Import Contacts From Palm Desktop To Iphone

If you are one of those people upgrading from a palm pilot to an iphone probably you are having a hard time importing your contacts from the  palm software to the iphone. luckily there is always a way to do things, so in this article I will share some tips on how to do that.

The only way to synch contacts to the iphone is by using itunes ( that’s the only way I know of) so the route we need to take is getting our contacts from the palm desktop software to Outlook and then to the iphone. some palm software have the ability to sync to outlook using software like PocketMirror etc. so that would make things simpler by just synching your itunes with Outlook.  but I guess that’s not your case, otherwise you wouldn’t be here (:-)

The Palm Desktop software does not let you export data in many formats, the most common formats you can export are .ABA and .CSV, and the only formant Outlook accept is .CSV so I guess the only option we have is to export contacts as .CVS format, here is how you do it.

Step 1: from your palm desktop software click on File and then Export . choose to export the file as “comma separated (*.csv;.text) and on range select ALL. save the file anywhere you want, but make sure you remember where it is.

Step 2. once the contacts have been exported, you need to modify the field names in the .csv file , so Outlook can recognize it.  these are some of the fields Outlook will recognize:

  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Job Title
  • Business Name
  • Business State
  • Postal Code
  • Business Country
  • Business Phone
  • Home Phone
  • Mobile Phone
  • E-mail Address

for example your spreadsheet will look like this:

CSV file

step 3:

after you finish modifying the spreadsheet you need to import them to Outlook. to do that go to your outlook and click on File, and then choose Import and Export:

Import and export

Then choose Import from a another program or file:

Import from a program or file

Choose Comma Separated Values (Windows) on the following screen:

comman separated values

choose the .CSV file you created earlier, by clicking on the browse button:

File to import

from here choose if you want to import duplicates or not.

select your destination folder on the next screen.

Destination folder.

click on Finish on the following screen.

Importing a file - last stage

that should import your contacts to Outlook.

Step 4 :

now you need to synch your Outlook contacts with itunes.

when you open itunes, your iphone should get recognized automatically. click on the iphone icon, and the following screen will show up:


under the info tab.

scroll to the bottom, and click on Sync.

that should start the synching between Outlook and itunes.

good luck.

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about My name is Nelson Amaya and I’m the author of this website. I created the site in 2009 (under the domain) and I’ve been posting tutorials here ever since. I'm a systems / network administrator and I enjoy solving complex problems and learning as much as I can about new technologies. I write tutorials based on my work experience and other IT stuff I find interesting.

  • The style of writing is quite familiar . Did you write guest posts for other blogs?

  • Clarence

    How about this easy way:
    All the instructions I found online suggested going through Outlook, but that didn't work for me for a variety of reasons. I found this other method that worked really well.

    1. Bring up Palm Desktop. Make sure your Palm phone is sync'ed up. Show the Address page, select all contacts (Ctrl-A), and export them with File, Export vCard… This puts all contact information into a single file as a sequence of vCards.
    2. Bring up Windows Address Book. You can find this in Start, All Program, Accessories, Address Book.
    3. Using Windows Explorer, drag the vCard file you created in step 1 to the Windows Address Book window. I had never used Windows Address Book, so it was empty. If yours isn't empty, you'll have to decide whether you want to merge your contacts.
    4. When you drop the file, you'll get a window asking you to confirm the first contact. Press OK. Another window will come up for the second contact. Press OK until all windows are gone. It's easiest to hold down the Enter key.
    5. Bring up iTunes with your iPhone plugged in. Go to your iPhone page, to the Info tab, and configure it to sync from Windows Address Book. Click Apply in the lower-right corner of the window.
    6. Sync your iPhone. Verify that your contacts transferred over.
    7. Tell iTunes to stop sync'ing with Windows Address Book, since you probably only wanted a one-way sync. Your contacts will be backed up anyway by iTunes, so the Address Book sync feature doesn't buy you much.

