Exporting Outlook 2007 address book to Thunderbird

By | September 10, 2009

I keep my primary address book in Outlook, but I wanted to export it to Thunderbird so that when I’m using Thunderbird at home, I have easy access to all the email addresses I’ve stored in Outlook.

It’s easy to import from Outlook to Thunderbird on Windows, since Thunderbird will happily allow you to do the import directly.  However, it’s more difficult when you want to export from Outlook on Windows and import the data into Thunderbird on UNIX.  In that case, you need to export your Outlook data into a CSV file, copy the resulting file over to UNIX, and import it into Thunderbird there.

This is theoretically possible, since Thunderbird does know how to import a CSV file, but it’s difficult, for two reasons.  First of all, Thunderbird will only read 35 columns from the Outlook CSV file, so some of the Outlook data is inaccessible.  Second, the UI for mapping Thunderbird address-book fields to columns in the Outlook-generated CSV is confusing and difficult to use.

I Googled a bit to see if anyone had come up with an easy solution to this problem.  I didn’t find one, so I solved it myself, by writing a script to convert the CSV file generated by Outlook into a format which is much more palatable to Thunderbird.

I’ve set up a Web page where you can use this script.  Just upload your Outlook Contacts CSV and my page will do the conversion for you and give you back a Thunderbird-compatible CSV to save and import into Thunderbird.  Click here to access that page.

Alternatively, if you’re the type that likes to play with scripts yourself, you can download the script, save it into a file, make it executable, and run it with input redirected from a CSV you exported from Outlook, and output redirected to another CSV file.  The resulting generated CSV file should have exactly the columns that Thunderbird is expecting, in the exact order it’s expecting them, so no columns will get chopped off at the end and you won’t have to figure out how to make the awful field-mapping UI work.

See the comments in the script for additional information.  Drop me a line or maybe even a tip if you find this useful!

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