Create or edit .csv files to import into Outlook

Create or edit .csv files to import into Outlook

A CSV (Comma Separated Values) file is a special type of file that you can create or edit in Excel. Rather than storing information in columns, CSV files store information separated by commas. When text and numbers are saved in a CSV file, it's easy to move them from one program to another. For example, you can export your contacts from Google into a CSV file, and then import them to Outlook.

For assistance importing a list of calendar entries into Outlook, see Import and export Outlook email, contacts, and calendar.

Create a .csv file from another program or email provider

When you export your contacts from another program, for example, from Gmail, you can usually select one of several formats. Gmail offers you the choice of a Google CSV file, an Outlook CSV file, or vCards. When exporting from one Outlook profile to import into another profile, you can choose to export into a Comma Separated Values file or an Outlook Data File (.pst).

Download and open a sample .csv file for importing contacts to Outlook

If you want to create a CSV file for your contacts manually, you can do that one of two ways.

Create an Excel file and save it as a CSV file

If you have contact information in a program that doesn't allow you to export it, you can type it in manually.

  1. Create a new document in Excel.

  2. Add a column heading for each piece of information you want to record (for example, first name, last name, email address, phone number, and birthday), and then type the information in the appropriate columns.

  3. When you're done, your Excel file should look something like this.

    Here's what the sample .csv file looks like in Excel.

  4. Select File > Save As.

  5. Use the drop-down box to select CSV (Comma delimited) (*.csv), give your file a name, and then select Save.

    Save your Excel file as a CSV file.

  6. You can now use this new CSV file to import your contacts into Outlook.

Download a template CSV file

If you'd like to start with a blank CSV file, you can download the sample file below.

  1. Download this sample .csv file to your computer. When prompted, choose to Save the file to your computer as a CSV file. If you save it as an Excel file (.xls or .xlsm) all of the data will be stuffed into one column!

    When you download the sample .csv file, save it to your computer as type .csv file.

  2. On your computer, open Excel.

  3. In Excel, go to File > Open > and then navigate to the .csv file you just downloaded to your computer. To find the .csv file, be sure to look at All Files. Click on the .csv file to open it.

    To find the csv file, be sure to search for All Files.

There are a few things to remember when working with this sample CSV file:

  • Outlook requires column headings in the first row so don’t replace them with something else.

    Here's what the sample .csv file looks like in Excel.

  • You can delete the data in rows 2-6 (the sample names, phone numbers, email addresses, etc).

  • You don't need to enter values for every column. Only enter the info you want.

  • Save the file with a new name as a CSV file type (.csv). If you use Excel to work in the file, when you save it, Excel will prompt you a few times with "are you sure you want to save it in CSV format?" Always choose Yes. If you choose No, the file will be saved in Excel's native format (.xlsx) and Outlook won't be able to use it to import data.

  • Practice importing your CSV file with a few contacts to make sure you like the results. Afterwards, you can delete the imported contacts, add more to your CSV file, and import it again.

    If you were to import the data in the sample CSV file, here's what it would look like in Outlook on the web for Office 365:

    After you import contacts, here's what they look like in Outlook on the web.

Edit a .csv file of contacts you want to import to Outlook

Let's say you want to edit a .csv file that you exported from Outlook, and then import it back to Outlook or another email provider. Using Excel makes it easy to edit the .csv file.

Here are a few things to remember when editing a .csv file:

  • Keep the column headings in the first row.

  • When you save it, Excel will prompt you a few times with "are you sure you want to save it in CSV format?" Always choose Yes. If you choose No, the file will be saved in Excel's native format (.xlsx) and it won't work for importing into Outlook.

Problem: All my data appears in the first column

An example of a .csv file saved in .xls format.

Here are a few reasons this happens, and things you can do to try to fix this problem:

  • If you save CSV file in another format, such as .xls, .xlsx, or .xlm, all of the data will appear in the first column. Go back to the original CSV file and make sure to save it as type .csv.

  • It's possible that the program creating the CSV file is putting extra quote marks in the data. As a result, Excel treats the data as a single unit. For example, let's says your data looks like this:

    a, b, c, d - Excel puts each letter in it's own column.

    "a, b, c, d", e - Excel puts a,b,c,d in one column and e in another column.

    To see if this is the problem with your file, open your file in Notepad: Right-click on the CSV file in Windows, choose Open With > Notepad. Search for extra quote marks.

    If you find extra quote marks, here's how to fix your file:

    1. Use Excel to open the CSV file. All the data will be in column A and the quote marks will be gone.

    2. Now use the Text to Columns wizard to separate the data in column A into individual columns: on the menu bar, choose Data > Text to Columns.

      Choose Data > Text to Columns

    3. Choose Delimited > Next. Then choose Commas > Finish.

    4. Save the file as type .cvs so you can still import it into Outlook.

See Also

Import contacts to Outlook

Export contacts from Outlook

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