    • Steve

      That was great info you are awesome!!!!

    • Susan

      Clarence! You are the best! The absolute best! It's been 89 weeks since you posted this, so I hope you re-visit and know you are the best. I didn't think it was possible to get my contacts from Agendus. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!

    • OJ P James

      Fantastic. I just did it.

    • s miller

      This worked great until i got to step 5. My only choice is to sync from Outlook or Outlook express. I can’t get it to sync from Windows Address Book. But no one else seems to have a problem with this. could it be because i just updated my iphone to 5.0.1?

      • s miller

        nevermind – got it – duh – I was in “Mail Accounts” – not “Contacts”

  • Michelle

    Thanks so much for this great info– I updated all my contacts with no problems!!!
    I have had this Treo for a long time and when I finally upgraded to the IPhone I was worried that it would be really difficult to sync the contacts– but this was great help!

  • Tom

    I'm an Iphone newbie (which may seem obvious from following question). I will use Clarence's suggestion from above to move from palm to Iphone. If I also want some of my contacts to sync from my work outlook, can I do this without syncing the contacts that I imported from palm back to outlook? Basically, I don't want my personal contacts on my work outlook, but want both personal and work on my Iphone…. so I want 1-way sync from Outlook to Iphone. Easily accomplished?

  • Kim3258

    WOW! that worked great!!! Thanks.

  • Elizabeth

    Clarence's idea and instructions were fantastic!! This worked perfectly to transfer contact info from my Palm LifeDrive into my new iPod Touch. I'm not a techie and could accomplish this without a flaw. Thank you, Clarence; You da Man!!

  • Ted

    Wow, thanks Clarence! worked great and my wife is so happy I got her data transferred. Thanks to you, I'm a hero. 🙂

  • Damien

    This worked great for me to. I transferred my contacts from my palm centro to my new iPhone. Do you know where can I access/manage my contacts in iTunes?

  • Kathy

    I have Palm Desktop 4.1 and the only export mode it offers is .dba. Need to transfer calendar/contact data to my iPhone and Outlook. HELP!

  • julian

    thanks Clarence! great work I got all data transferred.

    • Joeie

      Surprinislgy well-written and informative for a free online article.

  • frank

    i tried clarences idea and it is a good one however i have alot of data/info in the notes portion of my palm contacts and it was "cut off". so only a small portion of that information was converted over. Does any one know how to get "all" data converted/imported over?

  • frank

    continuing my previous comment: That was importing into the windows address book. some data got cut-off. windows address book must not allow much data to be written there(the "other" tab and notes section) whereas palm allows a lot of info to be written in there. any solution to this would be great!

    • Bobbi

      I am having the same problem that Frank had, where the fields are shorter so a lot of my info. was cut off. Has anyone found a solution to this, or a different device that is a better solution?

  • Ann

    Holy Cow! Thanks so much!! I have ancient palm desktop software on my computer and wanted to sync it with my new iphone. I dreaded the hours of hand entering all my contacts but it took, literally, 2 minutes to get them all in there!! Thanks soooo much!!!

  • Pingback: I got my wife an iPhone today - Page 4 - Digital Radio Central()

  • MC

    I was able to transfer my contacts and calendar (10 years of data) from my Palm Centro (Palm Desktop 6.2) to my iPhone 4 very easily. I am no techie by any stretch of the imagination. I downloaded CompanionLink Pro to my PC. This is free for the first 14 days. I have no need for this program other than the transfer, so I do not intend to use it after 14 days.

    Using CompanionLink, I transferred my Palm contacts and calendar to my google account. Be sure to select the date range under advanced settings if you want more than a few months from your calendar. This transferred beautifully. Even the information in the custom fields for contacts transferred. The only glitch were my tasks which were all put in today's date on the calendar.

    Then I sync'd my iPhone using iTunes. I selected syncing contacts with my google account. All my contacts transferred beautifully to the iPhone.

