Miniguide: Moving your contacts from Windows to Mac

The best way to migrate your Outlook contacts to the Macintosh Address Book is by way of the Mozilla Thunderbird installation wizard on the Windows side; Thunderbird will then export to LDIF, which Address Book can import. And you’re done. This tip took me a while to find amongst all the options, and with an increasing number of friends and acquaintances switching from Windows to Mac these days, I thought I would share it.

When Apple announced Core 2 Duo laptops, I switched back to the Mac as my main platform for the first time since 1995 (back when MacOS 7.5.2 looked weak compared to NT 3.51, to put it gently). Over the next several months, I migrated pretty much everything, including installing Office 2007 on Parallels. The one challenging piece was how to get my contacts across from Microsoft Outlook to Apple’s Address Book.

I was planning to solve this by using my Treo, but got stuck figuring out how to set up native Mac support for it. That little exercise reminded me why Palm stock isn’t doing so well, but that’s another story.

When Apple announced the iPhone, I knew the Treo was history. So I wasn’t going to invest more time. That left the question, how best to get the contacts across?

It would be simple if Microsoft Outlook supported LDIF. But, surprise, surprise, they don’t. The solution is simple, but took me hours to find, and apparently it still stymies people. So I thought I’d repeat the Best Practice solution here, which I originally found on MacOS X Hints, by Christopher Breen:

Or you can use a go-between application to get the contacts out of Outlook and into an application that offers more flexible export options. That application is the Windows version of the free cross-platform email client, Thunderbird. Within Thunderbird you’ll find the Tools -> Import command. Choose it, select the Address Book option, click Next, and in the Import window select Outlook and click Next to import your Outlook contacts into Thunderbird.

Select all your contacts in Thunderbird and choose Tools -> Export. In the Export Address Book window that appears, choose LDIF from the Save as Type pop-up menu and name and save the file.

Finally, move this file to your Mac, launch Address Book, and choose File -> Import -> LDIF. Navigate to the LDIF file you brought over from Windows and import it. Your Outlook contacts will (finally) appear in Address Book.

I was reminded twice recently that this method remains relatively unknown. First my neighbor had the same problem. Then Walt Mossberg wrote about it in his mailbox, but failed to include the Thunderbird solution.

This method works well. Walt also mentions software from LittleMachines that will move all your Outlook data to MacOS X, but I haven’t tested it (nor do I know anybody who has).

There’s also an open source project Outport, but it doesn’t seem to have been tested with Outlook 2003 or later.

Yes, you could try and use CSV, but that won’t handle character sets properly, nor long fields.

1 Comment


    1. Apple Address Book - How to import contact from a Windows MS Outlook 2007 ? -

    Leave a Reply

    Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

    You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

    Connecting to %s

    %d bloggers like this: