Numbers: Export Your Contacts in Different Formats

| TMO Quick Tip

Sometimes we need to export our Mac contacts in formats other than vCards, and Apple hasn't made it obvious how you do that. If you've got Numbers installed, it's actually really easy to put them into Excel or CSV format. You don't believe me, you say? C'mon. Haven't we known each other long enough that you trust me, dear readers?

There are two simple ways to go about it. The first way's a little quicker, but your data may need some cleanup afterward, so I find it less useful. First, you'll open your Contacts program and add all of the people you'd like to export to a separate group.

Then start a new spreadsheet in Numbers. Since a new sheet comes with a blank table already supplied, remove that existing table by clicking on it in the sidebar and tapping the Delete key. This'll make things easier for you later.

Here's where the magic happens. Drag your Contacts group onto the Numbers window and drop it in the big white area to the right of your blank sheet.

Blammo! There are all those contacts, ready to be exported as an Excel or CSV file when you choose File > Export.

You may note that your table has some hidden columns (see how they're non-sequentially labeled in my screenshot above—B, C, J, S?). If you hover over any column and click its drop-down arrow, you can choose Unhide All Columns.

This'll show you that Numbers has brought in every tiny bit of data from your Contacts app, including such favorite fields as "Pager Number" and "Jabber Account." You could spend your time removing the extraneous columns from here if you're a really dedicated person, but now that you know the basics, here's the method I like better. Create your spreadsheet in Numbers first, and name the columns with only the fields you'd like Contacts to fill in for you.

Be careful of two things. First, you'll have to use the same field names as Contacts does (such as first name, last name, street, work email, and so on). Second, make sure you type your fields into a designated header row, which is usually called out in gray on a default table. If you just type ’em anywhere, this won't work.

After you've gotten it all set up, go ahead and drag your contact group onto your prepared table…

…and it'll get all filled in with only the data you specified.

Mind. Blown.

This is obviously pretty awesome, but I do wish Apple'd made it more apparent. I mean, how much would an "Export to CSV" command in the Contacts app really hurt them? Apparently a lot, since it's not there. Maybe it's against someone's religion or something. 

Comments

Didier Daglinckx

Thanks, it’s great to know.

It doesn’t seem to work with the default group “all contacts” as well as intelligent groups.

Melissa Holt

Hi there Didier,

No, this won’t work with Smart Groups, and it won’t work if you try to drag All Contacts. However, you can create a new group and add all of your contacts to it, and then use that to populate your spreadsheet. It’s a silly workaround, but it works!

—Melissa

Didier Daglinckx

Thanks for the answer Melissa, it’s exactly what I did.

grin

Melissa Holt

You’re welcome, Didier! Thanks for reading.

tomstraus

I can’t seem to get this to work. I have a group that I really want to export to a spreadsheet so it can be exported to Excel, but when I drag the group (not a Smart Group) to the blank Numbers window, it just snaps back to the Contacts window. Nothing happens in the Numbers window. What could I be doing wrong?

Melissa Holt

Hi Tom,

Do you know what version of Numbers you’re using? I tested this on OS X 10.6–10.8, but in all cases, it was with iWork ’09. If you’re using an earlier version, it may not work.

If that’s not the problem, I would try creating a new contact group, copying all of the cards from your old group into the new, then see if that group can be dragged over.

If none of that helps, feel free to contact me by clicking on my name above the article and filling out the form on my bio page. If we can’t figure out why it’s not working for you, you could always email me the group, and I’d export it for you. :D

—Melissa

Rachel Haws Mangum

I wonder if Tom ever found a solution.  I am having the same problem.  I am using Numbers 09 and OSX 10.8.4.  I can drag but it won’t drop into numbers at all.  The little icon just goes back to the Contacts window.  I created a new group that is not a Smart group and I still have the same problem.

Melissa Holt

Hey Rachel,

I don’t think we ever figured out why it wasn’t working for him, but you’re welcome to contact me personally and send me your group if you’re comfortable with that. I’d be happy to export it for you and send the CSV file back. smile

—Melissa

Rachel Haws Mangum

I just want to somehow create a spreadsheet with my contact information.  I don’t really need to export the contacts.  It should be simple and I’ve tried everything I can think of that might be blocking it from simply dragging and dropping.  It drags… but then it seems that Numbers is not recognizing it as something it can read so it never allows it to drop.  This is frustrating.

tomstraus

I have never been able to get this to work. I just tried it again, with the same results: The group just snaps back to Contacts. I wish I could get it to work; it would be really helpful.

tomstraus

I just noticed that my Contacts groups are shown under the heading My iCloud Account. They are supposed to be saved locally, but perhaps because the data is coming from iCloud, it doesn’t behave the same as if I weren’t syncing with iCloud.

Melissa, in your article you show the group with a small + sign when it is over the spreadsheet. I don’t get that.

Melissa Holt

Hey Tom,

I’m really not sure why this isn’t working for you guys (I just tried it again with a group of my iCloud contacts, and it worked just fine).

You could always try a different user account on your machine to see if it behaves there.

As I mentioned to Rachel, though, if you’re comfortable sending me your group in an email, I’d be happy to send you back a Numbers spreadsheet with your contact info. I promise I wouldn’t do anything nefarious with your data. smile

—Melissa

tomstraus

I just tried Melissa’s suggestion to try another account. I have a pristine account I call Test fo just such times. I actually had to add a group to Contacts to do the test, but it worked. The first time Numbers asked me if it could access my Contacts, which I confirmed. It then accepted the group I had created. Now the question is, how do I get Numbers in my main account to access my Contacts so I can try to move a group to it?

Melissa Holt

Hey Tom,

Oooo, that’s an important bit of info, thank you! Awesome.

To get Numbers to access your Contacts, go to System Preferences> Security & Privacy under your main user account, click on the Privacy tab, and then select Contacts. Click the checkbox next to Numbers, and then you may have to quit and relaunch the program if it’s running.

Let me know if that works!
Melissa

tomstraus

Yes, it worked! Thank you so much.

Melissa Holt

Yay! I’m happy it worked, Tom. Thanks for sleuthing for me. smile

—Melissa

Rachel Haws Mangum

Thanks to your comments and sleuthing here I fixed my problem!  Instead of creating another user on my mac I just went into my security and privacy from system preferences and allowed access to numbers.  Apparently I hadn’t ever done that before.  It worked!!  I was able to drag and drop my contacts into Numbers just like you described above.  Thanks for your responses!  I knew it had to be something simple yet illusive. 

Melissa Holt

Sweet! I’m glad you got it figured out. Looks like we all owe a debt of gratitude to Tom. smile

—Melissa

Rachel Haws Mangum

Yes!  Thank you Tom!!

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