    Then, the calendar was sync'd over the air using Exchange. Follow these instructions:…. If you want to sync many years from your calendar be sure to go to the settings button on your iPhone, select mail contacts calendar, and select sync all events.

    This worked great for me after the genius at the apple store could not transfer my Palm contacts and calendar to my new iPhone. Hope it works for you.

  • Virginia

    thank you thank you Clarence – that was surprisingly easy – a couple of things I had to figure out, esp I couldn't find "windows explorer" but used "my documents" (and remembered what I had named the file…) Some of my phone numbers look funny, then I recalled that I had coded them with a number "how late I can call them", which evidently confused the phone number decoder (wrong number of digits so it didn't know where to put the () and – , so i'll go back & check them all. But WAY less time than re-entering! (I am also a computer neophyte – born way before the digital divide – so your simple instructions were a godsend.

  • Virginia

    ref: Frank's situation – same thing for me except most of mine were short enuf – or I hit return and kept my lines short? because it did accept several lines of data, but some long lines were truncated – so I seem to have only lost a little. But I'll also be interested to see if anyone has a solution to that problem.

  • Denice BB

    Thank you for your advice! It worked pretty well…just had to do some data cleanup.

  • karen

    I used MC's method and it was a great success and I am NOT a techi. Instead of transferring to Google, I transferred my Palm 4.2 to Outlook and like MC said, I made sure I changed the calendar setting from swapping the last 90 days to the last 2700 days. Then I took my new Iphone4 and synched it with Itunes – this is done by the software. All you have to do is plug in your new phone to the computer that has all of the info.

  • Ooo

    That ist THIS method !

    Thanks a lot ! Everything worked perfectly ! 🙂

  • Ooo

    That ist THIS method ! rnrnThanks a lot ! Everything worked perfectly ! 🙂

  • AdamC

    2/7/11 update: Found this page from Google search. I did not want to use Outlook either. Clarence's suggestion still worked fine for me. I'm moving from a 2.5 year-old Palm Centro to iPhone 4, both on Verizon network. Backup assistant wasn't an option. The vCard to Windows Address Book to iTunes/iPhone 4 method worked well. I've just spot checked, but things seem OK. Now I need to determine how I will sync moving forward. Thanks a lot! -Adam

  • You made some Good points there. I did a search on the topic and found most people will agree.

  • I see your point, great job, can’t wait for more articles
    stegna noclegi

  • smee

    I have followed your directions and it worked. Now I'm wondering about a series of memos I have on my Palm Centro that I'd like to transfer to my Iphone4. Any advice?

    • Laura

      Hello to all you successful converts. I just got my iPhone4 and would like to transfer contacts and memos plus the to-do files just as all of you have done…one difference, I am a MAC person. Please offer some guidance. I have exported my addresses onto a vCard and e-mailed it to myself. I have yet to go further. Do I need to make fields on the iPhone to accept the format from my PalmCentro? My Memos has 47 different entries which within each there is lots of information (some w/lists etc). HELP PLEASE.
      Thank you in advance

  • Rajk 29

    its worked for me , but number showing without 0 , so how to put 0 before numer

  • Rhondaca

    I am not good at this tech stuff at all. I was told by many this could not be done that I would just have to add them manually. But I kept searching and found your web site. Your directions were so simple even I could follow them. Thank you.
    Now off the fiqure out how to get my calendar to sync.

    • Nelson

      Hi Rhondaca, I’m glad you were able to fix your problem following my tutorial. Its always good to know the stuff I write is helping people out there… Thanks for your comment.

  • Brooks Bowen

    Haven’t tried your contact sync yet but am sure it will work based on all the positive comments.

    But, how do I transfer my Calendar and Memos from my Palm Centro to the Iphone 4?

    Thanks for your community service!

    • Nelson

      hi Brooks,

      the same way you export the contacts I believe.

