Blog Post

6 (Mostly) Free Online Contact Apps to Consider

If there’s any area of personal organization that web apps haven’t gotten right yet, it’s the contact manager.

As web workers, we need to be able to quickly add contacts, and pull them up from anywhere, on any computer. An online contact manager that works smoothly would be a great solution for many.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a perfect solution for most people yet. While email, calendar and to-do software is getting better all the time, contact managers are like the ugly cousin that no one pays attention to. Perhaps part of the reason is that people are hesitant to store all of this personal information online — and yet, they’re perfectly willing to put all of their private emails and contacts in a service such as Gmail or Yahoo Mail.

None of the solutions below are perfect, but some of them are quite nice. Please note that some of them are actually CRM software, which is a bit of an overkill if you just want to store phone numbers, email addresses, snail mail addresses and some notes.

1) Highrise. 37Signal’s famous CRM app has the nicest and simplest interface, which is what 37Signals is known for. And it goes beyond managing your contact numbers and addresses: Highrise has a page for each of your contacts, with that person’s info, tasks and info associated with that contact, even notes, images and emails. While it was originally intended for small businesses, Highrise now has a free individual plan that will let you store up to 250 contacts. More than that, and you’ll have to pay.

2) Big Contacts. This is my personal favorite, though it’s far from perfect. The Ajax interface makes it easy to find and add and edit contact information, and like Highrise, you can store tasks and notes about each contact. You can import contact info from Outlook or Gmail or a bunch of other applications (although it doesn’t work perfectly). Its interface isn’t quite as pretty as Highrise, but you can store twice as many contacts with the free account.

3) Plaxo. This popular service has been around longer than the first two, and is interesting because it has a lot of people who love it for its ability to sync your contacts across computers, mobile devices and the web, but also has a lot of people who hate the emails it can send out to all your contacts asking them to update their information. To be fair, as far as I can tell, it only sends those emails out if you tell it to, but still, many people see them as spam. Plaxo has a contact manager (and can sync with Outlook), as well as a calandar and task manager. In my experience, it moves a little slow for my needs — I like to be able to add and find and edit contact info quickly.

4) Zoho CRM. If you’re a fan of the Zoho online office suite, which includes online word processor, spreadsheet, database, presentation, planner, project manager and other applications, their CRM app may be perfect for you. The interface works nicely, and it’s a full-blown CRM app, with campaign management, lead generation, pipeline analysis, sales forecasts, sales quotas and more. It’s free for up to three users.

6) Oprius. This webapp actually aims to be an all-in-one personal organizer solution, very similar to the popular ACT! desktop software. It has a calandar, task manager, email program and contacts manager. The contacts app isn’t bad, with a nice interface, easy to use and fast.

7) Webmail. Of course, there’s always the contact managers that come with Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail or one of the other webmail servcies. Gmail’s is nice as it automatically adds email contacts without you having to think about it. Yahoo Mail’s contact manager is actually a decent offering that many people favor. Hotmail’s isn’t perfect, but if you combine it with the Outlook Live subscription service, it can be a good option if you are a dedicated Outlook user.

What contact manager do you like? Let us know in the comments.

36 Responses to “6 (Mostly) Free Online Contact Apps to Consider”

  1. At our office, we use Outlook Business Contact Manager. While it is also a CRM product, we particularly like that it is SQL based and all of the forms can be customized to our exact needs. For example, we added a checkbox to let us know if the contact has been sent a welcome packet. Every Monday morning, we simply run a query to generate a report of all the new clients that have not received a welcome packet yet and our office assistant mails them out.

  2. Keep in mind that you definitely get what you pay for or don’t pay for. Why go through the implementation process twice by choosing something cheap or free? Isn’t your goal to grow your business? Look for a contact management solution that can grow with you. I use SalesNexus, it’s fully customizable, 100% web based and very user friendly.

  3. a great contact management tool is web based HyperOffice .

    – rich functionality (contact management database, calendars, customizable fields etc)
    – accessible on any mac or pc browser
    – accessible on mobile devices including iPhone and BlackBerry
    – Integrates and synchs with Outlook and makes Outlook contacts sharable and accessible online

  4. I know this will sound cheesy, but I actually like Outlook to manage my contacts. Since Microsoft is so entrenched in the business world, simply managing contacts there saves time with e-mail and appointments. There are obvious limitations; however, it is still not bad if you learn how to use it properly. There are more significant limitations with the task manager, though, which is why I use a paper planner.

  5. rick gregory

    I’d love a centralized contact manager that let my mail program use it via LDAP to look things up. But, until then, I’ll use GMail contacts since that’s the mail ‘client’ I use. The problem is that I can’t easily sync those with my phone… sigh…

    Can someone actually work on this instead of the 318th video sharing site? Please??

  6. Plaxo is a nice solution. I’m using it also.
    But something is missing as far as I know and may be someone could help me .
    I am looking for an solution that allowed me to see through a graphic or a kind of map the relation between all my contacts.
    For exemple, to keep track on who gave me this contact and help me to reach this person, who is in contact with me about a specific subject + who is in relation with who about what kinf of subject, etc…
    this upon all of my contacts.

    Any suggestions ?

  7. I am using Hotmail. Actualy though using Windows Live for Domains, running my personal domain through mail.live.com. On the desktop I don’t use Outlook though (I use that for contracting email), but I use the Windows Live Mail Desktop Beta – which syncs with my Hotmail account. What is nice about this as well, is my T-Mobile dash with Windows Mobile 6 will automatically sync my contacts to my phone, and has Windows Live Messenger, so its like all integrated, I update my phone, my mail account is updated, and I have a desktop clients. Been using it for a while and it is the best I have seen between all three platforms (web, desktop, phone) – at least on the cheap (no exchange, no outlook, etc)

    I also use plaxo, but just to sync my contacts from my hotmail to other accounts, which seems to work well…and it is a good backup

    my only gripe with my whole solution is the calendar/tasks on hotmail doesnt integrate with the desktop app.. yet – hopefully soon