How to export Contact info from Palm Pilot/Treo to Apple iPhone 3G/4Gs


The basic technique here is to export all your Contact info from Palm’s format to Microsoft Address format, and then import from there into the Apple iPhone Contacts app. The best instructions I’ve found so far were here, but I’ve added extra gotchas below in case it helps others. Note: this only transfers Contact info, and does not transfer Calendaring, ToDo or anything else.

Before starting, you need to do the following:

  1. On a MS Windows PC, install palm desktop and iTunes. (If you primarily use iTunes on another computer, its ok to just install iTunes on the windows PC, do this one-off data transfer, and then throw away that iTunes installation).
  2. Start Programs->Accessories->AddressBook and make sure that the Microsoft Address book is empty. (Note: this is not to be confused with MS Outlook, which is very different!)
  3. On the Palm Pilot/Treo, look through all the contacts for the following gotchas:
    • If any contact has two entries of the same type (for example, a person with two mobile numbers, or two work phone numbers), you will need to manually remove/rename one of these numbers before you start. I noticed that any contacts with multiple entries of the same type ended up losing all but one.
    • If you have the same person listed multiple times in your Palm Pilot/Treo, this will cause an error later on. I discovered that I accidentally had the same person entered twice, in two different categories. These duplicate names caused errors later on in the export process, so its best to check and fix this before you start. Worst case, if you miss a duplicate, its quick and easy to just throw away all the conversion work and restart from the beginning again….but it sure it annoying!
    • Check for any occurrences of  ‘=  (single-quote followed by equals)  in your contacts, or attached notes. If you find this anywhere, you must change them to something else before you can continue. It seems that ‘= (single-quote followed by equals) is used as a delimiter somewhere in the conversion process, so anything after that gets cut from that specific person’s info, and never transferred.
    • “Custom fields” are not transferred, so you should either migrate that data to one of the “standard” fields, or make a note of them, and come back later to cleanup by manually copying from palm desktop into MS Address book.

OK, thats it. Now we’re ready to begin:

  1. Hotsync your Palm pilot/treo with the Palm Desktop one final time. Remember, backups are your friend!
  2. Start Palm Desktop and view the Address page. Select the contacts you want to bring over (ctrl-A on keyboard if you want them all), then choose File->ExportvCard… to save all your contacts into one single file on your desktop.
  3. Start Programs->Accessories->AddressBook
  4. Drag and drop the newly created file from your desktop into Microsoft AddressBook. You’ll be asked to press “ok” for each entry being imported into AddressBook. Annoying but its very quick.
  5. Unplug your Palm Pilot/Treo, and plug in your iPhone.
  6. Start iTunes. On the iPhone page, Info tab, choose to sync contacts with Microsoft Address Book and click Apply.
  7. Sync your iPhone with iTunes – this will in turn pull the contacts from the Microsoft Address Book.
  8. On iPhone, look in Contacts app, and verify that all your contacts transferred over correctly. Specifically, look for long attached notes to make sure nothing was truncated.
  9. Undo step (6) in iTunes.

Thats it!

Again, this only transfers Contact info; I’m still investigating exporting Calendaring, ToDo and other types of “legacy data” – any hints? 🙂

Big tip-o-the-hat to: and also Both were wonderful help!

All this left me wondering why Apple didnt provide an import utility to handle migrating from Palm Pilot to iPhone…or from BlackBerry to iPhone.  That would sure make it easier for business users to migrate over to iPhone. Oh well.

UPDATE: These same instructions worked great tonight when migrating a friend from a Palm Pilot to a new iPhone 4Gs. Added warning about custom fields, which I missed in this first blog. joduinn 04-dec-2011

How to search Thunderbird emails with Spotlight on a MacBookPro (OSX 10.4.11)


Ever since I started using Thunderbird on a mac (over a year ago), its been annoying that Spotlight searches other files on my laptop, but not my emails. I finally had time to put aside an evening to try this, and got it working in just a few minutes.