  • Beverly

    My calendar transferred immediately, but I needed assistance with my contacts. I had not found this stream of comments, but the Verizon guys were successful. Now, I am stuck with all my notes still on my Palm Prix, which has no service. Is there a way to move these to “notes” on the iphone4 or somewhere else on my phone?

  • Big AL

    I’m a coward when it comes to moving or changing valuable data access. I have the old Palm m515 which crashed and only use the desktop Palm program keeping track of people, address, appointments and especially NOTES.

    I see some comment that larger amounts of notes in files got cut off, didn’t all transfer etc. That’s not going to work for me. I have an old Blackberry now and willing to get an iPhone “if” this Palm data can be moved entirely to another desktop and phone friendly system.

    Anyone know how all those years of client & family/friends notes can be transfered along with the rest and is the iPhone the way to go? I like the ease of typing appointments, lengthy notes etc into the desktop and sync’ing with the Palm (when it was working). Is the iTunes a similar program to Palm I’ll be able to use on my desktop? I thought it was only music. OK, I’m old and not a tech guy.
    Big AL

  • Scott

    I just switched from Treo 700p to iPhone 4S and had Palm Desktop 4.2. The tip of using the Windows Address Book and vCard export from Palm Desktop worked perfectly! Thank you!!

    • Big AL

      You didn’t loose some notes in your Palm files like another said? I have a lot of important lengthy info in the notes section under contacts I can’t afford to loose.

  • polash

    Really Fantastic!!!
    How many know such a easy thing unknown to most!?!?!?

  • Peter

    Even simpler: In your Palm desktop select to display all available contacts from all your categories, then select all these contacts and export them as vcards into a single VCF file. Send an e-mail to your iPhone and attach that VCF file. On your iPhone open the attached VCF file. The iPhone will ask you whether to create contacts for all those entries included in that VCF file. Answer yes and you’re done.

    • Kelly

      Oh, Peter, I love you! I have been delaying this transfer for a week and was ready to try Clarence and MC’s suggestions when I saw yours. Two minutes later, the deed was done — super easy and efficient. Suggestion to others: Remember to “show” all columns you want to transfer (palm desktop/view/show columns, then click the columns you want to show and therefore to transfer). THANKS SO MUCH for posting!!

    • AJ – in FL

      Peter – AMAZING!!!! Talk about fast & easy! Ctrl-A, export & e-mail. (If you have some there, it can merge if you want or overwrite.) How foolishly easy. Far faster & easier than they could do at the Sprint stores. (To their defense, 4S is new to them & Apple doesn’t let them work on it.)

      Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!!! (214 contacts properly imported!)

      • Ian Staples

        Pure Brilliance. Just shows what can happen when a few people get working on a problem. Clarence plus Peter’s addition make this really easy for contacts

        • Nelson

          Thanks for your comment, sir.

    • Manny

      This works perfectly. The only hangup I had was that my gmail app didn’t know what to do with the VCF file. I needed to use the native Mail app to open the attachment.

      All of the custom fields were added as text in the ‘notes’ field, so data was lost.

      Thank you Peter!

      • Manny

        Sorry, NO data was lost.

