Due to a system crash, I had to do a fresh install on a new computer. Luckily my harddisk was not affected -- but unfortunately the "good old 8.04" didn't want to boot from it on the new system...

So with 12.04 installed on a fresh harddisk, I copied all evolution folders from the old disk to the corresponding locations (~/.evolution plus ~/.gconf/apps/evolution -- the old Evo on 8.04 had no ~/.local/share/evolution), and started the app. The migration assistant popped up, and I went through -- but in the end, only one of my "accounts" in each category was migrated and available: local mail, one of 4 IMAP accounts (though data of all 4 accounts where moved to ~/.local/share/evolution), one of 4 address books, and so on.

Not a big deal for the IMAP stuff, as I just had to configure it (data are stored on the server in this case). But how can I get my addressbooks back? As described above, starting the "old installation" to export those data is not an option, as the old system cannot be started anymore. Is there a way to fire the migration assistant for a given dataset (in my case: tell it to just migrate-and-import a single specified addressbook)?


The above PHP got me started. But I had problems with junk in the cards.

I am a Python guy, so I wrote a new program in Python. I used Python 2.x to run this.

This uses a Python dictionary to keep track of email addresses already seen from address cards, and it only stores a given address once. This solved another problem I had, of duplicate card records.

I think the binary junk between the cards was used by Evolution to figure out which cards were valid. This program just uses a couple of rules of thumb: if a card has garbage binary characters in it, or isn't properly terminated, or doesn't have an email address in it, it's a bad card and goes in the "bad" output file.

After you are done converting, you can check the "bad" output file and see if there is anything in there that isn't in the .vcf output file. In my case, there wasn't; this program got all the good cards for me.


import re
import sys

def bad_chars():
    for n in range(0, 32):
        if n not in (9, 10, 13):
            yield chr(n)
    for n in range(128, 256):
        yield chr(n)

def has_bad(s):
    return any(ch in s for ch in bad_chars())

def get_email(card):
    lst = card.split('\n')
    for line in lst:
        if "EMAIL" in line:
            _, _, email = line.partition(':')
            return email.strip()
        return ''

if len(sys.argv) != 4:
    print("Usage: cvt.py <input_old_address_book> <output.vcf> <bad.txt>")

with open(sys.argv[1], "rb") as in_f:
    s = in_f.read()

s_start = "BEGIN:VCARD"
s_end = "END:VCARD"

cards = {}
lst_bad = []

while s:
    i_start = s.find(s_start)
    if i_start == -1:

    i_next = s.find(s_start, i_start + len(s_start))
    if i_next == -1:
        i_next = len(s) - 1

    i_end = s.find(s_end, i_start + len(s_start))
    if i_end == -1:
        i_end = len(s) - 1
        i_end += len(s_end)

    if i_next < i_end:
        i_end = i_next

    card = s[i_start:i_end+1].strip()
    s = s[i_end:]

    card = card.replace('\r', '')
    card = card.replace('\0', '')
    if not card:

    key = get_email(card)
    if has_bad(card) or s_end not in card or not key:

    if key not in cards or len(card) > len(cards[key]):
        cards[key] = card

with open(sys.argv[2], "w") as out_f:
    for key in sorted(cards.keys()):
        out_f.write(cards[key] + "\n\n")

with open(sys.argv[3], "w") as bad_f:
    for s in lst_bad:
        bad_f.write(s + "\n\n")
  • If you sort out duplicate mail addresses: Is your script aware of "lists"? One could have a) multiple lists with overlapping participants, or b) have full records of people who are additionally part of lists. Just a remark, as it might not affect everybody :) Apart from that: Thanks for sharing your solution! – Izzy Jul 7 '13 at 19:26
  • This works really well. I had a few contacts that landed up in the bad text file (~1-3%) out of over ~2000 addresses. This script works well if you are migrating from Evolution 2.28 to 3.28. – octoquad May 15 '18 at 18:30

Digging in a bit deeper, I figured two things: While the new database format is SQLite3, the old was some binary storing VCARDs which where clearly readable. So I came up with a small PHP snippet:

# -=[ UserConf ]=-
$evodb = 'addressbook.db'; // (path and) name to the old address database
$name  = 'business';       // name of the address book (used as filename)
$separate_vcards = FALSE;  // if TRUE, each VCARD will go to a separate file

#-=[ Do not touch below lines ]=-
$re_vcard = '!(BEGIN:VCARD.*?END:VCARD)!ims';

$evo = file_get_contents($evodb);
$cards = count($vcards[1]);
$new = '';
for ($i=0;$i<$cards;++$i) {
  if ($separate_vcards) {
  } else {
    $new .= $vcards[1][$i] . "\n\n";
if (!$separate_vcards) file_put_contents("${name}.vcf",$new);

This is not 100% perfect, but better than losing all those data. The script runs through the old-style database, and tries to fetch all VCARDs stored there. Those are either exported to separate files (each VCARD in one file, if $separate_vcards = TRUE), or to one collection (otherwise).

As those are supposed to be plain-text files, one can check them and correct them easily (line-breaks, binary garbage) -- and finally using Evolutions Import-Feature (found in the "File" menu) to import the data ("single file") into an existing addressbook (create an empty one before if you want a new addressbook).

For me this restored about 90% of my addresses fine. For the remaining 10%, some where mixed-up or broken (remember, even the old format was binary -- and the snippet just works in "ASCII mode").

Hope this helps somebody else (if so, don't forget to up-vote this solution).

  • Install php5-cli (sudo apt-get install php5-cli) on a Ubuntu. Paste into kate (KDE) or gedit (gnome/unity), save it, I called it evoconvert, and if you put it and the addressbook.db file in the same directory, say Downloads, you shouldn't even need to go to the effort of changing the path name. Make it executable, sudo chmod +x evoconvert, then ./evoconvert and you're done. – user148621 Apr 11 '13 at 19:19
  • This was a good attempt, but I was only able to extract about 400 contacts from over ~2000 entries. – octoquad May 15 '18 at 18:32
  • I had not so many contacts, so my ratio was better. Long time ago, though – did you really have such an old installation (pre-12.04) running still? But glad to note the other (Python) approach had better results for you! – Izzy May 15 '18 at 22:16
  • Yes, I had to migrate from Evolution 2.28 from Ubuntu 10.04 thin clients (LTSP), to fat clients that now run Ubuntu 18.04 with Evolution 3.28. – octoquad May 23 '18 at 16:45

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