My friend (and the occasional writer Boundary) J.R. Raphael He recently wrote a newsletter about clearing your Google Contacts list by deleting old and no longer unwanted entries.
What a great idea, I thought. However.
Unfortunately, I’m kind of a hoarder when it comes to contacts. After years of working as a tech journalist, I have who knows how many job contact lists I have, most of them completely out of date. But even though most of these people have moved to different companies and different email addresses, I think I should keep the entries – what if I come across them at some point and want to check where I know them from? Or if they still work there a few years later and I want to say hello?
There is another reason why I am reluctant to delete some contacts – an unfortunate one. Over the years, friends and relatives who are no longer with us started to appear on my contact list, and I realized that I didn’t like removing those names from my list. It doesn’t make sense or make sense, but it seems like a kind of rejection to me. In 2015, in an article titled “My Digital Graveyard” New York Times Writer Rob Walker put it this way: “The handy design act of deleting a dead friend’s name with a simple tap or click can feel like an openly participating in removing that person from the world.”
The result of all this is a Google contact list with hundreds of names belonging to people with whom I have not communicated for a long time or whose entries I do not want to delete. What should we do?
I’ve found several ways to bring order to Google Contacts without permanently losing names, numbers, and other information from contacts. Here they are:
Hide your extra contacts
Google has a weird way to get names from your main contact list: you “hide” them. I put “hide” in quotes because what you’re essentially doing is moving this entry from your main contacts list to an “Other contacts” list.
“Other people” includes entries from all the various people you send or receive emails from. Therefore, one can huge list — but since it’s not usually displayed, they won’t clutter your main contacts list if you move your old contacts there.
You can find it at “Other people”. Desktop version of Google Contacts at the bottom of the tag list on the left. (You won’t see your “Other people” list in the mobile version of Contacts, but if you search for a specific person on that list, that person will appear in that search.)
Here’s how to move one or more contacts to the “Other contacts” list using the Google Contacts web app:
Hide a single contact
- Hover over the contact list for it to be highlighted, then click the three dots to the right of the entry.
- Select “Hide from contacts”.
Hide few contacts
- Click the icon for each contact you want to hide; the icon will turn into a checkbox.
- Once you have selected all the contacts you want to hide, click the three dots at the top of the page.
- Click “Hide from contacts”.
By the way, if your “Other contacts” list is too bulky in itself, you can stop Gmail adding names to it every time you send or receive an email.
- Go to “Settings” > “See all settings”.
- In the “General” tab, scroll down to “Create contacts for autocomplete:” and check “I will add contacts myself”.
Export and delete your extra contacts
If you really want to clear your contact list but don’t want to lose their information, you can export them to a separate CSV or vCard file. You can delete them from your Google contacts list when they are securely stored.
If you’re like me, you probably have more connections than you want to tackle in one sitting. Here’s how I found a way to deal with it. (Again, this uses the web interface for Google Contacts).
- Scroll down in the left column and click “Create tag”. Choose an appropriate name (I named mine “Goodbye”).
- Spend as much time as you need to review your contacts list. Add this tag to any entry you want to remove from the list. The fastest way is to mark the entries you want to tag, click on the tag symbol above, select the tag you created for this purpose from the popup window, and then click the “Apply” button.
- When you are ready to export everything you put under this label, click on the label on the left side of the application.
- Scroll down the same left column and click “Export”.
- The label you choose should be at the top of the pop-up window. If not, you can click the little arrow to the right of the label and choose the correct one.
- You can export your contacts as CSV files formatted for Google or Microsoft Outlook, or as iCards (if importing to iOS).
- Once you have CSV or iCard files, export them to a spreadsheet or other application where you can access them if needed. For example, I exported mine to a Google Sheets file.
- Once you are satisfied with your export, return to Google Contacts and click the tag you created for your exports.
- Click the delete button.
- You have the option to just delete the tag (in which case, all those entries will still be there) or delete both the tag and all the entries with the tag. Choose the second one.
You’ve now cleared your contact list (at least somehow) – and all the contacts you still want to keep are safe and secure in another file you can find when you need them.