VCard Limitations

The common standard for moving contacts from computer to computer, or even application to application, has been the VCard.  A Vcard consists of lines of text containing data field with attributes and the value of that field.  These lines make up the properties of a specific contact.  Vcard’s are stored as VCF files.  Most vcard files only contain one contact per file.  More and more applications are supporting the ability to read and write vcard files that contain more than one contact per file.   This ability is limited in different ways depending on the software.

As I mentioned above, different software packages have different limitations when working with vcards.  The VCard limitations in Microsoft Outlook, for example, will only read one contact from a vcard file, no matter how many contacts are actually in the file.  Outlook will also only write one vcard per file when you export contacts.  Lotus Notes and Mac products often will read multiple contacts from a single vcard file, but are limited to a specific length of data.  This means that If your vcard file has two hundred contacts, they might only read 100 of them.   This is different between different software packages, and I am not sure of the limits on each one.

If you are working with a lot of contacts, say 1000, it is too much work to have to deal with exporting 1000 files and then the time it takes to import each file individually.  So instead, you export one file with 1000 contacts, to find out that the receiving application can’t handle the file.  Maybe it is too big, maybe it only processes the first 200 contacts.   So how do you save yourself from having to import each contact individually?  You will need to break up the large vcard file.   The file is only a text file and can be opened in any generic text editor (like notepad).  It will look hard to read at first but the key components you are interested in are the BEGIN:VCARD and END:VCARD tags.  These signify the start and end of a specific contact.  Now you must start the process of breaking the file into smaller files so maybe you have 10 vcard files instead of 1000.  Start copying text from a BEGIN:VCARD line to the END:VCARD line.  Make sure to include those lines in the copy.   Copy a bunch of the contacts out into their own file so it contains 200 or so items.   Most text editors allow you to search so you can check how many you have by searching for number of occurrences of BEGIN:VCARD.    Make sure the file starts with BEGIN:VCARD on the first line and END:VCARD on the last line.  Save it with a .vcf file extension.  Continue this process until the file is broken down small enough to import the contacts in just a few imports.

The process of breaking down the vcard file into multiple, smaller files adds just a small amount of work compared to working with 1000 different files.  It can save you time and make it easier to manage your files.