Importing Contacts into Outlook … CSV or PST?

The easiest way to import contacts into Outlook is using a CSV (Comma Separated Values) spreadsheet. You can input the information into Excel, then do a File –> Save As and change the file type to CSV (ex. Contacts.csv). You will note that the icon for the file is a slightly different Excel icon, too.

If you are looking for a spreadsheet that contains all of the Outlook fields to get you started, click here. This spreadsheet has been updated to Excel 2013, however there is an *.xlsx and  *.xls file in the zip. When you are done, simply save as a CSV file and get ready to import.

Now open up Outlook and go to File –> Import and walk through the wizard steps.

Side Note: Since this spreadsheet was created from Outlook, it is properly mapped.

What is mapping?

Mapping is making sure that your spreadsheet columns match the correct places in Outlook. Example … let’s say your spreadsheet has a column called “Cell Phone” … in Outlook, the field is “Mobile Phone.” While Outlook has some built in knowledge, it may not pick up on all of your spreadsheet’s subtleties, if you are using a self-created (or client provided) spreadsheet.

As you walk through the import wizard, you will see a button that reads ‘Map fields’ –> Click it. The next window has your spreadsheet columns on the left and Outlook’s fields on the right. Drag from the left to the right to map. If there is already a filed listed, double check to make sure it is the right field from your spreadsheet.

However, there is a second alternative … creating a PST file.

Reasons for creating a PST file?

  1. Your client has requested you to.
  2. You want to embed images into the contact.
    • Tip: I find this to be very handy. Sometimes an image (logo, handwritten note on the card, etc.) jogs the memory better than a name. I simply embed the image into the Notes field and can view it when I need to.

So, how do you do it?

  1. In your Outlook, go to File –> New –> New Data file. (Outlook file extensions are *.pst). Give the new data file a name that would coincide with your client’s name, business, name. etc. and save it to a different place on your hard drive – maybe you have a folder on your HD for that client?
  2. In your Outlook, go to contacts. Depending on your version of Outlook, you will see one of the examples below:Contact in the left file tree menu where the inbox is. If this is what you see in your version of Outlook, then right-click on “Contacts” –> Copy –> Paste (and clear out all of your contacts)You will have a button on the bottom of the tree to go to Contacts. If this is what you see in your version of Outlook, then click on Contacts. Up on the left side of the screen you should see a pane with a My Contacts header and one contact list. Right-click –>Copy –> paste. When you go to paste, a pop up will ask you where to save the Contacts, scroll down until you see your client’s file tree (at the bottom) and click on it. Now under the My Contacts header, you will have 2 contact files – one tied to your Outlook files and one tied to your client’s.
  3. Input away!
  4. When you are done, you need to send your client the file. Go to your mail part of Outlook and scroll down to the client’s folders. Right click on it and choose close. If you don’t do this, you may not have all the data. To be safe, I always exit Outlook and re-open … but that is optional.
  5. Once you’re back in Outlook, compose your email and attach the PST file from your hard drive.Note: Depending on how many contacts, if there are images in the Notes section, etc. the file may be too large to email and might be easier for you to zip it up and put on your server for them the download.
  6. Once your client has the PST file and has saved it to their hard drive, they need to go to File –> Open and open the file. You can recommend that they copy the contacts from the new PST to their main contacts list. I suggest this for a few reasons: a) If they sync contacts, the new list won’t sync (at least with Windows Mobile/PPC), b) a clean Outlook is a happy Outlook.
  7. Once they have copied the contacts over, they need to close the PST file (Step #4). At that point they can delete it off their hard drive.

Tip: To ease your burden, if your client is asking you to categorize their contact list, set up your Master Category list with their categories and use a starting character, such as an underscore. Example “_Press” or “_Trade Show” Then create a false contact with a name of CategoryListing, and categorize it using all the new underscored categories. This way, the categories are all together and easy to find. You could also use a prefix using your clients initials, etc.

About Out of the Office Virtual Assistance:

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Image credit: geralt | CC0 Public Domain