How to export Outlook contacts to vCards (VCF), CSV and Excel?

Backing up your Outlook contacts offline

An ideal way to manage your Outlook contacts is to synchronize between your cloud address book such as CardDAV and your Outlook with some sync Outlook add-in like EVO Collaborator for Outlook. However, when such synchronization is not available, you can still manually export your Outlook contacts to your local storage by some mean. The purpose of exporting Outlook contacts can be either for backup or for importing contacts into other devices, database and etc. Besides EVO’s Power Toys for Outlook (Click to download for trial),

Outlook generally provides 3 formats that contacts can be exported into with some downfall which we will talk about later in this article. Let’s first brief what these 3 formats are:

vCard:

  • Export:
    • We also refer this vCard thing to VCF file format. Theoretically and practically, one VCF file is able to hold multiple contacts. However, a downfall that Outlook has is you can only export one contact per VCF file at a time. Up to some point, it is not practical when trying to import a large number of contacts at once. If you try to select all your contacts and save them, you would end up with one single TXT file instead. This TXT file cannot be used for import and it is probably good for printout.
    • You can follow the steps below to save your contact as VCF file: (We use Outlook 2016 in tutorials throughout this article)
      1. Click on People at lower-left.
      2. Click on selected contact in the selected contact folder.
      3. Click on File at top-left.
      4. Select Save As.
      5. Browse to location where you will be saving the vCard file and click on Save button.
    • If you have e-mail access, then there is another way to compliment the above one-by-one vCard saving solution:
      1. Click on People at lower-left.
      2. Select the contact folder you want to export under Navigation Pane of My Contacts.
      3. Use hotkey of CTRL + A to select all contacts and CTRL + C to copy all of them.
      4. Click on Mail at lower-left.
      5. Click on New Email at top-left.
      6. Fill in e-mail address you want to send your contact backup to.
      7. Click on body section of the newly created e-mail.
      8. Use hotkey of CTRL + P to paste all the contacts you just copied to clipboard.
      9. Click on Send button to send contacts to your e-mail address.
  • Import:
    • There are two methods to import your vCard files back to Outlook. One is through Outlook’s Import wizard:
      1. Click on FILE at top-left.
      2. Click on Open & Export.
      3. Select Import/Export.
      4. Select Import a VCARD file (.vcf) and hit Next >.
      5. Browse to the folder where you vCard file is located.
      6. Select the file and click on Open.
    • The above method will import vCard file to your Outlook default folder. Therefore, it may not fit your need if you want the contact entry to be imported at your specified location other than Outlook default folder. Yet, it is not efficient because it only imports one contact entry at a time.
    • Another method is is through old-school Copy & Paste:
      1. Open Windows Explorer.
      2. Browse to the folder where your vCard files are located.
      3. Use CTRL + A to select all vCard files if only vCard files exist in the folder. Or, Use CTRL + Mouse Click to select vCard files.
      4. Use CTRL + C to copy all selected vCard files onto clipboard.
      5. Go back to Outlook and click on People at lower-left.
      6. Select the contact folder where you want to import contact entries under Navigation Pane of My Contacts.
      7. Use CTRL + V to paste all vCard files from clipboard.
      8. At this point, you will see many contact entries opened up all in a sudden. Then, what you need to do is to click on Save & Close button at top-left of each contact entry.

CSV:

  • Export:
    • CSV (Common Separated Values) file is commonly used to store data for import and export in various software applications. Outlook uses CSV to store its contact information since common (,) can be conveniently used to separate all fields. However, exporting Outlook contacts into a CSV file has a potential character encoding issue that characters other than ASCII and the language version your Outlook was installed contained in the contacts will be corrupted. For example, if you install the Korean version of Outlook and your contacts contain any Japanese hiragana or katakana,which are not in UTF-8 or Unicode, then these Japanese characters will appear as junky characters or question marks in the exported vCard files even though they look OK in Outlook before exporting.
    • One good thing about using CSV is that you export the whole contact folder or sub-folder as a whole. The following steps will walk you through on how to do it:
      1. Click on File at top-left.
      2. Click on Open & Export.
      3. Select Import/Export.
      4. Select Export to a file and click on Next >.
      5. Keep Common Separated Values selected and click on Next >.
      6. Select contact folder you want to export and click on Next >.
      7. Click on Browse button to browse a location for saving file.
      8. Enter file name for it and click on OK.
  • Import:
    • Outlook provides an import wizard to facilitate bringing contact entries stored in CSV files:
      1. Click on FILE at top-left.
      2. Click on Open & Export.
      3. Select Import/Export.
      4. Select Import from another program or file.
      5. Keep Common Separated Values selected and click on Next >.
      6. Click on Browse to the folder location where you keep the CSV file.
      7. Click on one of radials under Options.
      8. Select a contact folder as your destination in the folder tree and hit Next >.
      9. Make sure item in action list is checked and click on Finish.
    • Importing CSV file via Outlook’s import wizard also shares the same character encoding issue that we mentioned earlier. The following is an example:

Excel Spreadsheet:

  • Export:
    • Outlook contacts are usually displayed in People, Business Card or Card view. If we like to simply copy & paste Outlook contacts to Excel spreadsheet, then we need to change view to List view. 
    • By looking at the List view, some of the fields we use within contact’s profile may not be seen. Therefore, we need to make them visible before exporting. How? We add items via Add Columns.
    • Copy & pasted contact entries with foreign language characters are looking OK within Excel because Excel supports multi-languages.
    • The following steps will export Outlook contacts via Copy & Paste method:
      1. Click on People at lower-left.
      2. Select the contact folder you want to export under Navigation Pane of My Contacts.
      3. Click on VIEW ribbon at top.
      4. Select Change View to the left.
      5. Click on List and contacts will appear in a listing fashion.
      6. If additional fields need to be included, click on Add Columns. Select field such as Country/Region to the left and click on Add -> button. Then, Country/Region will appear in the list to the right. If you need to re-arrange order of fields, then select fields and click on Move Up or Move Down to change position. When you finish, click OK to leave the Window.
      7. Use hot key of CTRL + A to select all contact entries and use CTRL + C to copy them onto clipboard.
      8. Switch to Excel where you open a new workbook. Use CTRL + V to paste all copied entries.
  • Import:
    • How do we import the saved Excel file back to Outlook since XLSX file extension is not an option in import source list? This is easy! What we do is save the workbook into a CSV file and follow the CSV import steps above. To save workbook files as CSV files, follow the steps below:
      1. In Excel application, click on FILE at top-left.
      2. Select Save As to the left.
      3. Click on Browse icon to browse the folder location where you want to save the CSV file.
      4. Pick a name for the CSV file.
      5. Click on Save as type pull-down list and select CSV (MS-DOS) or CSV (Comma Delimited).
    • Being influenced by character encoding issue on CSV files, the imported entries also displays junky characters or question marks on characters other than ASCII and the language version your Outlook was installed.