Cleaning Up Your Contacts

It can be useful to remove unneeded contacts from your database every once in a while. Before deleting, you can export individual contacts as small VCF files. These can then be stored and accessed easily later if you need them. You also have a variety of other methods for exporting and archiving your contacts.

Video Transcript
Hi, this is Gary with On today's episode let's look at how you can clean up your Contacts database by exporting contacts that you may no longer need.

In your Contacts app you have all of your contacts. Every once in a while you may want to go through them and clean them out. After all with iCloud now these are synced across all of our different devices which means a long list can be cumbersome if you are searching for somebody.

So, to clean them out all you need to do, of course, is to select one and then hit Delete and it will delete that contact. But if you are like me sometimes you want to kind of create an archive of old contacts. Contacts that you don't think you will ever need again but it is worth taking just a little bit of space on your Mac's hard drive to have a copy just in case.

In order to create a copy of something like that it is very easy. All you need to do is to select it and drag to a Finder window or desktop and it creates a simple file for that contact.

So now that I have exported this I can, with it still selected here in Contacts, delete it and it is gone from my Contacts database. But I still have this file here. So what happens with this file.

I can put it in a folder somewhere called Old Contacts and chances are I might never need them again. But if I do how can I get access to them.

Well, if you have a VCF file, that is what these are called, that is just a single contact. You can actually select it using Spotlight just hitting the spacebar here. You can actually see the information inside that contact. So I don't need to actually import back into my Contacts app. I don't need to do anything with it or open it with anything special. I can view the information very easily using Spotlight.

Now if I do want to bring this back into Contacts I can very easily just drag and drop it into the list here. I can drag and drop it into specific set here. Yes I'm going to add that card. Now it is added back and I can get rid of this like that.

Say I want to do this for several. It would be great if I could select several different names there and drag and drop and it will create three different VCF files. But it doesn't. It creates a combined VCF file and if I try to do that in Spotlight unfortunately I don't get the contact information.

Now since this is mostly plain text I can open it by dragging and dropping it onto TextEdit and you can see the information is basically there. So I still have a way to get to it but I find it is probably better to individually drag and drop these contacts. So drag this one and then this one, and this one. It doesn't take too much time and then you can go through your contacts. Figure out which ones you want to save and then delete them and then have these individual files here.

You do have other things that you can do as well. For instance you can start to contact and decide to export it as a PDF and that creates this little PDF file. Save it here to the desktop and you can see I can look at that in Spotlight. It looks like a little document. The cool thing about the export to PDF is that you can actually do it very easily for multiples. So you can these here and export as PDF. So it's another way to save out the information.

Doing it with a VCF file with a simple drag and drop has the advantage that you can easily bring that contact back into your Contacts app.

Back in episode 830 I showed you how you can actually bring these contacts into Numbers and that technique still works in Mavericks and Yosemite. You just open up in Numbers a new document, delete the table that is there so it is just a completely blank sheet. You can select all or just some of the contacts, drag and drop them into Numbers and it creates a new table with all the information there. So you have that option there as well.

Now you also have the option to export your entire Contacts list. Go to Export, Contacts Archive, and it will create this one file here. But it is difficult to use this file for anything. For instance you can't drag and drop it back in here. If you double click on it it will simply ask if you want to replace all your contacts with this database here. So this is more for kind of an emergency backup type of thing than actually saving out some data that you may want to access later.

Comments: 22 Responses to “Cleaning Up Your Contacts”

    8/20/14 @ 7:33 am

    When looking at the contact card by tapping the space bar, you are using Quick Look and not Spotlight.

      8/20/14 @ 7:43 am

      Yes, you are right. I spoke the wrong term.

    8/20/14 @ 10:49 am

    for me, contacts to numbers is not working… all the latest updates.
    ?? All i got is square with text: Image

      8/20/14 @ 2:11 pm

      Perhaps you are not dragging from the right place. Make sure you are selecting contacts from the list and then dragging them to a completely blank sheet (no tables).

