What is a .VCF file?

The .VCF format is a type of text file/data format used to store contact information. Based on the vCard file system, it stores the contact details of an individual - which can then be easily exchanged across platforms due to its simple text file foundation.

Indeed, you can transfer data and open VCF files across various devices and apps.

What does .VCF stand for?

The VCF extension stands for 'Virtual Contact File" or vCard file. The name reflects the format's function as a text file storing contact details.

One thing to bear in mind, however, is that the .VCF abbreviation is in fact used for two different formats, which often leads to confusion.

Other than the Virtual Contact file, the “Variant Call format” is used as a standard text file format for storing information about genetic variations. But this is far less commonly utilised than the type we are discussing here.

Try Adobe's collection of online tools

Take your document editing to the next level with Adobe's suite of free online tools.

Try Adobe's online tools

History of the .VCF file

The .VCF format was developed in 1996 by the Internet Mail Consortium as the standard format for the exchange of contact data.

Built with a focus on simplifying contact info exchange, the system initially focused on email communication, but it quickly spread to other systems including mobile apps and more integrative contact/database management systems.

What are .VCF files used for?

VCF files are generally used to manage contact information.

This usually compromises info such as:

  • Binary Image (Optional)
  • Contact Name
  • Contact Address
  • Email Address
  • Phone/Mobile Number
  • Bonus Customised fields (Place of work, Job title, Notes & comments etc.).

With the development of more complex contact database systems, .VCF files have started to integrate more contact info. Customised fields that may be relevant to specific notes (such as likes/dislikes in marketing, income for finance etc.) are often implemented into the files.

Due to their popularity in this specific use case, VCF files are now accessible through a variety of services and are supported by major software tools like Apple contacts and Microsoft Outlook.

Discover more data file types and types of document file today.

Pros and cons of .VCF files.


  • Standardisation. The .VCF format has become the industry standard for contact management and is therefore easy to use across a variety of platforms.
  • File type compatibility. Due to being built on a simple text-file foundation, the .VCF format is compatible with a wide range of programmes. Its data can also be easily converted to formats such as .CSV and .XML for even greater accessibility.
  • Simplicity. Due to the file being a simple text file by default, .VCF files are very easy to create from scratch and can be edited with built-in tools available in most computers. You can use any word editor like Notepad or TextEdit to write the foundational code for vCard contact files.


  • Limited functionality. Due to being a relatively old format, .VCF files may not support a lot of interactive elements that are slowly being incorporated into CVs and contact data by individuals or companies.
  • File size issue. Despite being a simple text-based file, the data within .VCF files can slowly pile up and cause data size issues. This is especially evident when comparing it to modern file types that can efficiently store and pull data from the cloud.
  • Security issues. As these files are built on a basic text file format, they can be prone to malicious action due to the lack of safeguards on text files. As such, utilising the same information in a format such as PDF may be preferable when handling sensitive data.

How to open a .VCF file.

There are several ways to open the .VCF file format, depending upon what software and hardware you are using:

  • If you have a dedicated Contact Management programme, you can usually directly access the file using this software. These include Microsoft Outlook for Windows, Apple Contacts on MacOs and Google contacts on ChromeOS (also available online).
  • If you have none of these, you can always opt for using online file viewers such as GroupDocs and Docx2doc that allow you to view .VCF files.
  • If you’re on your phone, use the file manager to search for the file and open it via an app that supports the format (E.g : Contacts VCF on Android, MobileTrans on iOS)
  • If nothing else, works, you can view the file as a raw text file since that is the foundation of the file type. This will be quite cumbersome as the file is not optimised to be viewed in a text reader.

How to create and edit a .VCF file.

To create and edit .VCF files, you have several optrmation.

The most basic option is to open a plain text file and use the appropriate code tags to create the file. A basic example would be as follows:

    FN:Firstname Lastname

Alternatively, you can convert stored data from other formats such as .XLSX or .CSV to .VCF files using online tools. This makes managing the raw data much easier due to a more robust viewing set-up on more complex tools.

Finally, there are dedicated editors that make it simple to create and view .VCF files. Some great free options include SysTools vCard viewer and Turgs vCard viewer for Windows and MacUncle .VCF file viewer for Macs.

Learn more about similar file types to .VCF.

Explore our other Adobe guides to learn more about other text-based and data file types and gain insights into their use.


Learn more about the report file type and how to work with it.


Discover more about the standard text document, that can be opened and edited in any text editing or word processing programme.


Find out how to save a document as an XPS file and much more in our guide.


Excel’s standard spreadsheet file can be extremely handy for storing and working with data and information.

Find out more about Adobe's file types

Discover more document file types and data file formats today.

Explore Adobe's file types


Can I open a VCF file in Excel?

Yes, you can! By opening the .VCF file as a text file and using the text import wizard tool, you can easily import the data from a .VCF file into an Excel file. You can also work the other way and convert data from Excel files to a .VCF format. If you want to convert your Excel file to a PDF, this is also simple with Adobe’s Excel to PDF tool online.

Is the virtual contact file the same as the variant call format?

Although commonly confused, as both these formats are often text files and have the same “.VCF” abbreviation, they are quite different. The virtual contact file format is used to store contact information, while the variation call format is used in bioinformatics for storing genetic sequence variations.

Is the .VCF format accessible on other devices?

Yes! Due to its simple core structure, you can easily access .VCF files via mobiles, tablets and e-readers if you don’t have access to a computer. There are a variety of apps available for each platform from which can view .VCF files and import contact data.

When was the .VCF format invented?

The .VCF format was invented in 1996 as the standard for maintaining contact data. Developed by the Internet Mail Consortium, it was initially meant for use in email, but it quickly became the go-to format for contact management across the majority of systems.