It seemed like such a simple task.

I was trying to import come contact records into Outlook recently from a customer relationship management system that I had been testing. I was expecting it to be a pretty simple process, just click on the “Export CSV” button in the CRM, the CRM would then generate and send me a file via email which I could then import it into Outlook, easy!

The first part went without a hitch in the CRM. I received the file as an email attachment and when I opened it in a text editor, all the data was present and correct.

Except, when I tried to import the file into Outlook I saw this error message:

Not the friendliest error message I’ve ever seen and it reads like a serious problem! Cue some head scratching and web searching and it turns out that this specific message happens for a fairly mundane reason.

Depending on the kind of system that the CSV file was created from, every line in the file will have either 1 or 2 special characters at the end of each line that you cannot normally see.

For CSV files created on a Windows machine, each line will have 2 special characters at the end called “Carriage Return” and “Line Feed”.

For CSV files created on a UNIX/Linux machine, each line will have 1 special character at the end, the “Line Feed” character.

For CSV files create on a MAC, each line will have 1 special character at the end, the “Carriage Return” character.

Why the confusion between systems and why do we need 2 special characters to signify the end of a line? This article by Jeff Attwood explains it really well and for all you oldies out there, it all goes back to the typewriter!

Anyway, because I am trying to import my CSV file into Outlook on Windows, Outlook is expecting both the carriage return and line feed characters to be present on each line and when it cannot find both of them, it throws out the unfriendly error shown in the screenshot above.

Even though the error message looks serious, the answer to fixing the problem is actually fairly simple.

So, if you ever get the above error message when trying to import a CSV file into Outlook, follow these steps using Excel to get your file into the correct format which Outlook can then import correctly.

Excel 2007

1. With Excel open, click on the Office icon in the top left hand corner.

2. In the drop down menu that appears, click on the line that reads “Open”.

3. The dialog box for opening a file will appear.

4. In the bottom right hand corner click of the dialog box, click on this button.

5. A drop down list will appear and from this list, click on the line that reads “All Files”.

6. Now navigate to the folder where the CSV file is located, single mouse click on the file to choose it and then click on the “Open” button to open the file in Excel.

7. The file will open and you will see the contents of the CSV file.

8. Click on the Office icon again in the top left hand corner.

9. In the drop down menu that appears, click on the line that reads “Save As”.

10. A second drop down menu will appear. In this menu, click on the line that reads “Other Formats”.

11. The “Save As” dialog box will appear.

12. Add some text at end of the file name to create a new file, make sure the “Save as type” field contains the text “CSV (Comma delimited)” and then click on the “Save” button.

13. Excel will show you a message box that looks like this.

14. Excel is just double checking that you want to save the file in a format that is NOT the usual Excel standard. Click on the “Yes” box.

15. Excel will save the new CSV file with exactly the same data as the original but this file will have the correct special characters at the end of each line.

16. Now close the file. If you see this message box:

17. Just click on the “No” button to continue. You have already saved the CSV file so don’t want to save it again.

18. Close Excel.

19. Now open Outlook and import the new CSV file that you just created. Because the new file has the correct special characters, it will import the contact records correctly without any problems.

Excel 2010

1. With Excel open, click on the File tab in the top left hand corner.

2. In the drop down menu that appears, click on the line that reads “Open”.

3. The dialog box for opening a file will appear.

4. In the bottom right hand corner click of the dialog box, click on this button.

5. A drop down list will appear and from this list, click on the line that reads “All Files”.

6. Now navigate to the folder where the CSV file is located, single mouse click on the file to choose it and then click on the “Open” button to open the file in Excel.

7. The file will open and you will see the contents of the CSV file.

8. Click on the File tab again in the top left hand corner.

9. In the drop down menu that appears, click on the line that reads “Save As”.

10. The “Save As” dialog box will appear.

11. Add some text at end of the file name to create a new file, make sure the “Save as type” field contains the text “CSV (Comma delimited)” and then click on the “Save” button.

12. Excel will show you a message box that looks like this.

13. Excel is just double checking that you want to save the file in a format that is NOT the usual Excel standard. In this box, click on the “Yes” box.

14. Excel will save the new CSV file with exactly the same data as the original but this file will have the correct special characters at the end of each line.

15. Close the file. If you see this message box

16. Just click on the “Don’t Save” button to continue. You have already saved the CSV file so don’t want to save it again.

17. Close Excel.

18. Now open Outlook and import the new CSV file that you just created. Because the new file has the correct special characters, it will import the contact records correctly without any problems.

Excel 2013

1. With Excel open, click on the File tab in the top left hand corner.

2. In the drop down menu that appears, click on the line that reads “Open”.

3. On the right hand side of the screen, click on the “Browse” icon.

4. The dialog box for opening a file will appear.

5. In the bottom right hand corner click of the dialog box, click on this button.

6. A drop down list will appear and from this list, click on the line that reads “All Files”.

7. Now navigate to the folder where the CSV file is located, single mouse click on the file to choose it and then click on the “Open” button to open the file in Excel.

8. The file will open and you will see the contents of the CSV file.

9. Click on the File tab again in the top left hand corner.

10. In the drop down menu that appears, click on the line that reads “Save As”.

11. On the right hand side of the screen, click on the “Browse” icon.

12. The “Save As” dialog box will appear.

13. Add some text at end of the file name to create a new file, make sure the “Save as type” field contains the text “CSV (Comma delimited)” and then click on the “Save” button.

14. Excel will show you a message box that looks like this.

15. Excel is just double checking that you want to save the file in a format that is NOT the usual Excel standard. In this box, click on the “Yes” box.

16. Excel will save the new CSV file with exactly the same data as the original but this file will have the correct special characters at the end of each line.

17. Close the file and close Excel.

18. Now open Outlook and import the new CSV file that you just created. Because the new file has the correct special characters, it will import the contact records correctly without any problems.

Excel 2016

1. With Excel open, click on the File tab in the top left hand corner.

2. In the drop down menu that appears, click on the line that reads “Open”.

3. On the right hand side of the screen, click on the “Browse” icon.

4. The dialog box for opening a file will appear.

5. In the bottom right hand corner click of the dialog box, click on this button.

6. A drop down list will appear and from this list, click on the line that reads “All Files”.

7. Now navigate to the folder where the CSV file is located, single mouse click on the file to choose it and then click on the “Open” button to open the file in Excel.

8. The file will open and you will see the contents of the CSV file.

9. Click on the File tab again in the top left hand corner.

10. In the drop down menu that appears, click on the line that reads “Save As”.

11. On the right hand side of the screen, click on the “Browse” icon.

12. The “Save As” dialog box will appear.

13. Add some text at end of the file name to create a new file, make sure the “Save as type” field contains the text “CSV (Comma delimited)” and then click on the “Save” button.

14. Excel will show you a message box that looks like this.

15. Excel is just double checking that you want to save the file in a format that is NOT the usual Excel standard. In this box, click on the “Yes” box.

16. Excel will save the new CSV file with exactly the same data as the original but this file will have the correct special characters at the end of each line.

17. Close the file. If you see this message box

18. Just click on the “Don’t Save” button to continue. You have already saved the CSV file so don’t want to save it again.

19. Close Excel.

20. Now open Outlook and import the new CSV file that you just created. Because the new file has the correct special characters, it will import the contact records correctly without any problems.

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