Here’s what I did:

  • Shutdown Thunderbird. The more cautious should backup their files – I was feeling cavalier so didn’t bother.
  • Go to and download the attached zipfile.
  • Open the zipfile on your desktop, and extract the file Thunderbird.mdimporter.
  • Move Thunderbird.mdimporter to either “~/Library/Spotlight/” (which I did) or “/Library/Spotlight/” (as suggested in some other posts)
  • Start Thunderbird, and go to Thunderbird->Preferences. In the Preferences dialog, go to the Advanced tab, and then at the bottom of the General sub-tab, click on the “Config Editor…” button. Search for mail.spotlight.enable, and double-click it in the search results to change the value from “false” to “true”.
  • Close Thunderbird.
  • Open a terminal shell, and run "/usr/bin/mdimport -L" to verify that the new Thunderbird importer is correctly found and now running. If Thunderbird.mdimporter is not here, go back and verify the steps above.
  • Some posts commented that you needed to restart your machine, but I cant remember if I needed to do this.
  • After waiting a few minutes, use Spotlight to search for an email. Try searching for something obvious – like “@” or your email address – the point is to see if any of the indexing has started. If the indexes are still being built, you might find very few results, but should at least get something. Allow time for indexes to get built on all emails.
  • Observe that Spotlight lists email messages in “Mail Messages” section of search results. Observe that clicking on an email message in search results will open a new Thunderbird window of that actual email.
  • Thats it – enjoy! 🙂

Tip of the hat to,,, for pointing the way; I ended up doing a subset/combination of parts of each of their instructions, so hope folks find the steps I followed useful.

For the record, I was using the following:

  • MacBookPro running OSX 10.4.11
  • Thunderbird

How to use Jawbone headset with Skype/SJPhone on a MacBookPro


I wanted to setup a headset for my work VOIP phone calls from my laptop. I already had a Jawbone headset for my cellphone, why not use that?
Literally all I had to do was:

  • make Jawbone discoverable (when powered off, press the black shiney section with raised lettering, until the LED starts alternating Red/White)
  • on Mac, in Bluetooth menu, “Set up Bluetooth Device”, pick “Headset”and walk through the dialogs to find devices. Enter passcode, which is defaulted to ‘0000’.
  • in Skype, preferences dialog, audio tab, set the “Audio Output”, “Audio Input” and “Ringing” options to each use the “Jawbone” menu item.
  • in SJPhone preferences dialog, audio tab, set the “Output” and “Input” options to each use the “Jawbone” menu item.

That was it.
It all just worked first time, and was literally all up and running in two minutes. It would have been even faster except I had to dig up the instructions on making Jawbone discoverable! It took me much longer to write this blog post, but thought this info might be useful to others.

For the record, I was using the following:

  • MacBookPro running OSX 10.4.11
  • Skype v2.7.0.330
  • SJPhone v1.60.299a
  • Jawbone headset(!)

How to reinstall the Palm desktop and still access pre-existing data


I always organize my applications separately from my data files.

  • All applications go under their default install location (ie: “C:\Program Files”).
  • All data files go under one separate tree (ie: “D:\John”). This allows me to easily migrate from one computer to another, do backups, replace disks, all without worrying if I missed any of my files. So far, so good.

Recently, I had to re-image the C drive on my laptop, and re-install WinXP, which in turn meant reinstalling all the applications. Tedious, but not a worry because all my data was safe on the other D partition, and I had all the original CDs.

For the most part, that worked perfectly. The only gotcha was while re-installing the Palm Desktop (v4.2).

I was concerned that the installer would overwrite my preserved data directory, so I told the installer to use the default user-data directory (ie: put user data under “C:\My Documents and Settings”). Once the installation was complete, I started the Desktop application, went to Tools->Options dialog box, to the “General” tab and tried to change the “Data Directory” to point to my existing “D:\John\PalmPilot” directory. Hitting “OK” failed out saying the directory “cannot be used to store your data because it is being used by another user”. Huh?

Turns out the solution is to:

  1. Shutdown the Palm Desktop application, and close the HotSync task icon in the windows taskbar notification area.
  2. Start “Regedit” (by doing Start->Run, enter “regedit” and click “OK”)
  3. In Regedit, search for the key “HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\U.S. Robotics\Pilot Desktop\Core\Path”, and change the data value of this to be the location of your existing data. In my case, I changed the data value to be “D:\John\PalmPilot”.
  4. Save and Exit Regedit
  5. Start Palm Desktop and confirm that it now automatically opens up the data found in D:\John.
  6. Restart hotsync, palm desktop, and verify that you see your data in the Palm Desktop application
  7. Hotsync and verify that changes show up on both your PC and your Palm!
  8. Done!

(Credits: I originally stumbled across this registry hack in a post I can no longer find but I will update this blog if I find it, because they saved my neck. Subsequent searching I also found Both postings were framed around setting up shared access to Palm Pilot calendars. The same registry hack worked for my problem, so I’m posting them here, in case it helps others in the same situation… and so I can find it easily if I need it again in future!)

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