Thursday, January 21st, 2010 | Author: Konrad Voelkel
Today in the series "How to do XYZ with software?":
How to manage contacts?
Managing contacts has never been easy - there are various kinds of data floating around (phone numbers, email addresses, private addresses, work addresses, birthdays ...) and the data is always changing ("Hey I got a new phone number ... "). It's better to keep all contacts in one place and to take back-ups of your precious data.
Like with my calendar, I started managing contacts with a very old Psion 3c (like this one) and then switched to a Palm and later to Ximian Evolution, an Outlook-clone. I kept backups in the vCard format, as VCF files, which was satisfying. The problem was the same as with the calendar, but worse: The contacts were scattered over my computer (in Evolution), my email accounts, my mobile phone, instant messengers, social networks and notes in my personal wiki that didn't fit in the contact management tools.
Luckily, Google started to extend their GMail mail address-book to a small contact management application, where you can put notes in a free-text field. It is possible to "synchronise" with Outlook (at least that's what they say) and with Ximian Evolution (this does work, I did it several times), and it is possible to export your contacts to vCard VCF files, so you can backup your data and don't need to worry that you'll be stuck with Google forever (well, you have to prepare for the moment they turn out to be evil, right?). The features include multiple email-addresses and face photos. The contacts application is heavily integrated with other Google services, such as GMail, Picasa and their instant messenger Google Talk - and it's quite comfortable!
Since I'm using an Android smartphone, the contacts on my mobile phone are synced with the Google contacts, too. There is a single place to manage contacts now :-) My back-up solution includes printing all contact data sometimes.
(comic licensed from Randall Munroe under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License)
It's still not possible to synchronise Google Contacts with Facebook, or even to get the email addresses out of Facebook. There are many ways to synchronise other contact management tools with Google Contacts, and I have tried various ways to do this with obscure tools for Facebook. It didn't work, but this is just because Facebook sucks.
Another annoying fact: no birthday reminders. There is a place to put birthdays in Google Contacts (since about half a year), but it won't be displayed anywhere specific. So I'm using a spreadsheet at Google Documents to keep track of my friend's birthdays. Maybe in a year they'll implement it as a Google Labs feature.