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Microsoft to open up Outlook data format

The software maker on Monday says it's in the early stages of documenting its .pst file format.

Microsoft said on Monday that it will open up the data format behind its Outlook program.

In a blog posting, Microsoft group manager Paul Lorimer said the company is working to publish the specifications behind Outlook's .pst files.

"Data portability has become an increasing need for our customers and partners as more information is stored and shared in digital formats," Lorimer wrote. "One scenario that has come up recently is how to further improve platform-independent access to e-mail, calendar, contacts, and other data generated by Microsoft Outlook."

The move, he said, 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."

Lorimer said the documentation effort is still in its early stages. "We are engaging directly with industry experts and interested customers to gather feedback on the quality of the technical documentation to ensure that it is clear and useful."

Once released, Lorimer said Microsoft will offer it "under our Open Specification Promise, which will allow anyone to implement the .pst file format on any platform and in any tool, without concerns about patents, and without the need to contact Microsoft in any way."