A maze of twisty PIM formats, all alike

These days, I use a Mac for all of my day-to-day computing, but I’ve never really got to grips with Mail.app, preferring to use Thunderbird instead. I also use GMail in a limited capacity for non-work mail, and I’ve been starting to look at the OS X Address Book (which ties in nicely with a whole bunch of things). Unfortunately, Thunderbird, Address Book and GMail all use different standards for importing and exporting contact information:

Address Book
Exports: vCard, Address Book Archive (package containing an sqlite database)
Imports: vCard, LDIF, Address Book Archive
Exports: LDIF, TSV (of some kind), CSV (of some kind)
Imports: Eudora, LDIF, TSV (of some kind), CSV (of some kind)
Exports: Google CSV, Outlook CSV, vCard
Imports: CSV (of some kind)

With the MoreFunctionsForAddressBook add-on, Thunderbird can also read and write vCard files, so Thunderbird and Address Book can interoperate (more or less). Getting GMail to work is less easy, alas.

From 10.5.3, Address Book included GMail syncing (if you have an iPod, or if you’re willing to hack the registry), but this doesn’t seem to sync properly. The Google Contacts add-on for Thunderbird seems buggy (on and crashes when syncing.

After some fiddling, it turns out that the only way to reliably sync Thunderbird or Address Book to GMail is to use A to G to generate a CSV file that Google likes from the OS X Address Book.

What I fail to understand from this excursion is why vCard isn’t supported as an import format by all these mailers by default; it’s been around for quite some time, and it isn’t rocket science. I don’t see why we’re still relying on arbitrary CSV files to get these systems talking to each other.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *