OS X: Sending Your Whole Contacts List as a File

I really wish that Apple would provide us with a simple method for sharing contacts. iCloud Family Sharing will let you see a collective calendar; why can’t we do the same thing with contacts? Is this one of those “Shut up, Melissa, Apple does what Apple wants” moments? I hate those.

You could actually cobble together a way to share contacts if you’ve got to—for example, by creating an additional iCloud or Gmail account. You’d then log in to that on your family’s devices, turn the contacts syncing on, and add the contacts you want to share to that account. But that’s not an elegant solution by any means, especially if you want to keep some items on your personal contacts list and share others with your family. Ick.

The subject I’m writing about in this tip, though, is how you can send all of your contacts to someone else. If you want your spouse to see all of the people you’ve added to your own list, say, but you don’t need to continually share with him or her, this’d be the way to go about that. What you have to do isn’t difficult, but if you want to capture everything without causing problems with your recipient’s contacts, you have to be a bit careful. Start by opening the Contacts app, and then select the “All Contacts” option from the left-hand list. (Don’t see anything like my screenshot below? Choose View > Show Groups or press Command-1.)

You can, of course, pick a different subset of your contacts if that floats your boat, so if you want to just pass along a specific group you’ve created, feel free. This is a multipurpose tip! Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself.

Anyhow, once you’ve chosen the correct group, click on any member to select a single card, and then press Command-A to select them all. Once they’re all highlighted, go up to the “File” menu and pick “Export.”

Here’s the only tricky part. You have to be sure to choose “Export vCard,” NOT “Contacts Archive.” If you pick the latter, whomever you send the file to will have his own contacts list replaced when he attempts to import your stuff. 

Um, yikes and no and stop.

If you choose to export the contacts in vCard format, however, it’ll offer to add them in to his existing list instead. Whew!

So how does the person on the other end import what you have given him? Well, I’d first suggest he back up his own contacts in case something goes wrong (by using the File > Export > Contacts Archive menu item). He’ll then choose File > Import within Contacts, and in the resulting dialog box, he can navigate to and select the file you sent him through email or what have you. If there are any duplicates between his contact list and yours, he can also review those before he imports everything. That’s all there is to it! And at least for a while, your spouse won’t have to ask you where so-and-so lives or what his phone number is.