How to export your contacts from Gmail

I maintain a personal mailing list of my most frequent contacts, which is basically used to send holiday greetings. Through the years I laboriously added new contacts, and removed the ones I hadn’t messaged in a while. This year I decided to create an app to do this automagically: Email Contacts Extractor.

I decided so after exploring various options to export my contacts from Gmail. Below are the top ones, and why I think my app was necessary. Either if you want to create a personal mailing list or backup your email contacts, these are the top options you should consider.

Export from Gmail (free)

Gmail screenshot

Google makes a serious effort to allow users to export their personal data, and Gmail is no exception. Gmail provides free built-in support to export all your email contacts as a CSV with just a few clicks.

When you select All contacts, Gmail differentiates between a contact and an email address. This is particularly useful if you’re planning to build a personal mailing list. Robot accounts (no-reply@) and spammers should be ignored, resulting in a list of mostly humans who interacted with you at some point in time.

Unfortunately, the exported file tells you very little about how you interacted with these contacts. When was the last time you contacted them? How many times? I find this information is essential to minimize the risk of spamming people who barely know you.

Gmail does provide a Most Contacted list limited to the top 20 contacts, which I found too restrictive.

PRO: free and does a good job at filtering your contacts.
CON: does not provide information about how you interacted with them.

WriteThat.name ($59)

WriteThat.name screenshot

There are various paid online services that automatically update your address book as your receive email. WriteThat.name, a fellow Seedcamp company, is the best-looking one and can also scan past email for an extra fee.

I say “best-looking” because I haven’t tested it, for a very simple reason: I’m not comfortable giving access to my email to third-parties. Security leaks happen, companies disappear, or need to make cash quickly, and I don’t like my email to be involved in any of that.

If you don’t have my privacy concerns, WriteThat.name looks like a great solution. At the date of writing this article, extracting all your contacts would cost you $59 the first year.

I might give it a try when they are acquired by Google.

PRO: looks good.
CON: privacy concerns and costs a bit of money.

Email Contacts Extractor ($19.99)

Email Contacts Extractor screenshot

Wouldn’t it be nice to have an app that:

  • can export your email contacts
  • without giving access to your email to anyone
  • and by providing context about how you interacted with them?

Email Contacts Extractor is Mac app that does exactly that, and I built it myself for myself. It extracts all your email contacts from Mac OS X Mail or Outlook in just a few minutes, and saves them as a CSV file. You can then sort your contacts by name, last message date, rating or contact frequency. Works with Gmail and any other service that can be added to Mail via IMAP or POP. And has many more features.

I figured $19.99 was a fair price for such a utility and put it on sale on the Mac App Store. It sells a couple of units per day, which pays for the coffee I don’t drink.

PRO: does not have the CONs of the previous options.
CON: only for Mac.

6 thoughts on “How to export your contacts from Gmail

  1. Martin Cleaver

    Hi Hermes,

    Nice tool :)

    I’d like if it would:
    – extract the organization of the contact into a separate field.
    – split first and last name (y, will break with Latin names)
    – not leave spurious single quote marks around the name field

    Other than that, priced about right.

    Thanks, Martin.

    Reply
    1. hpique Post author

      Thanks for the feedback Martin!

      The app does try to clean the name a little bit and that includes removing single and double quotes. I might have missed a few cases, or the logic might be buggy. Would you mind sending me a few examples to train the cleaning algorithm? I’ll contact you by email so you can do it privately.

      I’m working on extracting the organisation and first and last name (as opposed to name), but I’m not happy with the accuracy yet. If you’re willing, I can send you a beta to see if it works for you.

      Reply
  2. levi

    Hey,
    I just downloaded the app but I am having trouble using it for what I need.

    1) I have gmail (how do i get this to work for my email account?)
    2) I want to download ‘extract’ ALL email addresses in ALL folders whether it be sent, starred and all the other labels/folders I have created.
    3) If possible I would like to download all emails as well (does not be to be sent folder) and be able to store it on a private drive. (does google archive do this?)

    Thanks for your feedback.

    Reply
      1. hpique Post author

        I usually respond within 24-48 hours during weekdays. Email is preferred (hpiqueapps at gmail dot com), as comments here have a strong automatic spam filter and sometimes are incorrectly classified as such.

        Reply
    1. hpique Post author

      Hi Levi. Answers below:

      1) Email Contacts Extractor woks on downloaded emails. To download them, you can use Mac Mail (preferred) or Outlook. Simply configure you email in any of those and let them download your messages. Once finished, run the app to perform the extraction.
      2) That’s the default behaviour.
      3) You can either export all your emails from Mac Mail or Outlook. I believe Gmail also provides an option to export all your messages from Google Takeout.

      Let me know if that helps.

      Reply

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