What Is a VCF File?

How to Open, Edit, and Convert VCF Files

VCF Files
VCF Files.

 Screenshot

A file with the VCF file extension is a vCard file used for storing contact information. Besides an optional binary image, VCF files are plain text files and might include details like the contact's name, email address, physical address, phone number, and other identifiable details.

Since VCF files store contact information, they're often seen as the export/import format of some address book programs. This makes it easy to share one or more contacts, use the same contacts in different email programs or services, or back up your address book to a file.

VCF also stands for Variant Call Format and is used as a plain text file format that stores gene sequence variations.

How to Open a VCF File

VCF files can be opened by a program that lets you view the contact details but the most common reason to open such a file is to import the address book into an email client program, like one online or on your phone or computer.

Note: Before proceeding, realize that some applications have a limit to the number of contacts that can be imported or opened at one time. If you're having troubles, you might go back to your original address book and export only half or 1/3 of the contacts to VCF, and repeat that until all of them have been moved.

Windows Contacts is built into Windows Vista and newer versions of Windows and can be used to open VCF files, as can vCardOrganizer, VCF Viewer and Open Contacts. On a Mac, VCF files can be viewed with vCard Explorer or Address Book. iOS devices like iPhones and iPads can also open VCF files by loading them directly into the Contacts app via an email, website, or some other means.

Tip: If you need help sending a VCF file to your mobile device to use the contacts in its email client, see how to transfer the VCF to the iPhone Mail app or how to import the file to your Android. You can also import the VCF file to your iCloud account.

VCF files can also be imported into online email clients like Gmail. From your Google Contacts page, find the More > Import... button and choose the VCF file from the Choose File button.

If a VCF file includes an image, that part of the file is binary and will not show up in a text editor. However, the other information should be completely visible and editable in any program that works with text documents.

Microsoft Outlook and Handy Address Book are two alternatives that can open VCF files but neither is free to use. For instance, if you're using MS Outlook, you can import the VCF file through the FILE > Open & Export > Import/Export > Import a VCARD file (.vcf) menu.

Note: If you can't open this file with the programs mentioned here, you might consider rechecking the file extension. It's easy to confuse it with other similar-spelled extensions like that of VFC (VentaFax Cover Page), FCF (Final Draft Converter), and VCD (Virtual CD) files.

Since you might have a few programs on your computer that can view VCF files, know that if you wish, you can change which one opens the file when you double-click it. See How to Change the Default Program for a Specific File Extension guide for making that change in Windows.

How to Convert a VCF File

CSV is a common format to convert VCF files since it's supported by Excel and other applications that would prefer to import contacts from CSV. You can convert VCF to CSV online with vCard to LDIF/CSV Converter. There are options to choose the delimiter type as well as to export only the contacts that have email addresses.

The Handy Address Book program mentioned above is one of the best offline VCF to CSV converters. Use its File > Import... menu to open the VCF file and see all the contacts. Then, select the ones you want to export and go to File > Export... to choose the output type (it supports CSV, TXT, and ABK).

If you have a VCF file that's in the Variant Call Format, you can convert it to PED (the original PLINK file format for genotypes) with VCFtools and this command:

vcftools --vcf yourfile.vcf --out newfile --plink