How to Export and Import E-mail Contacts

Find out how to export and import e-mail contacts in this week's how-to article.
Published: Jan 17, 2006
Author: Michael E, Callahan

This question submitted by Edward Winston, Joan Adams, Ed Minch, Sharon Radcliffe, Tom Marx and numerous others

This has been a frequent question, and I can really identify with it. Over the years I've used just about every e-mail program that's out there ... both shareware and commercial. And each time you always have to think about how you're going to get your e-mail contacts from the program you've been using to the program you want to use. No one wants to sit there and type everything in, and you really shouldn't have to.

Since there are so many e-mail programs available, I'm not going to talk about just one. Rather I'm going to discuss importing and exporting of e-mail contacts in general terms. Once you understand the process, how it works and what the options are, you should be able to use it in any e-mail program and in other programs as well.

Every good e-mail program will have the ability to both import and export lists of contacts. There are different file formats and various programs will support different ones. Some of the most common formats include:

  • CSV - Comma delimited
  • Tab delimited
  • LDIF - Lightweight Directory Interchange Format
  • WAB - Windows Address Book

Windows Address Book is used by programs like Outlook and Outlook Express. LDIF is a format that utilizes plain ASCII text, and tab and comma delimited are plain text with text separated by tabs and commas respectively. Probably the most common import or export option you'll find is the CSV comma-delimited format.

Here is the general procedure for exporting:

  • To export listings in your existing program you would normally go to your address book and highlight all entries. You can do this from the Edit menu or by pressing CTRL + A.
  • Click the File menu and select the Export option.
  • Unless you are exporting for a specific product, like Outlook, I'd suggest exporting to comma-delimited format.

Generally the program will bring up a file dialog asking you to give the exported file a name and a location. Also, with most programs you'll then get a dialog that will ask you to select what fields from your list you want to export.

Fields are things like name, e-mail address, company, phone number and so on. You can select what fields you want to export into your CSV file. Remember, if you don't use a field in your current e-mail program then it generally won't hurt to export it.

Once you've exported the file it's time to import it into your new e-mail program. In that program click File and find the Import option. Click that and find your newly created CSV file. Some products will simply import the file without any questions, and some will ask you what fields to import.

Don't worry if you make a mistake. I've been doing this a long time and now and then I've imported the wrong fields and my address book didn't end up the way I wanted. So, I deleted it from the program and did the export process over again, changing my selections. Even if you have years of experience sometimes it can be a matter of trial and error. Just keep at it and don't give up. You can also pull CSV files into Microsoft Excel and clean them up before saving them again.

I'd like to thank Edward Winston, Joan Adams, Ed Minch, Sharon Radcliffe, Tom Marx and numerous others for asking this question.

If you have a question on how to do something on the computer you can submit it via email by clicking HERE. You will not receive a reply, but all topics will be considered.

About Michael E, Callahan

Michael E. Callahan, known around the world by the trademarked name Dr. File Finder, is regarded as the world's leading expert on shareware. Dr. File Finder works with software programs and developers full-time, and in the average year he evaluates 10,000 programs. Since 1982 he has evaluated over 250,000 software and hardware products. Mr. Callahan began evaluating software online in 1982 and no one has been at it longer. He currently works doing online PR and marketing for software companies, and is the Senior Content Producer for Butterscotch.Com.

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