Dave Beauvais

Professional geek, avid cyclist, and nature lover

Migrating Gmail Contacts to Outlook.com

For various reasons, I’ve been working on moving away from Gmail and other Google services. While Microsoft’s Outlook.com service is in many ways less powerful than Gmail, I find its user interface to be refreshingly clean and simple. I am also switching smartphone platforms from Android to Windows Phone 8, which is another reason for this sudden interest in Microsoft’s services.

Microsoft makes it possible to link your Google account to Outlook.com so you don’t have to deal with importing or manually creating all your contacts, but I prefer to have them in Outlook.com natively so that I’m less reliant on Google. So I set about exporting my contacts from Gmail and importing them via CSV file into Outlook.com.

What I discovered is that not all data makes it through this process. Sometimes that’s because Outlook.com doesn’t import the data; sometimes it’s because Gmail didn’t export it in the first place. The first missing data that I noticed was my contacts’ anniversaries. A quick search revealed that I’m not alone.

So I setup an experiment to determine which fields are not imported, which Google contact fields map to which Outlook.com fields, and any other problems which may come up. I created a new Google contact and populated every possible field that is available, but did not create any custom fields. Google allows you to add more than one entry of the same type (“Work”, “Home”, etc.) so I did that for my test contact.

This table summarizes my findings. Significant issues that could cause missing data in Outlook.com are noted in bold.

[Note: I recently moved to a different web platform, which -- amazingly -- does not allow the creation of HTML tables, so I don't have a good way to represent this information at present.]

I also found a few contacts which didn’t have the correct postal address formatting after the import. Looking at the source data in Gmail, I found that the entire mailing address for a few contacts was contained in the “Street” field. Using the CSV file, I was able to identify the contacts with this invalid data and corrected them.

All of this prompted me to finally go through all my contacts and do some desperately needed housekeeping. I deleted about 40 contacts for people I will never need to contact, made sure field names are set properly, fixed obsolete data in cases where I knew something had changed, and so on.

I now have a very tidy contact list in Outlook.com. A couple entries are missing some phone numbers, but in most cases those extra numbers were in the contacts for caller ID purposes on my phone, and are not a significant loss.

Update on 2013-10-16: I found that the CSV import does not maintain the type of e-mail address. Outlook.com seems to assign the following type to e-mail addresses, regardless of their type in the source Gmail contacts: Personal, Work, Other. So if I have a contact that has a single “Work” e-mail address in Gmail, when that contact is imported in Outlook.com its e-mail address is labeled “Personal”. This is a little annoying out of principle, but not the end of the world, I suppose.

All content on this site is the intellectual property of Dave W. Beauvais unless otherwise noted, and is protected by copyright. No unauthorized use permitted.