25 Comments

Summary:

I have gone back to the drawing board and started looking again for a good, old-fashioned address book/contact management app I can download and install on my hard drive. So far, no luck. Of the apps I’ve looked at, the UIs are horrific and they just aren’t slick enough. Read more about the search for the perfect contact manager that isn’t in the cloud.

I mentioned a while ago that I was still carrying around an address book in my purse, and begged for suggestions for managing my contacts because things were getting totally out of hand. It’s been seven months since I wrote that post, and the situation has not improved! So I was excited to read the recent reviews of a couple of contact management apps by Imran Ali and Aliza Sherman.

I really like the look and features of ContactHero. As for Soocial, I didn’t play with it, but might be tempted to use their app for no reason other than the fact that they actually say “ungimp my contacts” and have a picture of David Hasselhoff in a Speedo on the WWD invite page, both of which made me laugh and got them points for nerve and verve.

But then I realized why I haven’t made that leap yet, and why I probably won’t.

Maybe I’m old-fashioned (well, when it comes to certain things, there’s no maybe about it), but I have to point out what I think is a fatal flaw in web-based contact management apps.

I am perfectly OK with storing information about myself, my projects, whatever, in the cloud. I take responsibility for what I might lose, or what might get into the hands of someone with wicked intent… I weigh the options and accept the risk. I don’t put clients’ material up there. It doesn’t belong to me. And I don’t feel at all comfortable putting someone else’s address, birthday, and kids’ names anywhere but on my computer… I’m sorry, but I just don’t think I have the right to make that call.

Hate to be a Debbie Downer, but has this minor ethical question crossed anyone else’s mind?

I’m a web worker like the rest of you, and my personal life is as Internet oriented as my professional life, but I don’t think it’s realistic or appropriate for us to expect the Internet to be a panacea. It’s not always the right solution.

So I have gone back to the drawing board and started looking again for a good, old-fashioned address book/contact management app I can download and install on my hard drive. So far, no luck. Of the apps I’ve looked at, the UIs are horrific and they just aren’t slick enough. (Note to developers: users are getting pretty demanding these days. We’re being spoiled by things that look and work beautifully, like iPods and anything Ajax…)

I don’t want a productivity tool, don’t need a calendar. I’ve got all that covered. All I want is a way to organize my contacts.

Is this too much to ask?

Can’t I have a desktop address book app that will allow me to enter and import data and scan a biz card if I feel like it (with OCR even)? One that will allow me to upload a photo? Schedule birthday and follow-up alerts? And I want it to be clean and pretty. I want dragging and dropping. Must have a “Notes” field where I can write the five Ws if necessary.

And I don’t want groups or categories, I want tags! Some of my contacts have to do with my translating, some with my tech writing, some with my blogging, some with my project (and within that category there are artists, investors, legal experts, developers, and more…). Many of my contacts are in one or more of those categories and they’re francophiles too. Sometimes I just need to reach the francophiles. (I’m serious.) I need tags. And can I have a widget too? I have a PC, but not for much longer…

Santa Claus ContactHero, please bring me an address book for my laptop. I’ve been mostly good.

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By Pamela Poole

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  1. You’re raising a very important point – and I must say that I agree with you. But what if you could get your contacts to put their information in there themselves? Sorta half-baked, but the thought seems tasty to me.

  2. Finally, someone who understands my basic concern about what information is “cloud” based. There is also the question of your own personal access. I have spent time in areas with little/no web access and I still need to be able to see my contacts and update them (esp. for older contacts who may not be web savvy in any way). Where is a solid contact management program that can handle custom tagging for projects, type of work, even ratings for type of client? And if I can sync between copies (say laptop to home server backup or main working desktop), I wouldn’t have to worry about deleting info that I might need. Ugh. Any ideas? Bueller?

  3. If you’re moving to a Mac soon (you said: “I have a PC but not for much longer”), I have to say, Address Book isn’t half bad. In the “Notes” field, I add tags, and then create Smart Groups based on tags containing, saying, “nyc + politics + friends” or “colleagues + media.”

  4. A couple of free apps I can point you at:
    http://www.tiddly-twab.com/
    http://macrolinz.com/macrolinz/tiddlyware/MacroLinz.html

    Save them to your hard drive if you like them.
    Both are based on TiddlyWiki.

  5. How about a Palm Treo or iPhone?

    Syncronizing with PC or Mac and all the with you. Data can be imported from others by infrared or BT.

    Best results with it for years – I mean it:-))

    Cheers,

    Ralf

  6. If you use Mozilla thunderbird (on PC / MAC) and Address Book (on MAC) you can both synchronise them with your contacts in your Google gmail account.

    I’m thinking of doing it just that way, because I’m working on both mac and pc and I often need my contacts when I don’t have my personal pc at hand.

    (for an easy synchronisation between Address Book and Google contact you must have Leopard installed, but there is a plugin for thunderbird who does the synchronisation for you…)

    I like this setup because then your contacts are always linked to your e-mail accounts.

