Export/print many emails to pdf, auto filenames.
March 22, 2011 1:22 PM   Subscribe

How can I easily export/print many emails to pdf?

I have a metric tonne of email. I am slowly transitioning to a less-paper (not paperless) office. Previously I had been printing emails to dead trees and posting them in client files, since many eyes see the physical files so it made sense for continuity.

Anyways, I have stopped that practice and now save my emails by printing to PDF (I use gmail and thunderbird). The default file name for every print to PDF program I have tried is usually just the email subject (or less helpfully, the browser window title, if using gmail).

I find it most helpful to have more information in the file name. Its a bit of a pain to have to manually write in most of the information, but more importantly for some files I want to go back and archive all the previous emails to PDF.

There must be a simpler way! I just want the ability to print or export to PDF in an automatic format something like " .pdf".

Any ideas?
posted by neksys to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Are you on Mac or Windows? If you're on a Mac, something could be cooked up with AppleScript or Automator, probably.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:29 PM on March 22, 2011

Response by poster: I am on Windows.

I am tech-comfortable and have even tried brewing up a greasemonkey script to pull that information from the Gmail print screen and replace the firefox title screen, but its proving to be difficult.

I was kind of hoping there was an already extant solution to a problem that I know other people have!
posted by neksys at 2:28 PM on March 22, 2011

posted by JesseBikman at 2:30 PM on March 22, 2011

Does CutePDF do what you are looking for? I use it frequently and can vouch for its usefulness but I'm not sure what you want to accomplish. I have some thoughts but before writing them down I want to make sure I understand the problem and also want to make sure it's not already solved.
posted by metadave at 2:59 PM on March 22, 2011

I think you should try the Birdie EML to PDF converter. Make sure to click on "External Mirror 1", don't be fooled by the advertisements.

Save your emails out of Thunderbird (CTRL+A to select all, right click and SAVE AS into a folder), then use this program to batch convert the folder. The free trial only converts one at a time, but looks like what you want.

As for renaming, you're probably stuck with the subject with this solution or manually changing them. The date options in this software seem to take the date stamp of the file (which would be today, the day you saved them).

I downloaded it an tried the trial. Seems like a pretty straight forward piece of software.
posted by rwheindl at 3:11 PM on March 22, 2011

Correction, it does use the date of the email message, not the date of the file.
posted by rwheindl at 3:14 PM on March 22, 2011

Here's a better link to the Birdie software site.
posted by rwheindl at 3:19 PM on March 22, 2011

Response by poster: I am presently using CutePDF. I have also tried AdobePDF, NovaPDF, doPDF and just about any other *PDF printing software out there. They all offer super rudimentary print-to-pdf capability, which is great.

What is not great is having to manually input info into the file name.

Maybe I'm the only person on the planet who is looking for something like this, but it seems so inefficient to enter that information into a dialog window when the email has the info right there!

My fantasy program would be able to do two things:

1) Extract the date, to, from and subject fields and place them into the filename.
2) Do batch processing.

If it can do batch processing but isn't smart with the filenames, then I have to open each one to find out what it is and save it with its new, relevant and unique filename, so I might as well be going through one by one anyways. "Your File (14).pdf" is not helpful.

Anyways, I'll check out the suggestions, thank you very much so far!
posted by neksys at 4:31 PM on March 22, 2011

PDFBox lets you extract the text from a PDF. Assuming that the relevant information is available in the PDF file in some predictable [and unambiguous] fashion, I can picture a batch file that uses PDFBox to slurp out the desired information and rename each file.

Maybe EMLtoPDF creates them in the first place, then some PDFBox-based scripting does the renaming in a batch.
posted by chazlarson at 8:00 AM on March 23, 2011

Is it possible to separate the file naming from the pdf creation?

I'm imagining a system where you forward any emails you want to archive to a dedicated account. That account saves each message it receives as plain text using the From, Subject and Date lines as you wish. (something Unixy would seem appropriate, it would be a fairly trivial script in Perl.) So each email results in a 4/2/10_Neksys_ClientBob_ProjectX.txt file.

Then, it should be fairly simple to convert *.txt to *.pdf, possibly as an occasional batch job.

Sorry for not being more specific, I'm just trying to think of the best way to approach this.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 8:52 AM on March 23, 2011

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