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vCard and VCF

Virtual Contact File (VCF) is used to store virtual electronic business cards. Data in VCF files is stored in vCard file format specifically designed for business cards storage.

There are multiple ways on how vCards are used. They could be attached to e-mail, used in instant messaging to exchange contacts, used by e-mail server or client to import and export data.

vCard format is also used in CardDAV protocol to store data on the CardDAV server. CardDAV protocol was designed to store address book information. In CardDAV implementation address book is a searchable and editable collection of virtual cards objects. Each virtual card object is saved in vCard format and typically has a VCF file extension. In CardDAV virtual cards could be added, deleted and modified via internet connection.

vCard file format is a plain text format and could be viewed and edited in any text editor. But it is still recommended to use specialized software because data in vCard format needs to be formatted in a specific way.

Each vCard us represented by a VCARD object with multiple properties attached to it. Below are some of the important properties used:

  • N – stores surname, given name, additional name, prefix, suffix separated by semicolon
  • FN – full name
  • ORG – contact organization
  • TITLE – title in the organization
  • PHOTO – image type and URL to a contact photo
  • TEL – telephone type and number
  • ADR – address type, order and actual address
  • EMAIL – email address
  • REV – timestamp of modification

vCard uses NAME:VALUE property format similar to the one used by iCalendar format and ICS files. But other formats of vCard storage are also available which includes:

  • xCard - stores vCard data in XML format
  • jCard – stores vCard data in JSON format
  • hCard – microformat to embed vCard information into HTML
  • RDFa – attribute level extensions to HTML and XHTML which can store vCard data