Importing into Google Contacts from a CSV

I’ve spent far too much time trying to import my phonebook into Google Contacts from a .csv file, for my new G1.  Google have done an uncharacteristically poor job of their import function (at least as far as plain CSV files go, I haven’t tried the other options).  I eventually worked out the format by creating a dummy contact and exporting it to CSV.  I’m posting it here because I couldn’t find a decent description from searching the web.

Here are the columns from my exported contact:

  • Name
  • E-mail
  • Notes
  • Section 1 – Description
  • Section 1 – Email
  • Section 1 – IM
  • Section 1 – Phone
  • Section 1 – Mobile
  • Section 1 – Pager
  • Section 1 – Fax
  • Section 1 – Company
  • Section 1 – Title
  • Section 1 – Other
  • Section 1 – Address

And similar fields for Section 2.  The thing I didn’t immediately realise is that each section corresponds to different types of contacts.  Section 1 is Work, Section 2 is Home/Personal.  I presume section 3 would be Other but I didn’t have any data in there.  More importantly, the name of the section has to be in the description field, so Section 1 – Description has to contain the string “Work”, Section 2 – Description “Personal” (not “Home”!), etc.  Once you know that it’s all quite easy, but it’s not obvious at all.

So an example line would be:

<name>,<primary email>,,Work,,,<work #>,,,,,,,,Personal,,,<home #>,<mobile #>,,,,,,

Surely Google can get an intern or someone to improve the usability of this, or at least improve the documentation!


17 comments so far

  1. Kevin Flavin on

    Finally! I can only scratch my head at how easily their import function is messed up with this. I’ve spent almost an hour on 12 contacts. I’m tired of putting them in by hand, I was a template to fit into. Very frustrating they can’t figure this out. Thank you for putting this together, I’m going to give it a try, though I don’t think it’ll work. Even though I use the term “Name” they are recognizing it…o.O

  2. kevin flude on

    I’m having triffic trouble too – seems no logic to what it accepts and what it doesnt

    start with

    name, email


    name, email, phone, address

    no longer gets the name!

    its madness.

    But also I didn’t really find your explanation helped, not enough detail

    need a header line, and a full detail line or two

    you don’t really explain what the headers should be.

  3. Ben on

    I found this while searching on the web because I have a similar problem with trying to import from a .csv file. I also exported a test file to see what Google’s friendly format is. It does look confusing. I have figured it out and your post here has helped a bit; thanks.

    Supposedly, you can create a custom table in excel and save it as csv. Google says that they accept many field types, but even basic things such as “home email” and “work phone” don’t work. It dumps unknown data in the Notes section. Frustrating. X(

    The thing I’m still trying to figure out is how to make custom fields…

    Well thanks, hope your G1 is working for you! They sound really cool.

  4. Christian on

    Thanks for the post – would you have an example of your csv that you can share as a Google Doc? I’m not sure I totally understand how the sections work in your example.

  5. SpiderMom on

    You rock! Thank you so much for this tip. I have hundreds of contacts to import, and 2 hours into trying & failing, I saw your e-mail. I exported an existing contact, then used the resultant table to paste my excel data in the columns into the “correct” column labels (i.e., their own). Save as .csv & voila!

  6. DLBurkhart on

    The work phone works when the column header is “Business Phone”. I cannot get the e-mail address to work at all.

  7. John M on

    This is a little more specific than just a csv file, but maybe it will help others. I was struggling with this trying to copy contacts from Outlook to Google Contacts. Outlook only allows export in csv format and that loses a lot of details. Saving each contact as a vCard is not realistic. Also, Google only imports one vCard at a time. So….

    1. Select all contacts in Outlook (shift-click first and last).
    2. Outlook Menu choose Actions > Forward as vCard
    3. From the email (either sent or saved as draft) save all the vcards to a directory.
    4. use command prompt and the old DOS copy command to marge all vCards into one:
    copy /B *.vcf all_in_one.vcf
    5. Import this single vCard (with all contacts within it) into Google contacts.

    • Andrea Maruccia on

      wonderfull … 🙂

    • Luis Pisco on

      Good idea. It works well. Thank you.

  8. David S on

    Thanks Graham!
    Your post helped me out where Google failed to do so. Google asked for feedback on their supportsite ( so I suggested they had a look at your post. 🙂

    /regards David S, Sweden

  9. Joe on

    Google Contacts import is not easy. I happened to find a small tool called Contacts Importer for Google (, it can do some direct importing job other than the CSV.

  10. Morten Holm on

    Used your tip to fix my wifes contacts – again.. thank you very much 🙂

  11. […] is also a good description of what Google Contacts expects and how the fields are named. Google Contacts Help does not explain the fields at […]

  12. yasar arfan on

    Ive got a solution to this problem after searching for a while. First you go into google contacts. Put in an example contact for all the fields. Export it, and then you have your template. All you do know is use that one exported spreadsheet in future as a templete for importing contacts into google

  13. Andrew on

    Simply create a google contact with all required fields, export it and open with notepad. Then, just fill with your data.

  14. melmo on

    Best! Saved me so much time, thanks! Can’t believe how poor the Google documentation is for this.

  15. Dr O P Gupta on

    Simplest solution is to add column (name = Group Membership
    and value = My Contacts) in your CSV file and then import it into gmail

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