I just bought a Mac and would like to copy all the e-mail addresses I have on AOL into the Mac address book program, which I find easier to navigate and use with other applications.
America Online for Mac OS X is a Roach Motel for contact lists -- this program only lets this data in, not out. So you'll need to execute the following three-step escape plan to liberate your address book and make it readable to Apple's software. (Note that this workaround only extracts e-mail addresses, not phone numbers or other contact info stored on AOL).
First, sign into AOL and download its free Communicator e-mail program (AOL keyword: Communicator). Install and run this, and it will automatically fetch your AOL address book from the online service. Select "All Contacts" from the list of categories in the left of that window. Go to the File menu, choose "Export . . ." and save this "All Contacts" file to your Mac's Documents folder.
Before Apple's Address Book can open this file, you must launder it through different software. Download the free Mozilla Thunderbird mail program (www.mozilla.org). Run it, declining its offer to import existing mail data. Click its toolbar's address-book icon, then go to the Tools menu and select "Import . . ." Choose "Address Books" and "Text file" as your import types, then select the "All Contacts" file you just saved. Thunderbird will put your AOL addresses in a new "All Contacts" category. Select that, return to the Tools menu, choose "Export . . ." and save the file as "Address Book contacts."
Step three: Open Address Book, go to the File menu's Import submenu, choose "LDIF" and open "Address Book contacts." You'll have all those addresses -- plus a vague feeling of resentment at AOL's unhelpfulness. Don't forget to add "@aol.com" to any AOL screen names, so that non-AOL applications can understand them.
The lesson here: To avoid this kind of hostage situation, avoid software incapable of saving data in ways that other programs can read.
-- Rob Pegoraro
Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or firstname.lastname@example.org.