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Saturday, April 07, 2012

Migrating (Export/Import) from The Palm Desktop to Google

I finally decided to decommission Palm Desktop as my personal digital assistant.  Well, I ditched the Palm T3 PDA months ago for my HTC android phone, but I continued to use the Palm Desktop software for its Calendar, Contact Management, To-Do's, and Memos daily organizational features.   I've procrastinated all this time, aside from the fact that I'm so accustomed to the Palm Desktop's superior interfaces, it is because I was very disappointed with Google Calendar's search feature.  Yes, I did say  "search" feature -- Google's bread and butter.  For some reason, Google Calendar's search would only return 6 results, even though the banner would advertise there are, say, 136 results.  There is no way to navigate or gain access to the rest of the search results.  If I go into advanced search where I specify the date range, it would display up to 22 results, but still there is no way to access the rest of the search results.   I've reported and complained to Google over a year ago (and someone else did the same back in 2009), but no response, no acknowledgement from Google, and of course, no fixes.

I've imported Palm Desktop's Tasks into Google Tasks and Palm Desktop's Contacts into Google Contacts and sync'd both to my HTC android phone for a few months now, but I continue to use the Palm Desktop for the Calendar function.  As a result, I still habitually access the Contacts on the Desktop and modify them, thinking I'll just do another round of export/import from time to time.  Well, just the other day when I was at the doctor's office, I wasn't able to access an important piece of information on my HTC phone because the more current information was on my Desktop.   So I said enough is enough.  I'm ditching Palm once and for all.

Taking advantage of the Easter long weekend, I did tons of work.  Among other things (upgraded my new PC,   did my tax return, etc.), I migrated out of Palm Desktop into Google which I married to long ago.  I use Google technology extensively daily:  Gmail, Google Voice, Picasa, Blogger, Contacts, Tasks, Documents, Map, Chrome, Android..., and of course Search.  And from today on, I'll be using Calendar as well.

I document the procedures for the migration below.  I use Palm Desktop version 4.x.

Palm Desktop Calendar to Google Calendar

Google does not accept Palm Desktop's export file.  We used to be able to use Yahoo Calendar as an intermediary; unfortunately, Yahoo no longer support Palm Desktop's export files.  Luckily, there's a free online tool which actually works even better.
  1. In Palm Desktop Calendar view, File -> Export
  2. Set the Export Type to "Date Book Archive (*.dba)" and click "Export"
  3. Next we need to convert the export file to CSV files that Google Calendar can import
  4. Go to http://www.palm2csv.com/convert/ 
  5. Click the "Choose File" button and specify the export file you created
  6. For Default Settings, select "Google Calendar".  Among other thing, this will limit each output CSV file to no larger than 5000 line items.  As a result, you will get multiple output files if you have a large calendar file.
  7. In Google Calendar, click on the down arrow next to "Other Calendars" and select "Import Calendar".
  8. Click "Choose File" and specify one output CSV file, and then click "Import".
  9. It will take a few minutes, be patient.
  10. Dismiss the message at the end if you get one.
  11. Repeat until all of the output CSV files have been imported.

Palm Desktop Contacts to Google Contacts

I assume you're like me, that you'd like to reserve the categories of your contacts.  To do so, follow these steps.
  1. In Palm Desktop Contacts view, systematically pick one of your contacts Categories
  2. Edit -> Select All
  3. File -> Export vCard
  4. In Google Contacts, click "Import Contacts..."
  5. Specify the vCard file, then click "Import"
  6. Select the resulting auto-named group "Imported xx/xx/xx", and rename the group to the name of your category
  7. Repeat until all Categories have been imported.
One bug in the process is that if you have any "=" character in your contact's Note field, it would be cut off by the export program.   I found it out the hard way.  So make sure you scan through and replace the "=" characters before exporting.

Palm Desktop Memo to Google Documents

This is actually the most painful, as the steps are manual step intensive.  There are also lots of idiosyncrasies with the line break conversions.  For example, while the initial view with Windows Notepad on the exported file looks OK, once you save it and reopen it, all the line breaks are gone. You end up with all of the line concatenated without even a space character separating them.  If you had done with the same using Microsoft Word, depending on how you save it, you could get the same disaster, or upon importing to Google Document, all blank line would become 3 blank lines.  Following the steps below would save you some pain, but you'd still have to endure a lot of pain migrating your Memos.
  1. In Palm Desktop Memos view, systematically pick one of your memos categories
  2. Edit -> Select All
  3. File -> Export
  4. Select "Comma Separated" for Export type and enter file name with .txt extention
  5. When prompted, deselect "Private" and "Category" fields and click OK to file 
  6. Right click the file in File Explorer and Open With Microsoft Word (not Notepad or Wordpad!)
  7. With CSV format, each Memo is demarcated with quotation mark at the beginning and the end, so to help us visually, let's replace the demarcation with something like "________________"
    1. To do so, Edit -> Replace
    2. Under Find What, enter "^p"
    3. Under Replace With, enter ^p^p_________________________^p
    4. Click Replace All
  8. File -> Save As
  9. IMPORTANT:  Select "Plain Text (*.txt)" for "Save as type"
  10. Enter file name and click Save
  11. Here's your chance to avoid extra blank line between every single lines.  You'll get a File Conversion dialog box.  Check "Insert line breaks" and then click OK
  12. In Google Documents, click the Upload icon next to the CREATE button
  13. Select Files
  14. Select the .txt file you just saved, and click Open
Pain in the neck.  Tell me about it. 

After this grueling process, you can go and designate the line below the "____________________" as Heading 1 so that you can create a table of content at the beginning of each document you upload.  Essentially, each Google Document corresponds to a Memos category, and each Heading corresponds to a Memo.

Walk-Around for Google Calendar's Search

As far as a walk-around for Google Calendar's sub-par search feature when you need to access more than the 6 most recent results, do the following:

  1. Go to advanced search by clicking the down arrow to the right of "Search Calendar"
  2. Enter the key words in the "What" field
  3. Enter today's date as the "to" date of the date range
  4. Specify the earlier possible starting date for the range
  5. Click the search icon
  6. You'll get up to 22 search results displayed
  7. Note the date of the last displayed result and use it's next date as the starting date for the date range and repeat.


  1. I, too, was procrastinating the migration from Palm Centro to Android. Your documentation is excellent and much appreciated. Thanks.

  2. Thank you so so much for this. I am finally letting go of my Palm Centro (nearly 5 years old and going strong) and was dreading losing the calendar and contact data. This was helpful and spot on.

  3. you did not specify how you migrated tasks to google tasks.

  4. you did not specify how you migrated tasks to google tasks.

  5. Bob, you can use Palm2CSV to convert your Palm Tasks (To Do) to iCal format.