This is my first post about switching to Android for my primary phone. Whilst there are things I love about the iPhone, I just HATE the way it works with Gmail and I want the Android phone specifically for it’s gmail integration. The first thing I have to do, however is import my contacts into Gmail… and so the fun begins.
Last Christmas (2008), whilst working on my Mum’s computer I accidentally deleted her whole Outlook contacts list – 400+ contacts. As she was moving to Gmail anyway we decided to rebuild the contacts list from old backups and import them into Gmail. Well long story short, it took me about 3 days and I ended up having to manually edit all of the 400 contacts to get them to appear correctly in Gmail.
When Gmail when out of Beta in 2009 I could not believe it – how could they take it out of Beta when the contacts support was sooo bad! But, here I am and now I have to use Gmail for Contacts. My Mum loves having all her contacts in Gmail now and I can see the benefit.
My contacts were a complete mess… I had:
- 1300+ email addresses in Gmail, of which probably 200 are of any value.
- A very old outlook file with contacts that are probably mostly irrelevant
- 250 or so contacts from my phone that have shortcuts for names (generally only Initials or @twitter names) and the barest of minimum info like Mobile number only.
- My Mum’s family contact list from her Gmail, which I would like to have the contacts from
- My Gmail contacts are in a complete mess – some have names, some done.
- Some people could be in all 3 lists, and some could be in just one… it’s a mess.
- My phone also includes non people data such as bank accounts, ABN numbers etc – which I like to have handy in my phone at all times
A quick Google search on importing Contacts into Gmail says it’s easy – it’s just a few steps – export your CSV file from outlook, and Import into Gmail. But my past experience is that the fields just don’t match up. But Reading posts about things not going well does not fill me with confidence, and I agree with that post. Google needs to provide the definitive CSV list that will import 100% of data 100% of time. Outlook does a perfectly acceptable job of importing contacts, so why cant Google.
I found a great post last year with a guide to the full Google Contacts CSV file and another post that reveals the trick to importing Gmail Addresses by switching to the Old Version of Google Contacts (which is what I had to do last year). Thankfully, however, Gmail has improved a bit and I will NOT recommend using the Old Version trick as there are just too many issues with it not labelling details correctly. Gmail now has a great tool for finding Duplicate contacts, which really does help, but it is still not good enough!
(Note: I manually cleaned up all my contact lists in Excel but I think the Gmail duplicates would have done a great job of cleaning up my duplicates, but I wanted to do a really thorough clean-up).
So eventually I did get my 420 (yes, that’s all after the clean-up) contacts into Gmail. I had huuuge dramas getting them in there, and tried reading every post about the terrible “Oops. An unknown error occured while importing your contacts” message to no avail, as it seems that everyone’s issues were different. But here is a quick guide to getting it right, I hope:
- Use the full CSV File – See my version of the full CSV file, including notes on which fields to use
- Save as the DOS CSV file format
- Delete Suggested Contacts*
- Delete All Contacts*
- Delete any commas in the CSV file*
- Delete any reference to your email address in the CSV file*
- Ensure there are no non-blank cells in the CSV file!
* Whilst I can’t vouch for the accuracy of these fixes, for me it was the non-blank cells issue. Here’s how I fixed it. Select all the cells in your spreadsheet, hit F5 then click on Special…, choose Blanks. This selects all blank cells in your worksheet. Colour those selected cells any colour. Now go through your sheet cell by cell looking for any white cells that have no text in them. Click on that cell and hit the delete key, deleting the contents of that cell. Repeat this process by re-selecting and re-colouring until you are 100% sure there are no non-blank cells.
Oh and I did delete all my contacts – all 1300 of them that were in Gmail originally, but I’m now not convinced that was necessary (and I forgot to take a backup, so it was an enforced cleanup of my contacts in a way).
So if this long winded post helps at least one other person save a few hours of frustration, then it will be worth it. But Google really really really need to get their act together. Surely they could have an error message that tells you which contact it failed on, why it failed, and then import the others. Without this fix Gmail contacts is still completely crap and not worth dealing with unless you really really have to (or really really want an Android).
Update: As @trib just very rightly pointed out, if all I wanted to do was switch my already super organised contacts over from the iPhone (or any other device) into Gmail, then there are a number of Google Sync tools that may help. These did not help me because my contacts were in such a mess.