Addressing the Address Book

Now that all of the previous E-mail messages have been transferred from Evolution to Thunderbird, it’s time to do the same thing with the contacts (address book).

In Evolution, if we navigate to Contacts – File, the only option is to “Save Address Book As VCard”. However, Thunderbird doesn’t recognize this format so we need to to find another method.

The solution I found, in an early (2006) posting on the Ryan’s Scraps’ blog, was to export the address book to a comma-delimited file (.CSV) using the command:

/usr/lib/evolution/2.X/evolution-addressbook-export --format=csv > contacts.csv

in which I had to replace 2.X by 2.22 in order to accommodate my newer version of Evolution.

“I don’t know why it’s hard to find references to Evolution’s address book export utility – it seems to address a pretty big need.”

Ryan Daigle

Now, the process ought to have been straightforward since Thunderbird has the facility to import comma-delimited files. However, life is never quite as simple as it seems, is it?

The process seemed easy enough – Address Book – Tools – Import – Address Books – Text file (LDIF, .tab, .csv, .txt) – Comma Separated – contacts.csv.   A double column of field names was displayed and, clearly, the intention was to have desired fields from the CSV file checked in the left column, and then matched, using the Move Up and Move Down buttons, to the fields listed in the right column of “Record data to import”.

So, I left the family_name field checked and mapped this to Last Name and, leaving the email_1 field checked, mapped this to Primary Email. Then, I unchecked all of the other fields. However, when I imported the file, the E-mail address displayed correctly, but Thunderbird’s Name field was showing the portion of the E-mail address string that appears before the @ sign (e.g. Name = mickey.mouse, for Email =

To cut a long story (of trial and error) short, the terminology Thunderbird uses is confusing. The address book has a default data field called “Name”, but it isn’t clear what is required here, since a variety of similar (but not the same!) fields are present in the list of “Record data to import”. You can choose from Display Name, Last Name, First name, Nickname and Screen Name! It turns out that “Name” is really “Display Name”.

However, another wrinkle is that Thunderbird really wants the fields in the CSV file to be in the order that they appear in the list of imported data, and it doesn’t seem to like extraneous columns of data to be present in the file. [It wasn’t a problem for me but, apparently, Thunderbird’s import utility also needs to see commas as the delimiter in the CVS file; it will not accept semi-colons.]

I opted to import just the names and primary E-mail addresses of my contacts, since this is just about as simple as it gets, and these are essentially the only data that I actually use. In OpenOffice Calc, I combined [=CONCATENATE(A2,” “,B2)] the first name and last name fields to provide a Name variable, and deleted all the columns other than Name and email_1.

Then, when I imported the revised file into Thunderbird, the resulting “contacts” address book displayed everyone’s name and E-mail address.  Success at last!

Now to set up a couple of mailing groups. (No, I didn’t even attempt to import these; I don’t know if it is even possible!)


Exporting Evolution Contacts to Thunderbird (Ryan’s Scraps)

Import address list from text file

Thunderbird 3 Adressbook Import mixes up columns

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