    • Nostress

      To Peter, but anyone else feel free to respond:
      Have used PalmOS for over 15 years, using different handhelds over that time, I’ve been looking for quite a while for a way to import (contacts are the most important) to an iPhone from a Treo (PalmOS), and retain the data from all fields, especially the Custom 1-4 fields and some records with a rather full note field. This may be my answer. I can’t believe no one else has had the problem.
      Can (and how can) your method of transferring contact data be done for each contact category in Palm Desktop separately, retaining the categories on the iPhone and on Outlook?
      Does anyone have a list of fields available on the iPhone and in Outlook, and know the corresponding fields into which each Palm field will be placed? Is the correspondence different when the import is done via an emailed VCF file into iPhone and then to Outlook, rather than first to Outlook, and then to iPhone? Can the iPhone display ANY Outlook field, as the Apple people told me? Can Android display any Outlook field?
      On the Palm handheld, names/labels of fields can and are inadvertently changed from time to time, e.g., many of my Treo contacts now list two telephone numbers as “work,” and ”work,” though I never consciously changed the names. How does this affect how they would be imported into Outlook and into the iPhone, especially when as such there may be fields w/o unique names? Are just the labels on the interface changed, but not the actual field names? Anyone have experience with this, or know someone who has? Can and how can the VCF or CSV (is that even reliable) file be tweaked (hopefully globally) to change where data are assigned?
      I’ve put data into most of the Palm handheld fields over the years, based on Palm telling me that there would not be a problem importing to something else (sure!), but have not put data into the additional fields on Palm Desktop – I guess that makes it a bit easier. I have thousands of contacts, and hundreds of memos, and manual transfer is not feasible. I’ve delayed getting an iPhone after hearing dozens of contradictions from Veriz, Apple and Palm/HP on whether, how and to what extent a transfer can be done.
      **I thought of somehow getting the data from the custom fields into the note field, using a global command, as there are too many records affected to do this manually. This is the first I’ve ever heard of a method that auto-appends the custom fields to the note field (based on Manny’s comment shortly following yours – can others confirm that, and will any other method, such as CSV (or VCard, if it will even take it) into Outlook do an auto-append – NO ONE ELSE EVEN MENTIONS auto-appending data – I’d like to hear from anyone who’s tried? Also, does your method or any other append data from OTHER fields whose names might unique to the Palm). If this works, it would make things so much simpler. I switched to the Pre two years ago amid promises that everything would work well, and have never been able to even adequately sync my contacts – I’m walking around with the data from a one-way sync into the miserable Classic emulator (which is the best there is, under the circumstances, but emulates hard buttons with soft controls that are hopeless to use unless you have teeeeny hands, and will not even work after the WebOS upgrade, unless you’ve heard something new – that is, if Verizon will even bother to upgrade the OS). Any new records in the last two years had to be entered onto the Treo, kept at home, and for the past sev mos, the Treo has stopped syncing memos, forcing me to enter new memos as notes in blank contacts (similar to the way Google would do it in the cloud). Any ideas on how to get that working again? I assume I’d be able to export my contacts (which I still synch from the Treo), from Palm Desktop.
      Using “Show columns” in Palm Desktop, if the note shows at all, only the first line displays. Will the entire note export and sync – and again, at what point, if at all, will it truncate? Can I tweak the file to avoid truncation?
      Incidentally, one of the pieces of information I’ve been able to glean (if it is true – please comment!) is that the Pre is capable of receiving the Custom Field data, but it has no means to display it (this of course, after I was promised it would, and migrated to the Pre on that basis)
      Does anyone have a rundown on the character limit in the different fields, including but not limited to, the note field on both the iPhone and Outlook, or in other, so I can get an idea of whether any data would be truncated, especially after other fields are appended to it? At the Apple store I was told that there was no limit, but given all the other contradictions, I cannot rely on that. I cannot upgrade to the iPhone until I have reasonable assurances that this will not be another two-year headache.
      Are there alternative PC-based programs, other than Outlook (susceptible to malware), to which contact and other iPhone data can be sunq (simpler form of the word). I know that the cloud is a possibility, but I’d rather not use the cloud.
      It is pretty established that memos from PalmOS cannot be imported into the corresponding app on the iPhone(unless one of you knows a way – let me know!) I know of several possibilities of doing it through and into third-party software. Can anyone recommend a method from experience – especially one that does not store on the cloud?
      They say that CompanionLink can sync the iPhone with Palm Desktop, keeping the data there. Is it reliable? It works with DejaOffice – will that display and keep a running sync with Memo data from the Palm?
      Assuming I now get an iPhone and import the contacts by emailing from Palm Desktop, can I then configure Outlook (how), which is on the desktop (OS=Vista Home Prem) as part of Word but not yet used. and do a one-way initial transfer into an empty Outlook, maintaining an ongoing sync therewith afterward?
      Finally, any thoughts by anyone as to the possibility and methods of doing all this onto an Android or Blackberry, rather than an iPhone (though I’d prefer the iPhone, which I think is more stable, among other things), still being able to sync by USB or WiFi, into a PC, rather than the cloud (have gotten contradictions on that, too) – and which Verizon models might be best, for doing so?

