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Good News Regarding Magento Imports

Steve Susina • September 26, 2012

Magento recently introduced a new and much faster method of importing products in Magento Community 1.5 and Magento Enterprise 1.10. Getting product data into Magento can sometimes be a bit of a struggle, so when Magento brought in new importing functionality, it was a good day for all of us Magento developers!

While there several major advantages to using the new import method, here are my top 3:

  • Imports are much faster. We have done a couple thousand records in a few minutes. The speed improvement alone is worth upgrading.
  • Category names are spelled out, rather than using the internal category ID which is much more user friendly
  • Able to import and export configurable products

However, even though I really like the speed and some of the additional functionality, the file format and import method is not without its challenges:

  • Importing main product images does not work reliably
  • Importing media gallery images does not seem to work at all
  • The file format, while easier to read, is much more difficult to generate from an external system


Assuming that I do need the ability to import images, how can I leverage the advantages of the new type of import functionality while also minimizing the negative aspects?

The first solution that I came up with was simply to run two imports; one for the data using the new import functionality, and the images using the older dataflow. While this method does work, it is slower than if we could just use the new style import, and also requires that we generate two separate files.

After scouring the web, I came across the second, and I think better, solution which is using a third-party application called the Magento Mass Importer or just Magmi. Magmi is a stand-alone, open-source, php application that gets installed into your Magento directory. It interfaces directly with the Magento database, bypassing the Magento core, to allow for very fast imports. That sounds great, but how does Magmi solve our problems?


Let’s first look at the advantages I outlined with the new Magento import:

  • It is fast – Magmi is at least if not faster than the new type of Magento import
  • Category names are spelled out – There are freely available extensions to Magmi which allow for named categories
  • Able to import configurable products – There is a free extension which adds this functionality


Does Magmi also address the negative aspects of the Magento import?

  • Importing main product images works great and is reliable. In addition, through a free plugin for Magmi, if you have all of your images hosted on another server you can import the images into Magento by referencing their remote URL. For base Magento, images have to be manually uploaded to the media/import directory on your server.
  • Importing a product media gallery works well, but I have to warn that the syntax is a bit weird
  • The file format that Magmi uses is the same as the dataflow format. The implications are that if you are currently doing regular imports using the dataflow format, you can switch to Magmi very easily and gain the speed advantage. If you are generating the import files for the first time, it is a simpler export from your current system, but it will be slightly more difficult for a human to read.


Other aspects of Magmi that I really enjoy:

  • Has an API so we can schedule imports
  • Users are able to write their own plugins if additional functionality needs to be added
  • Automatic reindexing after import
  • Simple to install and configure

It is clearly a developer built interface which is not always the most intuitive or clear. That said, I have no reservations recommending Magmi to everyone who is experiencing some pain with the Magento import process.


For more information regarding the lyonscg + magento solution, please visit our magento enterprise partner page.

Steve Susina

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Steve Susina

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