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A maze of twisty PIM formats, all alike
happy mac

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.


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From 10.5.3, Address Book included GMail syncing

Awesome; it works! Thanks for the tip-off.

Not sure why it doesn't seem to be working for me...


Run once as "gsync setup" and it will make Address Book think you have an iPhone.
Set up syncing in Address Book preferences.
Run wit no options to do a sync run.

I use it regularly since I got an android phone and I want Address Book and gcontacts synced up.

Thanks - I'll give that a go.

I'm still surprised that Google Mail doesn't import vCards or LDIF directly; seems like a bit of an oversight...

If you use thunderbird on multiple machines then synckolab might help you? Won't sync to gmail though.

I mainly read email on the laptop these days; there are times when I'll resort to one of the desktops (or the old laptop), but they're few and far between. I'm more interested in having an email environment with my contacts that I can access from public machines.

I am still struggling with gMail address book syncing and the iPhone. I have load of duplicate contacts, contacts without phone numbers and so on. I'm sure that somewhere in there is my perfect address book.

Meanwhile, have you picked up the MacHeist bundle, if you've taken to using Macs all the time?

re: MacHeist, finally got around to it today.

I'm lazy, and a part of my Mac-using strategy was to pay other people to do the awkward stuff for me. I continued in that philosophy when I started paying for a Spanning Sync subscription, and now I let them handle syncing my Address Book and iCal between my Macs and Google.

Once you've got something syncing with Google, you can normally find some kind of tool or service to get things from there to everywhere else, often regularly and automatically. I rarely use Google for the actual applications, but they're a handy data hub.

This, along with Drop Box and a couple of other things, should let me leave the rather ropey .Mac service behind at some point, if they stop adding more apologetic free months to the end of my current subscription for long enough for it to expire...

Edited at 2009-04-06 08:07 pm (UTC)

Hmmm. 10.5 supports CalDAV, so you can use that to sync iCal with Google Calendar (link).

Address book syncing does seem to be harder than it should be, so I can see the value of Spanning Sync. I think that I'd be a little wary of a server-based solution; GBP65 for the lifetime solution seems reasonable, if Spanning Sync last for more than three or four years.

Yah, I started using Spanning Sync nearly two years ago, so I've not investigated CalDAV. Again, just being lazy; I'm happy enough paying a competent team who are on fairly friendly terms with the Google Calendar people to deal with the issues (and there are often issues, as Google fiddles with their CalDAV implementation and Calendar itself.)

I'm pretty certain I could do it myself for free, but frankly, compared to the Spanning Sync subscription it's not worth the time I'd spend redoing things or fiddling with stuff when it went wrong. Plus, as you say, I get the Address Book thrown in for free -- that wasn't even on the Spanning Sync list of features when I signed up.

Incidentally, I'd forgotten about their lifetime subscription. But I can't see myself using it forever -- it was only going to be a stopgap while Apple and Google started playing more nicely together, which I figured would take a few years. And so far, as an "early adopter", I've only paid $40 for my first two years. This may be helping with my "just pay for it and not bother with the hard work" perspective :)

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