MacMost Now 830: Exporting Contacts Using Numbers

Export and printing options for Contacts are limited. But you can do almost anything you want with your Contacts data if you know this one trick. By dragging and dropping your Contacts into Numbers, you can then organize, sort and format the information in any way. You can then export it from Numbers, or use Numbers to print a list any way you desire.

Video Transcript
Hi this is Gary with MacMost Now. Today I am going to show you a trick to be able to export or print your contacts with the help of Numbers.

Back in Episode 732 I showed you some of the cool printing functionality in the Contacts App on your Mac. A lot of people have expressed disappointment that it can't print things exactly like they want. It is a quick and dirty print function that is kind of neat but if you want customization it is not going to work. There is a way to print your contacts just about anyway that you want.

So you would think that if you want to customize the output of Contacts anyway you want the thing that you would do is export and then you can import them into a program and print them as you want. But the export options are pretty limited. You could export as vCard or as Contacts Archive. Neither of which could be imported into anything like say a spreadsheet like Numbers. You can also drag and drop but drag and drop just creates a vCard file as well.

So how do you get these into say Numbers which then allows you to format, sort, print anything you want. Well the answer for so many problems on the Mac is to simply drag and drop. Usually it is a simple problem that you are solving with drag and drop. But this case is a more complex one.

I'm going to go into Numbers here and create a new document. Just a quick blank document here. Shrink the window down a bit. Now we are going to see what happens if I were to drag and drop contacts. I am actually going to select a contact here. I'm going to hit Command A to grab them all. So all of the contacts I am going to drag them and drop them into Numbers.

Now what it is going to do is it is going to say "Is it OK for Numbers to allow contacts"? This is a privacy issue here so once I have allowed Numbers to access my contacts I can now complete the drag and drop. Look what happens.

Drag and drop creates this table. It is actually different than this table here. So I am actually going to switch back and forth between the two tables. I am going to delete the initial table there that I had just leaving this table here that's imported from contacts. You can see how nicely it actually formatted everything here putting the phone number in a column and the first name and last name and email address right there for me to be able to get to very easily.

So I can now sort as I want. So I can sort by say the last name, it already is of course but I can sort by something else if I wanted to. I can format this in different ways. Anything you want to do inside of Numbers you can do. Make a whole column bold. Add headers and footers. Do anything that you want. Delete an entire column so if I didn't want the email addresses here just delete it. Then I can shrink the text and print it out anyway I want. Or export from Numbers here into some other format.

Now you may say wait a minute. I only get first name, last name, phone and email. I've got other things in here like address. Where are those? Well if I click on the table here you can see it is column B, C, J, and S. Interesting. So there are hidden columns in this. So all I need to do is basically Unhide Column. You see there are options here for doing this. Let me Unhide All Columns and now I've got a ton of information here. Everything that is in every contact. Every bit of information that is there. So I can go and Hide the columns I want to hide or use the entire thing.

There is another cool thing that you can do. Start off with a blank sheet here. I am going to add a Table to it with just some basic headers and I'm going to in the Headers I am going to put the exact name of fields from Contacts. It has to be exact. So in this case I've just included First Name, Last Name, Company, and email. These are exact field names. I am going to go into Contacts, Select All, and drag and drop into this table and it is smart enough to figure out that I just want these four columns here and it populates them. So you can basically pre make your spreadsheet and then drag and drop. It didn't create a new table at all. It just used the one I had and populated the columns appropriately.

So there you go. Combining Contacts and Numbers you can export your contacts, format them, sort them, and print them anyway you want.

Hope you found this useful. Until next time this is Gary with MacMost Now.

Comments: 19 Responses to “MacMost Now 830: Exporting Contacts Using Numbers”

    Doug Harter
    2/22/13 @ 10:34 am

    Wow…Thanks very much..I never thought of this idea. It works just as you described. Sooo much easier. Again thanks!!

    2/22/13 @ 12:07 pm

    Super useful. Especially surprised by the column header trick. Thanks.

    Jim Fassino
    2/23/13 @ 2:26 pm

    Excellent tip, just what I have needed to manage contacts, thanks.


    2/27/13 @ 10:18 am

    As usual, great tip. I have Bento database app which I haven’t used in years because of no need. While it was adequate for my needs, I now see I could have used numbers to do all I used Bento for. I also want you to know I really appreciate your MacMost Now. I am 81 years old and struggle to understand and use my beloved iMac and the software. Your video are outstanding and very helpful. I especially appreciate the transcripts because I am hearing challenged, and slow to understand.

    Joe Staten
    2/28/13 @ 11:37 am

    Great tip. Is there a way to reverse the process? I have an address spreadsheet that I have built through the years and would like to get it into Contacts without retyping it.


      2/28/13 @ 11:45 am

      In contacts there is a File, Import function. So I would try exporting the spreadsheet in a standard format (CSV, etc) and try importing it to see what happens.

    2/28/13 @ 1:45 pm

    Why doesn’t this work for me? I’m using OSX 10.8.2, Numbers 09, and Contacts version 7.1. Is my stuff too old??? When I select all contacts and drag into Numbers, I don’t get the request for permission. Is there a way to force that box to appear?

      2/28/13 @ 1:52 pm

      Perhaps you got that box before, and you denied permission? Check in System Preferences, Privacy.

        2/28/13 @ 1:58 pm

        THANK YOU! I knew there had to be a way, but didn’t have a clue what it might be.

        3/3/13 @ 8:29 pm

        Thanks for me as well!!!

    Ann MacKay
    3/1/13 @ 1:41 pm

    This is a great tip. I am a long-time Mac user (27 years) and this is new info for me. I have been so frustrated with the print function in Contacts so your video solves many problems for me. Thanks.

    Jean Hebert
    3/1/13 @ 3:08 pm

    I have a feeling this could advantageously be used to print envelopes…

      Jean Hebert
      3/3/13 @ 11:25 am

      I should have put a question mark at the end of what could be interpreted as a comment. Actually, I’m wondering if using the Numbers method as described is or NOT a better way of managing a mailing list (including envelopes and letters). I’m responsible of a historical society and although I’ve used Contacts and Pages to successfully print letters and enveloppes… it’s a challenge… often frustrating… Your thoughts?

        3/3/13 @ 1:54 pm

        Contacts is probably best for YOUR contacts — people you know, friends, family, etc.
        If you are managing a list of contacts for a business or organization then a solution like a database (Bento) or spreadsheet (Numbers) would be better.

    Constance Brennan
    3/6/13 @ 11:16 am

    Thanks again, Gary. I’m a new Mac user (be lost without you), & have been frustrated with the limitations of Apple’s Contacts after using Outlook. With 800+ contacts, being able to categorize them in Outlook was important. In Preferences, I customized an entry as “Category.” However, it’s the only column that did not import. Everything else worked as you said. Any ideas? It’s actually the only thing I really wanted other than name and email address.

      3/6/13 @ 11:23 am

      I don’t think you can import custom fields.

        Constance Brennan
        3/9/13 @ 12:09 pm

        Oh, darn. But thanks anyway, Gary. It saves me from spending fruitless hours trying to make it happen.

    Jan Fantl
    3/27/13 @ 2:56 am

    thx Gary, helped to sort one of my proms. The other one, have you ever looked into this? How can I duplicate a single contact and use it then for several individuals with minor changes e.g. a flock of people in the same company with only emails and mobile different to the core informations? CaN’t find a solution
    best jan

      3/27/13 @ 6:41 am

      I don’t think you would. Just create a different contact for each of them. Copy and paste the company name if you want.

Comments Closed.