FrontlineSMS let users send, receive and manage SMS over a mobile network.

The help currently says the format to import CSV files into Contacts is:

Contact name, Mobile number, Email address, Notes

The lack of details disturbs me... The actual format used, judging from a test export is below.

"Name","Mobile Number","Other Mobile Number","E-mail Address","Current Status","Notes","Group(s)"
"Fancy Max","0789211111","000","","Active","notes test","embassy test group"
"John Brown","0783341111","255 783311111","","Active","testing for John notes","test group"
"Test Number","000","","","Active","",""

Also some questions about importing.

Does Frontline SMS care if numbers have a + in front of them, or spaces between numbers, or hypens? Maybe this is a question for each individual phone?

Is there an easy way to insert quotation marks " " around each element in a CSV or Excel File as required by FrontlineSMS?

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Hi Saikyo,

the import function is currently being upgraded, and will match the capabilities of the export functions soon.

Unfortunately, right now, import can only be done in the format mentioned in the help, as you specified at the start of your mail, which is traditional CSV format for Contact name, Mobile number, Email address, Notes as you specified.
Example (with some partially complete lines showing commas for unused data)

Ben W, +4412341234, "", "my notes, withcommas, about ben"
Geoff Briggs, +238763873623,
Tom, +23823793298, "",
, +87687687876,,
, +87683232323,,"unknown person"

The next version of FLSMS with a more advanced set of import functions should be released late july/early august.

Your current questions: numbers should have a + in front of them for international numbers.

No spaces allowed in numbers in the current version if I remember correctly, but that should be fixed in the next version.

Quotation marks are only required in the CSV file if you have a string containing reserved characters, such as newlines and commas. So, you don't need them everywhere, just around big notes. (the exporter probably adds them for safety)

look at for more info on the format.

Wow thanks! You just saved me a ton of data editing work.

Unfortunate that the export will send out 2 cell numbers but we can only import 1. Many of the numbers in our existing data have two numbers.

Looking forward to the next version!
Ah, two more questions.
I have a lot of notes in an excel sheet that will need quotes inserted around them. Is there an automagic way to do this?

Also, does anyone know what characters will cause frontline to fail when dialing? For example I have "-" and "+" and "()" and whatnot in some of the phone numbers in this CSV list. Are there certain characters that FLSMS can live with?

Thanks for any help - will save me hours of data clean up!
Hi Saikyo

In response to the first question, there must be an easy way, but I'm not sure how Excel would do it I'm afraid. That's one for the Help files?

With the second, I would edit a contact in FrontlineSMS and add some of the characters you highlight, then send a test SMS to see whether it fails or not. I'm guessing the number will need to be free of any ()'s, -'s or spaces, but you can tell me when you've tried it!

Well I'm kneed deep in imports. Here is what I have learned about what format of things FrontlineSMS will take. Someone should add this to the manual!

Cell phone numbers that include these characters will fail to be sent by FrontlineSMS
spaces - e.g., 078 042 111
hyphens - e.g., 078-042-111
parenthesis - e.g., (078)042111

Surprisingly, + are fine at the front of the number.

Also, notes can be huge.

I noticed that when I import a lot of contacts there always seem to be 4 or 5 that don't make it through. It's too much work to dig through and find out exactly which number was dropped so I am ignoring them. Any advice on how to catch up with this later would be great!
Hi Saikyo

Thanks for helping with that. We'll be sure to add this to the manual.

We've done a bit of work on the import/export functions, which will be available in the next release (sometime in the next couple of months). This should fix the problems you're experiencing.

Hi There. im also experiencing a problem in that i can only import contacts one at a time. I try to do multiples and it doesnt work but if i do just one in the same format it works fine. Any ideas?
Hi Mark

I'm guessing you've tried the tips above? Also, do a search of the Forum for "CSV" - there are a few discussions around this. If nothing helps, let us know!


I just tried this myself with a standard CSV with columns in the same order as the example in docs below, and the imported contacts were all listed with a big RED X under ACTIVE. The word "Active" appeared under the column heading "Current status" (AKA column #4), so why didn't I get a GREEN check box like I saw during the pre-import-preview?


UPDATED: Oops - looks like the documentation in is out of date. Found that I need to write TRUE not "Active" now in the box. Found this on ning:


Hi Cree,

Sorry you're having problems with this. The issue here is the content of your status column. If you would like to import your contacts as active, you'll need this column to read "true" rather than "active". The case does not matter.
FrontlineSMS version 1.4.8, at least, used "Active" and "Dormant" for the export file, so it would be wonderful if the import routines in current and future versions would accept these when importing contacts.


FYI - this was the documentation I was directed to from FLSMS:

from url: file:///C:/Program%20Files%20%28x86%29/

Importing data from other applications

If you have a large number of Contacts and mobile numbers in other applications that you want to add to FrontlineSMS, you can do this through the Import menu option. Import will read any comma separated file (CSV). The file needs to be laid out based on the fields you plan to import. To import all fields, the file needs to contain:

<Contact name>, <Mobile number>, <Other mobile number>, <Email address>, <Current status>, <Notes>, <Groups>

Refer to the application user guide if you don't know how to export your data into a CSV file. <Current status> refers to the contact being active or dormant, and <Groups> refers to the contact groups the person needs to be a member of. From FrontlineSMS 1.6.15, the new importing tool automatically creates your groups hierarchy, and puts newly imported contacts into these groups!

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