How to enable and use the OS X Contacts debug menu

Browsing Address Book archives, among other options, is a hidden feature in the OS X Contacts program.

Topher Kessler MacFixIt Editor
Topher, an avid Mac user for the past 15 years, has been a contributing author to MacFixIt since the spring of 2008. One of his passions is troubleshooting Mac problems and making the best use of Macs and Apple hardware at home and in the workplace.
Topher Kessler
2 min read

A number of programs in OS X include a hidden menu that offers some extra functions. These are generally not intended for use by the end user, but there are times when these features can be useful. For instance, there's a debug menu in Disk Utility that lets you enable viewing hidden partitions to better manage volumes and disks.

Similar to Disk Utility, a debug menu exists in the Contacts program for managing your Address Book database, which offers a couple of useful features.

To enable the debug menu, simply open the Terminal utility (in the Applications > Utilities folder) and run the following command:

defaults write com.apple.AddressBook ABShowDebugMenu -bool true

Debug menu options in OS X Contacts
The Debug menu in the Contacts program offers a few useful features. Screenshot by Topher Kessler/CNET

When run, the next time you launch the Contacts program you will see a new debug menu. The first six options in this menu will write debugging and programming information to the OS X console, or otherwise help in the development of the program. The remaining options offer the following features:

  1. Enter Time Machine
    This is redundant with the Enter Time Machine feature in the Time Machine menu extra, but does offer a hot key (Control-Command-B) to quickly load the Time Machine backups. This can be useful if you regularly find yourself accessing deleted contact data.
  2. Browse Archive
    This option is perhaps the more useful, where you can use Contacts to load a previously exported Address Book archive. To export an archive, you can use the option to do so in the File menu, but this will save everything in a single archive file that when opened will try to replace your current Contacts database. If you use the Browse Archive option instead, then you can open the archive without replacing your current one, so you can browse the contacts in there, export them as a vcard, or simply select and copy them to paste them into your main Address Book archive (quit and relaunch Contacts to reload the main database).
  3. Refresh Accounts
    This is primarily useful for networked Address Book accounts such as those through LDAP services, or online services like Google and Yahoo. If a change online has not updated in your Contacts list, then you can invoke this to manually refresh it.
  4. Show People Picker Panel
    This panel is the standard contacts picker, similar to the contacts panel in Apple's Mail program. It allows a more condensed view of your contacts, and offers options for dragging and dropping, or otherwise entering contact data into fields of various programs.

To undo this menu addition in Contacts, you can either repeat the command above in the Terminal but replace "true" with "false," or you can run the following command to completely revert the changes:

defaults delete com.apple.AddressBook ABShowDebugMenu

Questions? Comments? Have a fix? Post them below or e-mail us!
Be sure to check us out on Twitter and the CNET Mac forums.