I have a vcf file that contains numerous vcards.

When importing the vcf file to outlook it seems to only import the first vcard.

Hence I want to split them up.

Given that a vcard starts with


and ends with


What is the best way to split each vcard into it's own file.



Thanks for all the responses. As with questions of this nature there's various ways to skin a cat. Here's the reasoning why I chose the one I did.


Here's a roundup of what I liked from each answer and what drove me to select one of them.

  • csplit: I really really liked the conciseness of this method. I just wished it was able to also set the file extension.
  • gawk: It did everything i asked of it.
  • paralell: Worked. But I had to install new things. (it also decided to make a new /bin dir in my home dir)
  • perl: I liked that it created vcf based on contact's name. But the -o option didn't really work


  • So the first one to go was perl because it was a bit broken
  • Next was paralell because I had to install new things
  • Next was csplit, because as far as I can see it can't create extensions on the output files
  • So the award goes to gawk, for being a utility that's readily available, and versatile enough that I can chop and change the file name a bit. Bonus marks for cmp too :)

You can use awk for the job:

$ curl -o example.vcf http://qt.gitorious.org/qt-mobility/contacts/blobs/raw/\

$ gawk ' /BEGIN:VCARD/ { ++a; fn=sprintf("card_%02d.vcf", a); 
        print "Writing: ", fn } { print $0 >> fn; } ' example.vcf
Writing:  card_01.vcf
Writing:  card_02.vcf
Writing:  card_03.vcf
Writing:  card_04.vcf
Writing:  card_05.vcf
Writing:  card_06.vcf
Writing:  card_07.vcf
Writing:  card_08.vcf
Writing:  card_09.vcf

$ cat card_0* > all.vcf
$ cmp example.vcf all.vcf
$ echo $?


The awk line works like this: a is counter that is incremented on each BEGIN:VCARD line and at the same time the output filename is constructed using sprintf (stored in fn). For each line the current line ($0) is appended (>>) to the current file (named fn).

The last echo $? means that the cmp was successful, i.e. all single files concatenated are equal to the original example vcf example.

Note that the awk line assumes that you have no files named card_[0-9][0-9].vcf in your current working directory. You can also replace it with something like

$ gawk ' /BEGIN:VCARD/ { ++a; fn=sprintf("card_%02d.vcf", a);
          print "Writing: ", fn; print $0 > fn; next }
        { print $0 >> fn; } ' example.vcf

which would overwrite existing files.

csplit -f vcard input.txt -z '/END:VCARD/+1' '{*}'

The Gnu version of csplit can set the extension - Ignacio's answer I think is the most concise, it just needs that last bit of tweaking to get the extension - using 'printf' format:

csplit -f vcard -b %02d.vcard input.txt -z '/END:VCARD/+1' '{*}'

Here's the relevant snippet from the gnu csplit man page:

   -b, --suffix-format=FORMAT
          use sprintf FORMAT instead of %02d
  • I was using mac and it took me a while to figure out to use gcsplit instead, but once I did this answer helped me. – Luke Gedeon Feb 20 at 1:18

You can use this script to do the job. It's called split-vcf-file.

Example usage

$ split_vcf.pl 

Error! Input VCF filename missing,  -i

Usage: perl split_vcf.pl -i input_file -o output_dir [OPTION]

    -v,         Verbosity levels, 1-3

To run the script:

mkdir vcf_files
split_vcf.pl  -i current.vcf -o vcf_files
  • split_vcf.pl is a windows version. for unix modify the sub make_filename which was adding a "\" in the filenames. – J Dan Nov 7 '16 at 22:39

Using GNU Parallel you can do:

cat foo.vcf | parallel --pipe -N1 --recstart BEGIN:VCARD 'cat >{#}'

See more examples: http://www.gnu.org/software/parallel/man.html

Watch the intro videos: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL284C9FF2488BC6D1

10 seconds installation:

wget -O - pi.dk/3|sh

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