How to export your Outlook contacts to a CSV file

Learn how to convert your Outlook contacts into an Excel-compatible spreadsheet for future import into a different Outlook account or alternative use. Special focus on customizing the contact information you wish to export.

In Outlook 2016, go to the ‘File’ menu and select the ‘Open & Export’ tab on the left. Proceed to ‘Import/Export’.

Outlook import and export options

Although the option of exporting your contacts to a .csv-file is not apparent, you will easily find it if you select ‘Export to a file’ in the dialog window.

Import and export wizard in Outlook

Few people give it any thought, but CSV stands for ‘Comma Separated Values’. Essentially, this format stores data as plain text, with each value separated from another by a comma (surprise!). For the user’s convenience, Microsoft Office displays such files as Excel spreadsheets by default.

Outlook export in csv

Next, select the folder you would like to export contacts from – the general recommendation is to go for a self-explanatory title unless you’re looking for something specific.

Export contacts from Outlook

Further on, you will be prompted for the target destination for your .csv-file and a name for it. By default, it will be saved in ‘Documents’.

Outlook contacts export destination

In the last window, you will see a list of actions about to be performed and a button captioned ‘Map Custom Fields’. Now, that does sound a bit obscure, but it is in fact a handy feature that enables you to set up the columns in your future Excel spreadsheet and make sure you avoid exporting data you do not need.

Final step of contacts export in Outlook

To set up custom fields – that is, columns in your future Excel spreadsheet – you might want to clear the map first. Then you can start dragging and dropping the items that interest you to the right-hand box. If you change your mind during the process and decide to export all the information just in case, click on ‘Default Map’.

Custom fields map in Outlook contacts export

Click ‘OK’, then ‘Finish’, and there you go – after the export is complete, you can view your .csv-file in Excel. As you can see, in this case, we have selected just four items of contact information for export, so we have four columns on the spreadsheet that match the selected fields in the previous screenshot.

Exported contacts from Outlook

If you make any minor changes when viewing the file – like altering the width of columns, for example – it is generally recommended that you refrain from saving such changes, especially if you intend to use the file for future export in a different Outlook account.

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