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.