Palm Desktop to Outlook: Better Contacts Migration

Having switched phones recently from an aging Treo 650 to a BlackBerry 8830, I once again put myself in the mess of transferring my calendar and contacts from one device to the other. In the past I’ve switched between Palm Desktop and Outlook by careful use of the Palm’s HotSync conduits. With the switch to a BlackBerry, those old tricks weren’t available. Luckily I was already syncing my Calendar with Outlook, so that left the migration of Contacts for me to solve.

I tried the old trusty CSV file export/import path, but even after painstakingly assigning field names to columns, the results were still jumbled (home phone number labeled as Work, and so on). The Palm Desktop CSV import/export process still has a few bugs in it, including not being able to reliably label the exported fields.

Enter vCard. Palm Desktop does have vCard support (for single or multiple contacts), and does fill in the fields more accurately. And Outlook accepts them as an import format. The only hitch was that Outlook can only handle vCard files with a single contact. Rather than repeat that process for several hundred contacts, I tried (then bought) vCard ImportExport by This simple Outlook add-in lets Outlook handle vCards with multiple contacts.

With my new vCard software in hand, here’s the process that ultimately worked best for transferring my contacts from Palm Desktop to Outlook:

  1. In Palm Desktop, export each category of contacts to its own vCard (.vcf) file (e.g., Personal category -> personal.vcf)
  2. In Outlook, use vCard ImportExport to import the first category vCard file
  3. Select all contacts just imported and assign to that category (normally they come in with no category assigned)
  4. Repeat steps 2-3 for remaining categories

The only problem I encountered was that the Notes field from the Palm Desktop side ended up in Notes and in Web Page fields in Outlook. Not sure if this is a bug with the importer, or Outlook itself. I wrote a quick Outlook macro to clean those up.