        8/21/14 @ 8:41 am

        Thx. but im doing the same as you on video. IDK. nevermind.

          8/22/14 @ 11:32 am

          See my response to Shirley below. It will solve your problem.

    8/20/14 @ 5:12 pm

    very useful – thanks Gary

    8/21/14 @ 8:58 am

    Great tip, thanks!
    Is there a quick way to transfer info from Numbers back to Contacts? Thanks.

      8/21/14 @ 9:02 am

      No. If you think you may need to put the contact back into Contacts, be sure to save a VCF file as well.

        8/21/14 @ 9:04 am

        Well, actually, come to think of it you can import CSV or tab-separated text files with contact info. And since you can export to those from Numbers, then you can do it. But I would expect to have to adjust and use trial and error when doing so.

    Shirley Allan
    8/21/14 @ 11:02 am

    I’m having the same problem as Leon. Contacts to Numbers just gives me an a table with the word “Image.” I am dragging them from the Contacts list into Numbers 3.2

      8/21/14 @ 11:11 am

      Can’t think of what would cause that. And you are using the latest OS X (Mavericks?). I tried all sorts of different combinations or dragging and dropping and couldn’t get it to misbehave.

        Shirley Allan
        8/22/14 @ 8:45 am

        Yes, I am using the latest OS X, Mavericks and am a Mac teacher.

          8/22/14 @ 11:31 am

          I got it. The very first time you would have ever used Numbers and Contacts together, you would have been prompted to give your permission for Numbers to access your contacts. If you replied “No” then it doesn’t work and you get exactly the results you describe. To give Numbers access to your contacts, go to System Preferences, Security & Privacy, Privacy and look for Contacts on the left. Select it and then check the box next to Numbers. You then have to quit and restart Numbers for it to work.

            8/22/14 @ 12:01 pm

            Thank you. Now its working. Great.

            Shirley Allan
            8/22/14 @ 1:21 pm

            Yes, works now! Thanks Gary for tracing down the errant System Preference.

            9/2/14 @ 1:57 am

            In your tutorial, when you drag the names from contacts to numbers, the headings are not correct. Under image, you have last name. Under first name you have a phone number. I have the same problem, but the problem is not consistent in a way that I could just change the column name, because it places the information all over the place. I have a group of 60 contacts I would like to print and I only need: First Name, Last Name, Mobile and email, but I cannot seem to make that happen. Any ideas?

              9/2/14 @ 5:23 am

              I see what you mean. Looks like empty fields are to blame (no image, no phone, etc). So you just have to work with it a bit in Numbers, inserting some rows and deleting others. 60 is a small number and should only take 10-15 minutes to get it perfect, I’d imagine.
              But if printing is your goal, then why not print from Contacts?

    8/21/14 @ 12:58 pm

    Thank you for another applicable tutorial. Now can you tell me how to edit my e mail contacts and have the edited version transfer to my iPhone. It seems to always want to use the old e mail addresses.

      8/21/14 @ 1:04 pm

      Just make sure you are using the same iCloud contacts database in both places. Perhaps you are using iCloud on one but not the other? Or on neither?

    8/22/14 @ 7:24 am

    Gary, I am troubled because you did NOT mention TIME MACHINE as a backup to CONTACTS. I have always assumed that if I erase a CONTACT today, I can always use TIME MACINE in the future, to reconstruct an earlier version of CONTACTS … ??

      8/22/14 @ 11:36 am

      Yes, Time Machine does back up your Contacts and you can even use Time Machine to restore old ones. But Time Machine is a backup solution, not an archiving one. I wouldn’t recommend relying on a backup solution for permanent storage of your contacts, files or any data. Backups are for helping in emergencies and mistakes. But if your intention is to archive a contact for possible future use, then you should put a copy of it somewhere you will be keeping, like I show here. Same for files.

Comments Closed.