How to Open MSG File on Mac

If you have somehow gotten ahold of a .msg file on your Mac, you have quickly found that your computer has no way of opening it. That’s because the file was not created on a Mac system but rather on a Windows PC by Microsoft Outlook.

Also known as a Microsoft Outlook Item, a .msg file can normally only be created and opened from MS Outlook on a Windows Machine. Even MS Outlook for Mac will still not be able to open it. If you need to see what’s in it, no worries, there are some ways to do so.

My name is Eric and I have been a software engineer for over 20 years. I’ve had to work with many different file types and it can sometimes be frustrating when you have a file type you are unable to open on your system. I have often learned ways around this and I can show you here.

If you would like to learn a little about MSG files and find out some ways that you can open them, stick around and we can discuss this further.

What is an MSG file?

MSG files are a very specific file type that is created and can be read by Microsoft Outlook. Their full name is Microsoft Outlook Item. These files can contain an email, an Outlook calendar appointment, a contact, a task, or other Outlook items that can be saved in a file.

Microsoft Outlook is used mostly on Windows systems but there are Outlook applications that work on Android phones, Macs, and even iPhones. With Outlook available in these different environments, you may wonder why not just download the one for Mac and open it.

The problem is that the MSG file type can only be created and opened by the Windows version of Outlook. The other versions of Outlook use a different file format and are not compatible with .msg files. So we need to find another way to solve this problem.

8 Ways to Open an MSG File

If you have come across an MSG file and for some reason need to open it, there are a number of ways that you can do this. Some of them may depend on why you need to open it. Below are the methods that I would suggest, starting with the simplest.

1. Open It as a Text File

Although an MSG is not a plain text file, it is possible to open it with a simple text editor on your Mac. When you do this you may see many characters that don’t seem to make sense due to the encoding of the .msg file but if you search through it, you will find the body of text.

This can work well if all you are trying to do is see what the email said or who it was from and simple things like that. If you are looking to get an attachment from it, see information from a calendar appointment, or view other item types, it may be difficult to do using this method.

Just follow the steps below to open it as a plain text file. You can always give it a try and see what you find within the MSG file. You may get what you need from this very simple process.

Step 1: Locate your .msg file in Finder

Step 2: Right-click on the .msg file to bring up the context menu.

Step 3: Select Open With->TextEdit.app. If you don’t see TextEdit.app available, select Open With->Other… and then find the text editor in the list.

This will open your MSG file in Mac’s TextEdit application. Once it is opened you can scroll through the contents. You may see a lot of odd-looking characters. You can ignore those and keep scrolling until you see readable text that makes sense. 

You may also see the email addresses, so you may be able to figure out who sent the email and who it was sent to. If you are only looking for the text of the email, the sender, or recipients then you may have what you are looking for and no need to take any further action.

2. Open It as an EML File

Another simple way to try opening the file is to rename the file to have a .eml extension. This is the extension used by your Mac’s mail application. Although this does not always work, it is very easy to do and worth trying. 

Once it is renamed you can simply double click on the file and your mail app will try to open it up. Once it is opened you may see the information you are looking for. To try this method just follow the simple steps below.

Step 1: Locate the file in Finder.

Step 2: Right-click on the file to bring up the context menu.

Step 3: Click Rename on the menu.

Step 4: Type .eml at the end of the file name so that you now have a file such as test2.msg.eml.

Step 5: You will be warned about changing the extension name of a file, click the button that allows you to go ahead and change it.

Step 6: Double-click the new file name (test2.msg.eml) and see what happens.

It should open up in the mail application and you can then take a look at it and see what information it provides you. Often you will see the sender’s and receiver’s email addresses. You may also see the text of the email. 

It sometimes puts it as an attachment which you can open by double-clicking on the attachment. Once the attachment opens you will then see the text of the email.

3. Send it to an Outlook.com Account

This is another fairly simple solution. If you have an Outlook.com account you can simply email the .msg file to that email address as an attachment. Just create a new email message to send to the Outlook account, drag the .msg file to the message and then send it.

Go to the Outlook account on Outlook.com. When you receive the email, just double-click on the attachment and Outlook should open it up. If you don’t have an Outlook.com account, you can create one for free. Just go to Outlook.com and sign up.

4. Find a Windows Computer

An obvious solution may be to just use a Windows computer with Outlook installed on it to open the file. Once you open it on the Windows computer you can copy the text, paste it into a new file and send it to your Mac computer or save it on Google Drive where you can access it.

If you don’t have a Windows computer with Outlook or access to one, you could find a friend or colleague that has one. Send the file to them and have them open it for you. Once they open it they can get the information you need from it and send it to you.

5. Converter Application

There are applications available that can read .msg files and display them for you. Some will even display them in a format that looks very similar to Outlook. MSG Viewer, Mail Raider, and MsgViewer are just a few. 

Some have free versions and some cost money or at least cost money to upgrade. Check the app store for more information on what apps are available to do this.

6. Online Converter

Online converters are also available. To use these you can go to the website, upload your file and they will provide you a download or display the contents of the file. The problem with these is that they may not be secure so I do not recommend them.

They will have full access to your MSG file and if it contains confidential or private information, they will be able to see it. I’m not going to list any of these here since I think they are a bad idea, but if you wish to explore them, you can easily find them with a simple Google search.

7. Use a Virtual Machine

Running a Windows VM or Virtual Machine on your Mac desktop can be a solution for many issues that come up when needing to access or read something that someone has created in Windows.

It’s like running a whole separate computer in a window on your Mac’s desktop. You can run just about any kind of operating system including Windows. Once you have a version of Windows on your desktop you can run Outlook.

There are a few different options for running VMs on a Mac. VMWare, Parallels, and Virtual box are some that you might want to take a look at.

8. Boot Camp

Using Boot Camp to install and run windows on your Mac computer is one more option. This allows you to select either Windows or your Mac OS at boot time. By booting into the Windows environment you can then run Outlook for Windows.

This option as well as the previous one may seem a little overboard just to open an MSG file but if it is something you find yourself doing regularly and you don’t currently have a PC available, it is something that you might want to strongly consider.

Final Words

As you can see from the information I have provided above, there are many options that you can explore if you need to open an MSG file. If this is a one-time thing or a very rare occurrence you might want to stick with the first few options since they are the simplest.

What did you find when you tried to open your .msg with a text editor? Let me know, I would love to hear if this method worked for you.

Leave a Comment