Sunday, May 22, 2011

Why Plaxo....Why?

I have been using Plaxo for some time (a few years now) and the whole time I have had their free account (now referred to as a Basic membership). When I started using the service it was just that, an address book and that was all I really wanted.

Over time, they have advanced and upgraded their system, providing further integration into the world of social networking. With that foray, they have also added different levels of membership. That is fine, and I expected that as such, I would lose certain functionality from the Basic membership, and have. But, there is one feature that I have lost and must say that it is a bit disturbing. With the Basic membership, you are no longer allowed to export your contacts from your address book without paying for their Premium Sync service (even though all you want to do is export and not actually sync with another device or service). I just want to back up my contacts now and again, keeping a copy in case anything ever happened to the Plaxo servers or Plaxo itself.

So, after steaming a bit and having a bit of a livid rant with a friend over the whole situation, I did some investigation into who I could get my contacts out without forking over $$ for the "privilage" of backing up my data myself.

It took me about 20 minutes of looking around but if you go to your main address book page, you will see that there is a complete list of all of your contacts. There is a top line right above the first contact that has a blank check box on the left and a few buttons (email, merge, print, delete and Add to group).

If you click the empty check box on the left of that row, it will select ALL of your contacts in your list. Then, simply click on the "Print" buton. This did two things for me: first, it opened a window relatively quickly that showed the output. This window is HTML based and if you look at the URL bar has a wicked long URL. Second, it opens up another window that has print options. Simply select the option to Print to PDF (if you system offers that) and you can then print them to pdf so you have a copy.

My interest though was in the first option, the HTML output. I right clicked on the HTML and version and selected "Save as", saving the html output to a file. When I examined that file, it was quickly apparent to me that the output was pretty nice and the way they formatted things, it would not be that bad to parse and output to a CSV file. Once I have it in that format, I can then use it to import into other services or even a database of my own.

Either way, I will be working on a script to parse the HTML file and extract all of my information. If I get something relatively usable, I will share it hear for others to use as I am sure that I am not the only one that has been in this predicament.

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