Saving Email as EML vs PDF

My apologies in advance if this is covered elsewhere – if so my search skills must suck :sweat_smile: – but can anyone shed some light and help me understand the difference between saving email as an eml file vs a pdf?

I know both pdf and eml files are searchable as far as the text and content goes, but I’m not sure how one might be more ideal than the other.

Is it just personal preference? Is it the fact that you could open that eml file straight in DT and reply? Is there more search functionality when dealing with eml files? (Like being able to search for all emails from a certain sender, etc.)

Would love to hear any your guys’ expertise and how/why you choose to use one format over the other.


I save email files as .eml
I’m happy that DT handles that file format so well
In addition to the above benefits; I use an applescript to extract the sender, to assign as a tag

I’m not sure what benefit there is in converting to pdf

Yeah I agree, I do like eml and honestly prefer it over pdf. I especially like how eml usually renders prettier than trying to find an app that prints to pdf perfectly. I also dislike that (at least from what I could find,) printing to PDFs in most apps creates a paginated PDF. Mine always look goofy and it makes my OCD unhappy. :nerd_face:

On the other hand, I do find myself reading and processing email a lot on my iPhone and other than AltaMail – no email apps export to eml very well/efficiently. I have all these crazy workarounds that I use to get eml files over to DTTG and I’ve been wondering lately if I’m making it harder for myself than I need to. :man_shrugging:

For accessing .eml files in IOS, I purchased IOS app EML Viewer for $3

Ah yes, I’ve seen that app. Does it allow you to export EML files? From what I could tell, it did not allow actually creating EML files from current emails and sending them to another app like DT.

I save .eml files from my email app
DTTG does a good job rendering the .eml file
Before DTTG, I had no way of viewing my .eml collection

The difference is that you’re probably loosing information when you convert a rendered eml file into PDF. E-mail messages contain much more information than what is usually visible.and that information might be required under certain circumstances.There might be legal reasons to prefer eml for example.

You can convert eml files into PDF multiple times but you (probably) cannot reverse that process, unless the eml is somehow part of the PDF metadata perhaps.

If you setup a mail rule on macOS mail, you might be able to have it automatically import flagged e-mail for example into DT and subsequently have the rule unflag it.

Or as an alternative automatically backup each e-mail into DT and process them there or in DTTG after synchronization. If you use this script on macOS, imported emails are assigned a message URL that works across macOS and iOS as long as you setup that mail account both on macOS mail and the iOS Mail app. That way, when you (re)view e-mail on either DT or DTTG, you can open the corresponding e-mail in macOS or iOS Mail with one click in DT(TG).


Thanks for the helpful information!

What kind of information does an EML file have that a PDF doesn’t? At least from my skimming through the metadata panel in DT, I wasn’t able to noticed anything major.

Do you have any examples of why you prefer to have EML because of its more information / metadata?

Thank you!

A .eml file holds
Metadata - To/From/Subject/Date
File attachments

Devonthink > Data > Reply To

Oh very cool, that makes sense. Is there a way to search by sender or recipient only, then?

fwiw My email import script assigns sender/recipient as tags

From Help > Documentation > Appendix > Search Operators


Thank you!

Any particular reason to use tags for that? I’d have thought of custom meta data, being afraid of too many tags

Custom metadata would be an alternative; I’d have to think about the benefits

Is “too many tags” a concern?

Only mentally, afaik. What I mean is “If I store a lot of e-mails from a lot of different people, I will have a lot of tags. Tags are (for me) very often visible, and I use them to structure my data by subject.” But that is very much a matter of taste.

But it seems that sender/recipient are already stored internally in DT (see Saving Email as EML vs PDF - #12 by BLUEFROG) so neight tags nor meta data might be necessary anyway.

Are you also Indexing files or exporting the tagged files to the Finder?

If yes, to either one of these things, then yes a large amount of tags could eventually lead to a problem with the open and save dialogs acting very slowly.

I used AltaMail as it was the only one I found that supports the share extension in ios. To use Apple Mail on ios, I can drag email to DT, only on the ipad with it side by side. It sounds like drag and drop between apps will be supports on the iphone in ios 15. Our company email has denied access to AltaMail to o365, so I no longer use it since I want a consistent workflow to process email into DT.

Yeah I’ve got the same thing with my company – I just have to resort to doing any moving of work email when I’m at my Mac and can drag and drop that way.

That’d be awesome if we got that in iOS 15 though on iPhone! :crossed_fingers:

Just to reopen this thread…

Isn’t one difference between importing the eml vs saving the pdf that you can only import an eml once to a database? I just searched the forum on this very topic because I tried dragging an email into a separate client Group in the same database as another client Group (e.g. the email was relevant to both clients) but noticed later that it did not import.

I don’t know if there is some way around this, but for this reason I was thinking that I should distinguish between email “import” and email “saving”.

I thought (hoped) the imported email would just replicate in the database, not fail to re-import. If anyone has any best practices on this i’d be interested to know.