  7. Hi Chris Ritke. That’s a really good idea, actually, if people had something like a V-card they could send you that you could just import into any contact app… But then there’s reality, everybody’s so busy. And then there are the people who still use computers like they use toasters. Just another household appliance for e-mail and Amazon. I do know some like that, like those artists I mention in the article. If they have computers at all, that is!

  8. Hi Chris. It’s nice to know I’m not alone and it’s really surprising that nothing that can do these things has been developed for the PC… Everybody has their head “in the cloud” these days, it seems, and desktop apps just aren’t sexy enough I guess! Let’s hope some enterprising developer reads our wishlists…

  9. Hi Deanna. My husband said the same thing after he read this (he’s a hardcore Macboy). It will be within a year, definitely, but I may be buried in business cards before I get there! Anyway, until Macs rule the world (which they will eventually), the poor PC people will still need something like this. Thanks!

  10. Hi Ken. thanks for the links! You should put up some screen shots!

  11. Hi Ralf. Yes, there’s an iPhone in my future, and I can’t wait!

  12. Hi cubus. The thing is I’m trying to keep my contacts off the Internet, and don’t have them stored on Google. Linking contacts to e-mail is crucial, though, you’re right.

  13. Pamela, you bring up some interesting points about security. I’m an IT guy myself and I work for a CRM company. Let me tell you… Your data is much safer on my web-based CRM than on your PC/Laptop.

    We take our client’s data and security very seriously. Web/Internet security has reached a point where it’s not ‘easy’ to break in. There are also other measures that can be taken, allowing only certain IPs, secured connections (ssl/https), etc.

    Now let me tell you something scary… Windows Security. Do you have a password on your PC? If you do.. it doesn’t really matter. In literally TWO minutes I can be past it. What makes this worse is that ANYONE can. You do not need to be a super IT-person to do it. It’s too easy.

    Many times, the cloud is much safer than your PC.

  14. I’m not so concerned about security in the cloud. Someone could also take your bag and you’d have the same problem.

    My problem with all this apps is that they always miss one of my needs:
    1. Desktop sync (sometimes there is no internet and also I’m a Thunderbird heavy user, so I want my contacts there)
    2. Smartphone sync with local storage (sometimes internet is not fast enough)
    3. Web app.

    Most miss 1 or 2.

  15. I recently got CardScan (the honey was listening when I exclaimed over a magazine ad) and I’m loving it. There’s a handy little app that comes with the scanner that’s fairly robust. Categories instead of tags, but they’re editable AND there’s OCR…

  16. Pamela, all I can say is: ME TOO! You may want to check out the free Palm Desktop (even if you don’t use a PDA). It’s definitely not a CRM but it’s a decent address book with plenty of fields for multiple phones etc., plus a Notes field for free-form contact info. (It also has a to-do list and calendar but you don’t *have* to use them…)

    Good luck and let me know if you find the Holy Grail!

    Tom

  17. Hi Bill. Thanks for your comments. In general, as I said, I have entrusted my personal info to the cloud and its gatekeepers with little or no hesitation because I know you all basically have to offer security to your users if you want to survive!

    There’s just the question of other people’s judgment; would you want someone who may not be Internet savvy deciding where to store info about you? You say “many times” the cloud is safer, and I know that, but it’s the few times it may not be that make it wrong (in my view) to make that call for info that you don’t own.

    I have a low-level password on my PC. Trusted geeks assured me this was much harder to crack than the Windows password.

  18. Hi Fernando. You’re right, somebody could take my bag. It’s giant and orange and probably has “target” written all over it too!

    Thanks for the missing features list. Hopefully someone will hear our plea!

  19. Hi Heather. Lucky girl! Definitely a tasty gadget and nice features too. Something to keep in mind for sure. Thanks!

  20. Hi Tom. Thanks for the tip on Palm Desktop. I wouldn’t have thought of that. It looks like it has potential but for now you have to jump through hoops to export data to an iPhone, which might make me hesitate since I will be going that way in the near future.

    Since you can now run Windows on Macs, and the Mac Address Book is so dreamy, I’m pretty convinced that anything Apple is the Holy Grail…

  21. Well you could not have rounded up better.

    Sunita

  22. Here’s a little-known ‘secret:’ the password manager Roboform can import contacts from Outlook. I use the portable version Roboform2go. It encrypts everything with a master password so no worries if you lose it.

  23. I was just visiting this contact app. site before landing on your post about contact management. Perhaps you may want to check this site out. I have no affliation, so just something passed along. Good luck. http://www.batchblue.com/index.html

  24. You should take the risk and go with the online crm solution. They usually look way better than the software you download. Seems that you are all about look of the database, so go ahead and check http://www.salesnexus.com

  25. I really do think that palm pilot is a very wise investment especially if you buy it via wholesale

    please note that he password manager Roboform can import contacts from Outlook express.

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