set successCount to 0
            end if
        else if "GrowlHelperApp" is in processnames then
            tell application "GrowlHelperApp" -- GROWL FAILURE FOR NO SELECTION
                notify with name ¬
                    "Failure Notification" title ¬
                    "Export Failure" description ¬
                    "No Messages or Notes Selected!" application name growlName
            end tell
        else if "GrowlHelperApp" is not in processnames then -- NON-GROWL ERROR MSG. FOR NO SELECTION
            display dialog "No Messages or Notes Selected!" with icon 0
        end if
        (* ERROR HANDLING *)
    on error errText number errNum
        if "GrowlHelperApp" is in processnames then
            tell application "GrowlHelperApp" -- GROWL FAILURE FOR ERROR
                notify with name ¬
                    "Failure Notification" title ¬
                    "Import Failure" description "Failed to export " & return & myTitle & ¬
                    ""  due to the following error: " & return & errText ¬
                    application name growlName
            end tell
        else if "
GrowlHelperApp" is not in processnames then -- NON-GROWL ERROR MSG. FOR ERROR
            display dialog "
Item Failed to Export: " & errNum & return & errText with icon 0
        end if

    end try
end tell


on appIsRunning(appName)
    tell application "
System Events" to (name of processes) contains appName
end appIsRunning

on replaceString(theString, theOriginalString, theNewString)
    set {od, AppleScript's text item delimiters} to {AppleScript's text item delimiters, theOriginalString}
    set theStringParts to text items of theString
    if (count of theStringParts) is greater than 1 then
        set theString to text item 1 of theStringParts as string
        repeat with eachPart in items 2 thru -1 of theStringParts
            set theString to theString & theNewString & eachPart as string
        end repeat
    end if
    set AppleScript's text item delimiters to od
    return theString
end replaceString

11 Responses to “Export Apple Mail Messages and Notes to Text Files”

  1. Hans Erik April 16, 2011 at 6:24 am #


    I have also added a couple of lines that add the recipients and cc:recipients to the exportfile. Interested?

    In fact, the a kind of header is added, containing 3 parts:
    1. title (subject)/reply/sender/date
    2. recipients list
    3. cc:recipients list

    Sections are separated by a return and a line of dashes.

    It does add some overhead, so the script may take longer to run.

    • Justin Lancy April 16, 2011 at 12:38 pm #

      You bet!

      Use the Code Submission Page to send your additions. Once I receive them, I’ll merge them into the code above.

      • Hans Erik April 17, 2011 at 5:43 am #

        Hi Justin,

        I posted the additional scriptlines.
        One question: do you if it’s possible to export only the text-part of an email message? I did look into the dictionary, but I did not find a hint in the specs.
        I believe any binary component (a graphic, attachment etc.) is in fact part of the message body and exported just along with the rest…


        Hans Erik

        • Justin Lancy April 17, 2011 at 1:11 pm #


          1.) I gave your script its own page so that people could get your code easily!

          2.) Using the terms from Mail’s AppleScript Dictionary, the “content” of a message is the plaintext. The “source” is the raw data, which includes header and HTML info. Attachments are actually separate from these two — referred to as “Mail Attachments”.

  2. John July 10, 2012 at 9:31 pm #

    Justin – your script is a real jem! Just what the doctor ordered!!

    I only wish I came across this a couple of years back, when you first released it.

    I appreciate you putting this out there.


    Warm regards,


    • Justin Lancy July 11, 2012 at 10:11 am #

      Thanks John – much appreciated!

  3. Michael December 3, 2012 at 2:14 am #

    Hey mate,
    AWESOME script. I’ve tried to modify it to have the date printed in the title of the output file, but to no avail. Turns out I suck at scripting…
    Any ideas? I’m looking to have the output be something like “3/12/12 – Note title”

    Cheers mate.

    • Justin Lancy December 4, 2012 at 6:46 pm #

      Glad you like it, Michael!

      I’m a bit busy, so I don’t have time right now to show you how to do this…. but it is totally possible and there are some good resources available to get you going. Might I suggest a quick bit of Google-fu with the words “AppleScript” and “coerce date to text”?

      Dive in and play with some of the examples you find… think you’ll get the hang of it quickly!

      • Michael December 4, 2012 at 9:38 pm #

        I’ve tried adding stuff like this to the script, played around with trying to change the date into text, but just can’t do it.

        set msgDate to date received of thisMessage
                        set {year:y, month:m, day:d, hours:h, minutes:min} to (msgDate)
                        set msgDate to ("" & y & my pad2(m as integer) & my pad2(d))

        I understand you’re busy so it’s all good. Thanks anyway!! 🙂

  4. Ron Leonard January 31, 2014 at 1:59 pm #

    Thank you very much for saving me many hours of labor. For some reason I’m not able to make a donation. When I click on “Donate” nothing happens. What am I doing wrong?

    • Justin Lancy February 1, 2014 at 1:31 am #

      It’s not you… it’s me!

      There was a WordPress plugin that stopped working and which was blocking the Donate button. Should be fixed… but the only way to tell for sure is for all of you to try it! 😉

      (Many thanks, Ron!)