If you've ever wanted to consolidate all your contacts — from Google Contacts, Facebook, LinkedIn, your desktop address book and your phone — into one comprehensive bucket you can effortlessly sync and export anywhere, then you've come to the right place.
You're connected to people through several different places on the internet these days. While you may be connected with someone on LinkedIn, you may not be friends with them on Facebook. On the other hand, several people may show up in several of your social networks, all with different types of contact information spread out. And what about those people whose contact info you have on your phone but who aren't on any social networking sites?
Sure, all of these networks have different pros and cons to them, but in the end, most of us would prefer to keep all of our contact information in one nice, convenient place. Whether this place is your phone or default your email program, here's a rundown on how to create your master contact list without creating duplicate contacts.
The Glue: Google Contacts
The most important part of the process is to pick an easy contact management solution that will incorporate information easily while still being able to export to a variety of formats (Outlook and others) and sync to your smartphone.
Google Contacts fits the bill nicely in a variety of ways. It supports CSV (comma-separated value) files from other Google accounts and Outlook. (CSV is a common export format, but the fields vary slightly between Google-exported CSVs and Outlook-exported CSVs; Google Contacts can handle either); it can also import the vCard format, which is supported by Apple Address Book.
Google Contacts can also sync over-the-air to most popular smartphones. It's the main contact management system for Android smartphones, and through Google Sync, Google Contacts can also sync to major smartphone operating systems, including BlackBerry, iPhone, Symbian S60 and Windows Mobile. If you're using syncing standard SyncML, it will work for that too. The process is fairly straightforward—it's all about finding a way to export the necessary information, and importing it into Google Contacts.
So assuming you're cool with using Google Contacts to create your contact master list, let's get started consolidating.
Getting Contacts Off Your Phone And Email Client
The process for retrieving contacts from your phone and mail client will depend on the phone and application you are using.
Android users don't have to worry about moving contacts from their phones to Google Contacts as they use Google Contacts already; users of other platforms may have to tinker a bit. It's important to use the same method and formal when importing and exporting to keep things consistent. We've chosen the CSV format common to Microsoft Outlook as our main export format.
The most generic way for Windows users to get everything to this format is to sync your phone's contacts to Outlook. (This process works for iPhone, too.) Once you've got everything in Outlook, export it through this process, according to Microsoft:
- In Outlook, on the File menu, click Import and Export.
- Click Export to a file, and then click Next.
- Click Comma Separated Values (Windows), and then click Next.
- In the folder list, click the Contacts folder, and then click Next.
- Browse to the folder where you want to save the contacts as a .csv file.
- Type a name for the exported file, and then click OK.
- Click Next.
- Click Finish.
Mac users who use Apple Address Book can use the Address Book to CSV Exporter to export to CSV.
Once you've exported your CSV file of contacts from your phone and email client, make sure the file is saved onto your computer. Now head over to Google Contacts. In the upper-right hand corner, you've got three options: Import, Export, and Print. Click on "Import" and select the CSV file you just created. Before you hit "Import", notice that you've got the option to add a new group to these contacts.
Exporting LinkedIn Contacts
Possibly the most important contacts to keep in your master database, and the ones most frequently referred to (especially in a bad economy), will be your work contacts. If you have a LinkedIn account, you'll need to sign in to the web site in order to access your connections. Once you're signed in, you can export your LinkedIn connections through LinkedIn's address book exporter.
Here we are going to choose to export it to a Microsoft Outlook CSV file. Following the previous steps we covered on importing your phone and mail contacts, head over to Google Contacts and repeat the process with your LinkedIn contacts.
It's not necessary, but if you want to keep you contacts tidy you can add a label for these about-to-be imported contacts. When you're ready to go, hit the button. Google will add these contacts and merge any pre-existing contacts that you already have.
Grabbing Facebook Contact Information
Despite some of the privacy issues Facebook has come under fire for recently, it can be a convenient way to find contact information for somebody quickly. Unfortunately, compared to a social networking site like LinkedIn, exporting Facebook contact information isn't so easy.
