When I upgraded to a BlackBerry, Verizon customer support transferred 100+ contacts from my old (non-smartphone) phone into my new phone. It worked except that many of the first, middle, and last names got mixed up. Shortly thereafter, I needed to enter a big batch of new contacts by hand. I REALLY didn’t want to do all that data entry using the BlackBerry keyboard. So, I found a way to manage my contacts using my desktop computer, BlackBerry Desktop Manager, and Microsoft Excel.
Some readers might prefer to manage their contacts using Microsoft Outlook and synchronize their BlackBerry with Outlook. That’s a great idea, and BlackBerry Desktop Manager can certainly do that. But for me, that’s no good because I don’t keep my phone contacts in Outlook. And, as I explained, my original contact list came from my old cell phone. So, the technique I describe below allows you to move your contacts back-and-forth between an Excel-compatible (text, CSV) file and your BlackBerry. [POSTSCRIPT: Or, as one reader demonstrated, in place of Excel you can use OpenOffice Calc.]
Another reason for using Excel is that I often need to add new contacts, or additional data to old contacts, where the information is available in a file (e.g., document or web page). It’s simple to just copy-and-paste from that file into the Excel file. Very quick and easy! So, if you’re comfortable using Excel (not necessarily an “expert”), this technique might be right for you, too.
WARNING! To be safe, you should back up your BlackBerry using your BlackBerry Desktop Manager. This is a good idea whether you try this procedure or not. If you haven’t done, or haven’t learned how to do, a backup, PLEASE accomplish that first. It’s not difficult to do. Don’t wait for an accident–be prepared. I don’t want to feel responsible if something goes wrong and you mess up your BlackBerry data attempting my procedure.
So, here’s how I manage my address book contacts using Excel:
On your computer, run the BlackBerry Desktop Manager (if you don’t know what that is, click here). From the main menu options, select Synchronize. (The first time through here, you’re not really synchronizing but creating a file of contacts on your computer that you can synchronize with later.)
Select the Configuration tab and click the Configure synch… button. (You’re about to decide what you are synchronizing from and to.)
Select the BlackBerry Address Book to synchronize using the ASCII Importer/Exporter. Click Setup… to choose synchronization options.
Select the direction of synchronization (or data copying) from device to ASCII Importer/Exporter. Click Next.
Select the ASCII Importer/Exporter (to choose to export the contacts to an ASCII, or plain text, file rather than to Outlook or Yahoo). Click Next.
Click Options. (You’re going to decide exactly how the text file data will be formatted.)
Select Comma and Double quotation marks, if they’re not already selected. (This causes the creation of a so-called Comma-Separated-Value, or CSV, file. This is an extremely popular and useful text file format. It’s easy to read and imports beautifully into Excel as well as a vast number of other programs.) Click OK to close that window and return to the previous window.
Now click Browse… to choose where your contacts text file will be stored and what it will be named.
Select where you want the file to be saved (e.g., My Documents folder) and what it will be named (e.g., BlackBerryAddressBook.csv). It’s important to use the .csv file extension in the file name. Click Open.
Now, you’re finished configuring everything to do synchronization from the device to a text file on your computer. Click Finish.
You return to this screen. Click OK.
You return to this screen. Select the Synchronize tab. Click the Synchronize now button.
There will be a flurry of activity as the contacts are read from the BlackBerry. The number of contacts will be counted. Click Accept to write the contacts to the text file.
You will see another flurry of activity as the contacts are written to the text file. You will return to this window. Click Close.
You will return to the BlackBerry Desktop Manager main screen (not shown here). You can close that program now if you want. Now you are ready to open the text file in Excel, examine your contacts, and do any editing.
I won’t include screen shots of Excel, but in Excel you will find rows and rows of contacts under these headings:
Email Address 1
Email Address 2
Email Address 3
Home Zip/Postal Code
User Defined 1
User Defined 2
User Defined 3
User Defined 4
Most of the fields above will be blank. Edit them to your heart’s content. I would be careful to preserve the heading/column order and labeling; altering the column width in Excel is not a problem. Lastly, be sure when you save the Excel file to preserve the CSV (.csv) format (not as .xls, .xlsx, or anything else). I’m quite sure you can sort the rows any way you prefer inside Excel. When the contacts are back in the BlackBerry, you can optionally sort them by first name, last name, or company.
[PostScript, 2009-07-17: Many readers have had problems with the entry of phone numbers that are prefixed with a zero or a plus sign (+). Excel wants to reformat that entry like a "regular" number and remove the leading zero or plus sign. What you want to do is have Excel treat that string of numbers as text instead of a number. You do that by entering a single quote character (') at the beginning of the phone number, like this: '+442071112345. Or this: '0881112345. HOWEVER, if you use this trick, you must save your work TWICE: once in XLS (or XLSX) format, and once in CSV format. The XLS format preserves the formatting "trick." The CSV file preserves the number string, but loses the formatting trick. The CSV format is used to import the Address Book into your BlackBerry. The XLS (or XLSX) format is needed if you want to go back and do more editing. If you re-open the CSV file to do editing, you'll find your phone numbers have lost the leading zero or + sign. If that's not clear, leave me a question at the bottom of this page.]
Now, I’m too lazy to provide full details and screen shots on how to synchronize your edited Excel file data back to your BlackBerry. Basically, you just repeat from the beginning the above procedure except when you get to the screen below. This time, make the selection to reverse the data flow direction to Device (as shown below). Note: if you don’t select the checkbox labeled Replace all data in the target application, you will get duplicate contacts in your Address Book.
[PostScript, 2008-06-02: Thanks to reader Nicole for this tip: Close Excel before you attempt to import your contacts back into your phone, or it won't work correctly.]
Whew! This post was a lot of work. I hope it helps somebody. Hearing one positive comment from a reader usually makes this all worthwhile.