Viewing an old Address Book archive

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Reader Bob Trudeau would like to preview Address Book archives. He writes:

Is it possible to view an Address Book archive without importing it to Address Book? A while back, I lost all my Address Book content, and since then I’ve been rebuilding and adding manually. I recently discovered an old Address Book archive that might have information I’d like to use in my current Address Book data. But I don’t want to import that old archive at the risk of destroying a lot of new data I’ve added manually.

Although I’m certain that there are geekier ways to go about this, I’d keep it relatively simple and do this:

Move your old archive file to the root level of your hard drive. Launch System Preferences, go to the Accounts (Snow Leopard) or Users & Groups (Lion) preference, and create a new account. Log into that new account, launch Address Book, choose File -> Import. You’ll be asked if you’re sure you want to replace the contacts currently in Address Book. As you’ve just created this account, you will have no contacts here other than Apple Computer and your own user card. Go ahead and replace this with the contents of the archive.

You can now look through the contacts that appear in Address Book. Select those you want that aren’t in the list of contacts within your regular account and drag them to the Desktop to create a vCard that contains these contacts. Then drag that vCard to the root level of your hard drive so that you can easily access it. Now switch back to your regular account and import that vCard.

The broader lesson here is that having an extra user account to do this kind of thing can be helpful. Whenever you want to perform an action that may endanger the data in your regular user account, switch to the Mucking Around account and do what you will there.

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