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How do I get contact information from a business card into Outlook?

Published on 6th March 2014

Getting contact data from a business card into Outlook

Getting contact data from a business card into Outlook

I’ve recently had to get over 300 business cards into Outlook which didn’t prove as easy as I had thought and was a serious learning curve, so I thought I’d share this in case others have to do it.

I only have Outlook 2010 so I’ve not tested this with other versions.

I looked at dedicated business card scanners but they were £100 or more and I really only need to do this once so I relegated this to a last resort.

I tried using my iPhone with 2 Apps:

  • Card Munch (free). This worked well but was a bit of a pain for more than a few cards. It also integrates with LinkedIn (they own it) so I was concerned all the contacts would be added to LinkedIn which I didn’t want.
  • CamCard (paid). This scanned quickly and accurately but when I tried to sync with Outlook it didn’t transfer emails, phone numbers or addresses. Very frustrating. I spent some time trying to fix this but gave up.

So I then spent some time looking for another solution. Like most businesses I have a flat bed scanner and thought using this might be the answer. I found a piece of software caller ABBYY Business Card Reader 2.0 for £19.99 (incl. VAT) that looked promising.

I purchased this (there is a free trial for up to 30 cards) and installed it. I then set-up 10 business cards on my flat bed scanner and scanned them in. ABBYY then read the resulting file (PDF or image), separated the 10 contacts, and created each contact within the ABBYY software.

Once I had got all the contacts done I set-up a new FOLDER in Outlook contacts and using ABBYY exported my new contacts to this folder. The process worked perfectly and for good measure the software keeps an image of the business card in the notes area of the contact in Outlook so as you go through and check the entries you don’t have to have the card to hand, VERY USEFUL!

You can also scan the rear of the cards if required but this would need to be done individually rather than in a batch of 10.

I also tried to export to a CSV file but this was less successful. The data seemed to be separated by a semi colon not a comma so it didn’t show accurately in Excel, it was just a mess. I didn’t need this function so it’s not a concern for me but if you need CSV make sure you run the trial version before purchasing the full version. I can’t believe this isn’t a set-up issue but I didn’t go into it.

It’s rare I am impressed with software that costs a very reasonable sum and works perfectly. Well done ABBYY.  If you have any questions please feel free to add them to the comments area.

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