A lesser-known but powerful feature in the Sherpa Software toolbox is a stand-alone utility called the Pre-Search Tool. Also known as Covert Messages, this program is bundled with Mail Attender and Discovery Attender for processing email outside of the standard product functionality. In short, this versatile workhorse offers the capability to deduplicate, export, convert and report on data stores.

Scenarios where the Pre-Search Tool may be useful include:

  • Deduplicating and/or consolidating PST files as a stand-alone process
  • Gathering statistics on the contents of PSTs or on0pres mailboxes
  • Exporting Microsoft Exchange or Microsoft 365 mailboxes to PST format as a stand-alone process that overcomes the limitations of other export tools
  • Converting messages from a Lotus Notes (NSF) environment to Microsoft Outlook (PST).
  • Accessing messages in orphan OST files if the underlying Exchange environment has been changed or removed
  • Converting Microsoft standard PST and MSG file messages to industry-standard MIME (EML) file messages for processing in other applications
  • Converting from Lotus Notes while retaining archival information on individual desktops (many index and searching agents do not recognize NSF files, but will process PSTs)

The Pre-Search Tool is invoked from the Tools menu in Discovery Attender:

In Mail Attender, the Pre-Search is identified as the CM Utility with a link residing on the topmost Mail Attender navigation node:

All functions in the Pre-Search Tool are accessed using a wizard interface and fall into four main categories: Deduplication, Export, Convert and Snapshot.

Deduplicate is similar to the equivalent functionality found within Discovery Attender, but the tool processes much faster and can be used for larger data sets than Discovery Attender can handle. However, the Pre-Search Tool deduplication feature can only be used for stand-alone PST files only. The user can choose message attributes for comparison in order to define what constitutes a duplicate. There is no need to pre-ingest the data by running a search beforehand. Rather, the Pre-Search Tool automatically generates a new PST file that excludes the duplicate messages. Multiple PSTs can be deduplicated simultaneously, and a date range or message type filter can also be applied.

Export options allow a user with the proper permissions to export and filter the contents of an email data store to a user-defined destination in native format. The export can consist of all messages in the source, or can be refined by date range and/or message type. The source file remains intact upon the export completion. There are also options to combine data stores (PST to PST) or split large PST stores into a new set of smaller files.

Export message options

Convert offers functionality to change the format of different types of files. Once converted, the original source file is transformed to the new file in a new format.

Convert message options

Snapshot allows you to gather summary information for PSTs, Exchange mailboxes and Exchange archives. Typical information gathered includes message count, folder count, number and size of attachments, as well as address or date details.

Sample snapshot report, in this case showing unique attachment types

Although standard product functionality covers many of the options found within the Pre-Search Tool, applications such as Discovery Attender tend to process more slowly due to more extensive logging and database storage of metadata. For example, Discovery Attender runs a multi-step process, whereas the Pre-Search Tool is faster and more efficient, albeit with less detailed logging. In addition, the standard product functionality may be limited based on program constraints while the Pre-Search Tool is only limited by the resources on the machine where it is running.

For users with more complex conversion needs, there is an Advanced Function that allows for a greater degree of customization.

For additional information regarding the Pre-Search Tool, or if you have questions regarding Discovery Attender or any of our other products, please contact Sherpa Software Technical Support at tech-support@sherpasoftware.com or call 800-255-5155. You can also create a support ticket via our website www.sherpasoftware.com.

Harvey Coblin