iMac Contact App That’s Well Worth Data Entry Drudgery

By Mark L. Chambers

Computer owners share one lovely recurring fantasy that keeps cropping up over and over: Call it the Data Elf Phenomenon. You see, Data Elves are the hard-working, silicon-based gnomes in tiny green suspenders who magically enter into your database (or Contacts, or Quicken, or whatever) all the information that you want to track. They burrow into your papers, and presto! — out pops all that data, neatly typed and . . . whoa, Nellie! Let’s stop there.

For some reason, computer users seem to forget that there are no Data Elves. Heartbroken computer owners say, “You mean I have to type all that stuff?” The answer is, “Affirmative, unless you want to pay someone a hideous amount to do it for you.” The arrival of iCloud certainly makes it easier to share contacts that you’ve already entered into your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad with the Contacts application on your iMac, but most folks don’t add the entire contents of their paper address book into their iOS devices, so you’re back to square one.

Therefore, make no mistake — adding a lifetime’s worth of paper-based contact information into your Contacts application can mean several hours of monotonous and mind-bendingly boring work, which is another reason why many computer owners still depend on paper to store all those addresses. But be assured, dear reader: Your effort is worth it.

The next time that you sit down to prepare a batch of Christmas cards or you have to find Uncle Milton’s telephone number in a hurry, you will appreciate the effort that you made to enter contact information into Contacts. Just make sure that you back up your hard drive. In fact, back up using both Time Machine and iCloud, just for good measure.

By the way, if you’ve already entered contact information in another device (or another application), you can usually reuse that data without retyping everything — that is, as long as your old device or program can export contacts in vCard format. (If you’ve never encountered a vCard, think of it as a “business card in a file.” A vCard contains the contact information for a specific person, arranged in a format that can be imported into programs like Microsoft Outlook.)

After you export the records, just drag the vCards into the Contacts window to add them, or import them by pressing Command key+O. You can also export contact information in tab-delimited format with most programs, and import the file using Contacts from the File→Import menu item. (You can import tab-delimited text files as well.)