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FAQ: How do I import Chinese contacts
from Gmail into MS Outlook?

When I export them I see "???" in place of the characters. Help!

Gmail Contacts export dialog box

The problem here is the way Gmail exports your contacts:

  • When you export in "Google CSV" format, it saves in Unicode text and it will display Chinese OK, but the field (column) order is all wrong for Outlook.
  • When you export in "Outlook CSV" format, it saves in ASCII text I think, and then the Chinese turns into garbage characters or just disappears.
  • (When you export in "vCard" format the Chinese is in there, but this file is in Apple Address Book format so Outlook cannot read it.)

Assuming you want a free solution, I suggest you do this:

  • Export for both Gmail (google.csv) and Outlook (contacts.csv).
  • Import google.csv into Excel using the Text Import Wizard. (In Outlook 2007 or 2010, click the "Data" tab. In the "Get External Data" group, click "From Text". Tell it to use commas as delimiters.)
  • Open contacts.csv in Excel, and save it as an Excel file (.xls Office 97-2003 format) so that it will retain the Chinese characters and be ready for import.
  • Copy/paste the Chinese names into the appropriate Outlook fields in the outlook.csv file. Be careful to match the order and columns for English contacts. 
  • Then import into Outlook as an Excel file.

After all that work, you may still have trouble with Chinese in Outlook but at least you're at the stage most people contact me about. 

If you're willing to spend time and money on an automated solution, here's what I do:

  • I have a $50/year one-user Google Apps Premier account that allows me to automatically sync Outlook with a new Gmail account and my Android phone, using "Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook".  In addition to the price, it requires you to have your own domain so it's really meant for businesses and may be more than you want to deal with. But once set up, it's effortless and instantaneous...most of the time. :-)

You are not alone in having this problem! I get this question a lot, so I've finally added it to this FAQ section. Please feel free to contact me if I can help with anything else.

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