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This page lists some tips on using Apple's standard Contacts app (called Address Book before OS 10.9 Mavericks). This syncs with the Contacts app on an iPhone if you have one. The advice here is mostly about using Contacts on the Mac but includes hints for Contacts on the iPhone.

Pop-up menu

Take a look at the options in the popup menu when you click on the captions ("home", "work" etc.). Different options appear depending whether you click on phone, email, address etc. The options also change when you click the "edit" button on or off.

For example, when the edit button is off, you can:

  • Show a phone number in large type
  • "Send upate" i.e. email a VCF address card of your own contact info
  • "Map this address" i.e. go straight to it in Google Maps

With the edit button active, you can:

  • Set a custom caption
  • Rearrange the address format to the standard mailing format for the relevant country

A script to help

Eric uses a free script to automate the format of addresses in Contacts: click here and scroll down to "Better multi-country support in Contacts".

Right click on the address label after an address is added and it does two things: 1. changes the formatting according to what it should be for the country that has been typed in; 2. makes the spelling of the country uniform. It can do other things too.


Contacts can import information from other applications in vCard, LDAP Interchange Format (LDIF), tab-delimited, and comma-separated value (CSV) formats. The help file has more details on each method.

If you use tab-separated or CSV, the import function prompts you to map the fields at the time you import them, e.g. "skip this column; this column is the first name; this column is the home phone." This page has a screenshots showing how to do it.

Some people, who had difficulties with the app on its own, recommended a conversion utility called Abee.


The Exporting menu allows you to export single or multiple contacts to a VCF file. This can be sent to other people, or imported to other apps.

You can also back up your entire address book as a Contacts Archive. This is not compatible with other programs, but is a handy way to make back-ups of this essential data.

Although there is not an option in the menu to save to a simple table (e.g. CSV file), there is an easy way to export to a spreadsheet:

  • Open Contacts
  • Select contacts
  • Drag contacts to an open Numbers spreadsheet

This shows first and last name, phone and email. To see the rest of the data, click in the table, then use the menu command Table, Unhide All Columns. Delete any columns you don't need.

Duplicating records

You may want to duplicate a record, e.g. to start a record for another family member. Simply select the existing record then copy and paste.


Contacts searches all fields, including notes.

To search or filter using a specific field, add a Smart Group from the menu: File > New Smart Group. This allows you to search the whole card, or to filter by the contents of a particular field.

Managing groups

You can create a smart group of all contacts who are not members of another group. This could find e.g. new contacts that have come in from syncing with another device.

To find out which groups a contact is already in, select the contact, then the hold down the Option (Alt, ⌥) key. The groups which include that member will be highlighted in yellow.

To select multiple contacts, in order to drop them into a Group, hold the command key (marked with  or ⌘) as you click. This is a standard Apple keyboard trick which works in many programs; Windows copied it but uses the Ctrl key.

Dialling follow-on numbers

You may want to dial business numbers followed by internal telephone extensions, or standard responses for a customer service line. To automate this on the iPhone, you will need to insert a pause before the follow-on number. Insert a comma for a 2-second pause, or multiple commas for a longer pause. Alternatively, insert a semicolon before the extension, and the phone will wait for you to press the "Dial" button again when the answering service is ready.

To insert these characters directly in the iPhone Contacts app, edit the number and press the +*# button, then choose pause or wait as required.


You can print lists, address labels or envelopes directly from the Contacts app. Select the group to print, select Print and turn on Details and you can select from between address labels, envelopes, etc.

Avery has templates and an iOS app for printing labels on its website.


Contributed by Neville Reid, incorporating hints shared by various people on the Mac Ministry List, October 2011–January 2015.