I gotta say that my iPod Nano (4G) is really growing on me, much more so than I would have expected. I bought it last April, not long before my wife and I spent a week on a cruise ship in the western Caribbean. I hardly used it on the cruise, but now I use it every morning on my half-hour commute to work, plugged in to my car stereo and playing podcasts of Car Talk, Fresh Air, and Science Friday from NPR. I use it occasionally in my office if I need to drown out the office noise, and also when I ‘m jogging–the Nike + iPod Sport Kit is a cute little wireless pedometer that links with the iPod to help you collect data from your runs, and anyone who knows me knows I’m all about collecting data.  I’m always on the lookout for new ways to use my iPod.

I knew my iPod was capable of storing contacts and calendar items, and even syncing with Microsoft Outlook. And I figured it would be handy to have a copy of my contacts stored on my iPod. Problem is, I use a Palm T|X and Palm Desktop for handling my address book and my calendar. In fact, Outlook is nowhere to be found on my computer.

It’s not hard to get contacts onto an iPod. If you have your contacts stored as .vcf (virtual business card) files, you can simply connect your iPod to your computer as an external drive (like a thumb drive), open up its Contacts folder, and copy the .vcf files into the folder. The hard part is getting Palm Desktop to produce the .vcf files for you.

Actually, Palm Desktop is happy to export a contact as a .vcf file. You simply open Palm Desktop, select the Address Book, click on a contact to highlight it, and then select Export vCard from the File menu. It’ll then create the .vcf file with whatever name you give it, and you can merrily copy that over to the Contacts folder on your iPod.

That process is fine for a few contacts, but what if you have 200 like me? It turns out that you can select all your contacts at once in Palm Desktop and then do the Export vCard thing, but what you’ll end up with is a single .vcf file containing all your contacts, and your iPod won’t handle that (it’ll only see the first contact in the file). So the alternative is to either (a) export each contact separately, or (b) write a little program to split the .vcf file containing all your contacts into individual .vcf files.

Needless to say, I chose the latter path, and you can download the little program (vcfconvert.exe, which is the actual program itself, not an installer) I wrote if you’d like to use it. Note that it requires that you have Microsoft’s .Net 2.0 framework installed.

Here’s how to use my little utility:

  1. Download vcfconvert.exe and place it in a folder by itself someplace on your computer’s hard drive.
  2. Export all your contacts from Palm Desktop to a single .vcf file. Copy that .vcf file to the same folder containing vcfconvert.exe.
  3. Open a command prompt, navigate to the folder containing vcfconvert.exe, and type the following command: vcfconvert mycontacts.vcf (substitute the actual name of your .vcf file for mycontacts.vcf).
  4. What should happen next is that a new .vcf file should be created in that same folder for each contact in the file you exported from Palm Desktop. They’ll be named contact0.vcf, contact1.vcf, etc.
  5. Copy the contact*.vcf files into your iPod’s Contacts folder (as I described above).
  6. On your iPod, access your contacts and verify that they were transferred successfully. That’s it!

One thing I should mention is that vcfconvert.exe does one other thing for me. You see, most of the contacts I store in my Palm are not people, but rather organizations, web sites, etc. I use the Organization field rather than the Name field to hold the name of the organization or web site in those contacts. Unfortunately, when those contacts are exported as .vcf files, the Name field is empty, and the iPod just displays the contact as “-Unnamed-“. To fix this, vcfconvert.exe checks each contact, and if the name field is empty, it copies the organization name into the name field. If you use the name field rather than the organization field, this shouldn’t affect you.

If you give vcfconvert a whirl, leave me a comment and let me know how it worked.

3 thoughts on “Transferring Contacts from Palm to iPod Nano

  1. Hey,

    Just tried this on a Gmail contacts .vcf export file and it split it up good. My new nano should arrive very soon in the post and I’m looking forward to trying this out. Doing the whole “sync” with Outlook nonsense is painful.

    Thank you heaps for this!

  2. Well, it worked for me, which is really saying something! I’m as low tech as you can imagine and had to think hard even to navigate in the command mode.
    My z22 gave up the ghost and this really helped.
    Any chance you’ll find a way to do the same with calendar?
    But thanks for this one anyway. Brilliant!


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