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2,862 Tutorials

Sync Gmail contacts with Thunderbird automatically

Get your Gmail contacts in your email browser

Need to know how to sync Gmail contacts with the Mozilla Thunderbird email client? Let our Helproom Expert explain.

QUESTION How do I automatically sync my Gmail contacts with Thunderbird? A recent Thunderbird update caused all the information in my address book to disappear. Kimtrnc

 HELPROOM ANSWER We covered how reinstate missing Gmail messages in the story 'Thunderbird update deletes messages', Kimtrnc; the good news is that it's just as easy to make a backup of your Gmail contacts that can be imported into Mozilla Thunderbird.

Log into Gmail via your favoured web browser and enter the Contacts view. If the word immediately below the Google logo at the top-left of the page says Contacts then you're already in it; otherwise, you'll need to select Contacts from the drop-down menu.

A few steps to the right is a More button; click this and choose Export. You can now choose to export all your contacts simultaneously or one group at a time. You can also export a selection of contacts by ticking the small boxes to the left of each of your contacts.

Select Outlook CSV as the output format to prepare your contacts for importing into a desktop email client, then click Export. Keep safe the resulting contacts.csv file.

Backing up your Gmail contacts isn't useful only for importing them into a desktop email client; it can also get you out of a sticky fix should you accidentally delete them. If you wish to back up your contacts for potentially restoring later, choose the Gmail format before clicking Export. It certainly wouldn't hurt to store two backups, with one in each format.

You can now import your Outlook format .csv file into Thunderbird. Launch the email client, select the Tools menu and choose Import. Select Address Books as the type of material you wish to import and click Next. Select Text File and click Next.

Locate and import your downloaded contacts.csv file (it's probably in your Downloads folder). If this isn't visible in the file browser, ensure that the format is set to CSV rather than LDIF.

Select 'First record contains field names' in the following dialog. Use the Move Up and Move Down buttons to match up the records in your imported data with the address book fields used by Thunderbird.

Disable any unnecessary fields. Make sure that the Last Name matches up in both columns, and that Primary Email in
the first column matches up with Email address in the second.

Click Next to import the contacts into your address book under 'Imported address book contacts'. Click Finish.

This rather cumbersome procedure won't keep your contacts synchronised between Gmail and Thunderbird, so you'll have to manually duplicate any changes.

However, you can get around this with a Thunderbird add-on such as Google Contacts. Install this add-on by visiting Tools, Add-ons within Thunderbird, then dropping the downloaded file on to the Extensions panel. Thunderbird will automatically install the file, and your Gmail contacts will be downloaded when you next launch the email client. Any changes you make to Thunderbird's address book will also be reflected in Gmail, and vice versa.

You can configure the add-on via Thunderbird's Extension panel by clicking Options. We recommend enabling at least one Address book backup and to prompt for confirmation before deleting contacts.

See all How to articles. Get free tech support in the Helproom Forum.

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