How to Export Contacts from Mac OS X
Contact information can be some of the most useful data to export and share with others, and a comprehensive address book can be amongst some of the most important data a user gathers over time. The Mac makes exporting contact information from Mac OS X Contacts app very easy, so whether you want to share and export the entire address book or just a single contact card, that can be done quickly.
Exporting contact information from the Mac Contacts app can also function as a way to back up saved contact information into a single vCard file or .abbu file, which can then be later imported into a different address book application, another Macs Contacts app, or just stored elsewhere as a backup. With the latter situation, keep in mind that if you use iCloud in Mac OS X and iOS, the Contacts will backup to iCloud by default, which means that using the export function as a backup would either be a supplemental backup, or an alternative means of backing up if that feature was disabled for some reason.
How to Export All Contacts from Mac OS X Contacts App
This will export the entire book of contacts from the Mac OS X Contacts app into a file:
- Open the “Contacts” app in Mac OS, found within the /Applications/ folder, Launchpad, or Spotlight
- Click on “All Contacts” from the left side menu, then hit Command+A to Select All (or go to the Edit menu and choose “Select All”)
- From the “File” menu of Contacts, go down to the “Export…” menu and choose one of the following options:
- Export vCard – This will generate a VCF (vCard) file with all contact information stored within the app, a vCard file is a universal standard and would be the most compatible with many platforms, including other Mac OS X apps, iOS, Windows, Android, Blackberry, etc – recommended for maximum compatibility of stored contact information, especially for backups
- Contacts Archive – This will generate an .abbu file with all contact information stored within, abbu is a proprietary format for Contacts app and the Address Book app from older versions of Mac OS X, making this format appropriate for Mac users – less recommended due to address information being primarily compatible with Mac specific applications
This will generate an exported contacts file with the following icon:
Entire exported contacts lists are generally quite small and efficient, for example, a book of 500 contacts or so will be a couple hundred kilobytes, making it easy to transfer as needed.
How to Export a Single Contact from Mac
If you want to export a single contact from the Mac Contacts app in Mac OS X, you can do that too:
- From Contacts app, search for the individual person or contact you wish to save
- With that contact selected, go to the “File” menu and go to the “Export” menu, selecting ‘Export vCard’ (recommended) or ‘Contacts Archive’ (less recommended)
- Save the single contact as any other file
A single exported contact will have the same icon as an entire address book of contacts, but the file size will be smaller.
How to Export Multiple Contacts from Mac Into a Single VCard
Another option is to export multiple contacts but not the full contact list. To do this, you’ll use the selection keys as usual in Mac OS X:
- From the Contacts app, hold down the SHIFT key to select groups of multiple contacts that are continuous
- Hold the COMMAND key and click on multiple contacts to select multiple contacts that are not continuous
- Right-click and choose “Export as vCard” or go to the File > Export menu as before
You can use the multiple selection key trick to export a group of contacts, a few contacts, or a bunch of contacts, there is no limit on the selection count. You can also choose to “Select All” and then use these selection keys to unselect contacts to exclude from an exported contact list.
Working with the Exported vCard Contacts File
Whether you exported all contacts or a single contact, now that the file is saved (let’s assume it’s a .vcf vCard file since it’s the recommended format to export), you can email it to someone directly, email it to yourself in Gmail, Yahoo, or Outlook at a secondary backup, upload it to DropBox, save it to an external drive, or do whatever else necessary.
The great thing about a vCard file is that it’s nearly universally compatible, you can easily import the file into any other Mac Contacts app simply by double-clicking it, and if you email that vcf file to any other iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, to import the contacts to that device too, without ever having to use iTunes or the same iCloud for that device. That situation works basically the same for emailing the vcf to a Windows or Android phone too, which will also recognize the contact data and offer an option to import it to those devices.
Direct Contacts app exporting is limited to the Mac, but as mentioned earlier, if you use iCloud with Mac OS X and iOS, then the same contact information will be stored within iCloud as well. This makes the contact information sync automatically to any other iOS device using the same Apple ID, but another benefit to that is you can actually export the same Contacts information directly from iCloud using any web browser, which can be handy if you’re not around your Mac or iPhone with the information you need. Using iCloud that way also offers one of the easier ways to export a vcf file of contacts backed up from an iPhone, and you can also import a vcf file from the iCloud website as well, which can be particularly beneficial if you’re trying to recover a deleted contact that you now need.
The approach outlined above obviously covers modern versions of Mac OS X with the “Contacts” app, including Mojave, Catalina, Big Sur, El Capitan, Yosemite, Mavericks, and Mountain Lion, but if your version of Mac OS X is older, you’ll find a similar method from Address Book app, except that the prior versions of Mac OS X will be limited to saving an .abbu file without offering the preferred .vcf vCard format. That basically means you’d either need to convert the abbu file to a csv or vcf to import it into alternate OS’s, otherwise you could import that saved abbu file into a modern version of Mac Contacts app, then re-export it again with the above directions to a vCard file.