Grabbing email addresses and phone numbers from Facebook are separate processes that require some creativity and free third-party services.
Find Facebook Phone Numbers Through Firefox
Through a Firefox add-on, there's a fairly simple way to get phone numbers from Facebook that doesn't involve going through each of your contacts individually. In order for this method to work, you'll need Firefox installed. This tool uses the Greasemonkey add-on as well.
After Greasemokey is installed, you'll need script writer Brad Fitzpatrick's Facebook Phonebook Exporter installed. Once you've got everything you need installed, navigate to Facebook's Phonebook page. Once on this page, select Tools > GreaseMonkey > User Script Commands > Export Facebook Phonebook from your Firefox menu. Facebook Phonebook Exporter should now grab every phone number available from your Facebook contacts.
The information is exported to a web app called AddressBooker, which presents you with several options. (You'll have to authorise AddressBooker access to Google Contacts.) We want to merge our Facebook contacts into our Google Contacts, so select that option. From here on out, you can preview the changes and follow through accordingly.
Retrieve Your Facebook Friends' Email Addresses With Yahoo! Address Book
It may seem a little odd that we'll need Yahoo for our next step, but if you want more than just phone numbers from Facebook, there's more work to be done. This step requires Yahoo! Address Book , which imports Facebook email addresses. (Make sure your Yahoo address book is in tip-top shape or empty when you begin if you already have a Yahoo email address).
Through the Facebook importer tool, Yahoo will extract all emails related to your friends on Facebook. Heading to the export page, click the "Export Now" button next to Microsoft Outlook. All the email addresses should download as a CSV file.
Once you've got that done, the rest is easy as importing your LinkedIn contacts. The next step you've already done before: Open Google Contacts, click Import, and select upload the CSV file you just created.
The Finishing Touches
When everything is finally in one spot, it is time to clean up Google Contacts. Maybe you only added 40 people to your contact database — or maybe you added 400.
The foremost concern is removing duplicate contacts. From the main page of Google Contacts, Google provides a way to find similarly-named contacts with differing information. Google scans the information, processes it back to you, and asks for your approval to merge contacts. If you've just added a ton of contacts, this feature will save you a lot of time.
To go more in-depth about fixing your Google Contacts beyond removing duplicates, check out our previous guide to cleaning and fixing up Google Contacts.
Export To Another Application
To export your ultimate list of contacts to your default mail client, head to the main page of Google Contacts. On the upper-right hand corner where we've become familiar with importing contacts, you've also got the option to export all the information.
Google will export to a variety of formats, including CSV and vCard. The CSV formats export contacts to another Google account or Microsoft Outlook. If Apple Address Book is your preferred program, use the vCard format. Follow your program's instructions for importing, and you're good to go with your preferred desktop application.
Sync Your Contacts to Your Device
The best part is syncing this list to your smartphone. If you're running an Android phone, it will require no work on your part. For other phones, Google Sync, which we mentioned before, supports syncing to all major smartphone operating systems. Follow the instructions on the site for each platform, and your master list of contacts should be available on your phone in no time at all.
Note: In this tutorial, we did not cover how to export and sync Facebook profile pictures. Facebook does offer some mobile Facebook apps that allow for photo synchronisation. The Facebook iPhone app, for example, supports this feature. After setting up Google Contacts on your phone, enable syncing on the mobile app and your Facebook contacts' profile pictures will also sync to your master list of contacts.
It's An Imperfect Solution
There are certainly other avenues for consolidating all your contacts, but this was the easiest solution that we found. While it's not completely automated (and while managing your contacts may never be), it's not as difficult as one might think. This solution won't keep your Facebook and LinkedIn contacts effortlessly synced as contacts on your social networks change, but still provides a decent solution for merging all of your contacts into one master list.
What are your methods for managing all of your contacts and keeping everything accessible in one bucket? Let us know in the comments.