  • Rob

    I have a slightly different question. I’ve been able to sync my new iPhone 4s with Outlook, But I reset the phone because of a problem I couldn’t figure out. Now all of my contacts are formatted without parenthesis around the area code. For example, a contact that has the phone number of (555) 555-1234 in my outlook now appears as the phone number of 5555551234 in the contact in the iPhone. Now, none of my contacts come up when I recieve a call. How can I fix that? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!!

  • Oddedi

    I read here about transfering the address book from Palm ( mine is Clio) to iphone. My problem is that I need to transfer also the notes attached to a lot of my names. How to do so? without the notes I can not use the iphone as a stand a lone.

  • Manny

    Following advice from other sites, but before reading the posts here, I semi-successfully transferred contact and calendar data from my Treo 680 to my new iPhone 4S. This was route I took:

    1. Using HotSync, sync Treo to Outlook 2007 via Bluetooth (required for Win7). Must choose the option to Sync with Outlook.
    2. Connect iPhone to PC and launch iTunes.
    3. Under Devices, select the iPhone, go to Info and check Sync Contacts with Outlook, and Sync Calendars with Outlook.
    4. Click the Sync button.

    Over 2,300 contacts and 2 months of calendar data transferred in about 5 minutes. Any Notes attached to Contacts were brought over completely, some as long as 22 lines.
    no custom fields were transferred. I defines fields such as “Account” and “Hours” on the Treo, and this information was lost.

    I will try Peter’s VCF solution tonight. Seems to be the easiest of all the methods I seen yet.

    • Nostress

      Did the custom fields transfer, using Peter’s method? Please read my response to Peter, above. It is still “awaiting moderation,” so I hope both posts will be approved quickly. If you can send an email contact, we can speak directly, and resolve one another’s difficulties. Is there any way to message privately, here or on a similar site?
      Good luck – I hope you’ve succeeded in the transfer.

  • Laura

    I am a Mac person, everyone on this site sounds as if they are all PC (windows) people…

    Hello to all you successful converts. I just got my iPhone4 and would like to transfer contacts and memos plus the to-do files just as all of you have done…one difference, I am a MAC person. Please offer some guidance. I have exported my addresses onto a vCard and e-mailed it to myself. I have yet to go further. Do I need to make fields on the iPhone to accept the format from my PalmCentro? My Memos has 47 different entries which within each there is lots of information (some w/lists etc).
    Thank you in advance

  • Donna

    I, too am a mac person. All my palm data is stored on my computer but my phone was lost so I got an iphone and clueless as to how to transfer data. Any help appreciated. Thanks

  • DQ

    I transferred my contacts successfully losing minimal information. I’ve tried everything to transfer my calendar and am unsuccessful. For some reason my Palm Desktop software won’t let me export a calendar as anything but a Date Book Archive (*.dba) file. Am I missing a setting or something?? I had even loaded Outlook on my computer just for the transfer.
    I’ve been using both my iPhone and my Palm Centro as my calendar and my Centro died today. The only access I have to YEARS of information is on my laptop.

  • DQ

    I transferred my contacts successfully losing minimal information with the VCF method suggested by Peter, etc. I’ve tried everything to transfer my calendar and am unsuccessful
    My Palm Desktop software won’t let me export a calendar as anything but a Date Book Archive (*.dba) file. Am I missing a setting or something??

    I’ve been using both my iPhone and my Palm Centro as my calendar, and my Centro died today. The only access I have to YEARS of information is on my laptop.

  • I’ve just used this CompanionLink to transfer Palm Desktop data to a client’s iPhone 4s, and it worked like a charm!