Saturday, June 20, 2009

Project Contacts: iPhone 3.0 means I hack away at Google Contacts, and discover another rough spot

In my last installment of Project Contacts (Launched 2/14/09) I discovered that copying my Corporate (Exchange server/Outlook) contacts to a PST file converted email addresses from EX (x.500) to standard SMTP. I brought the PST to my home Outlook (on XP box) and then used MobileMe Sync to get the work contacts nicely integrated with my iPhone and my iMac.

That took me 70% of the way to getting my Contacts mega-mess sorted out. The cost was a subscription to MobileMe (later canceled within 30 day limit) and some modest manual updating [1].

I figured I’d wait a bit before tackling the last bit of the Contacts mess – my Gmail Contacts. I need to merge them in to my OS X Address Book repository [2]. Google is supposed to migrate to a more sync friendly format (structured names), but it’s going slowly. I figured I’d wait.

Then I got iPhone OS 3. The one good feature so far is that I can sync my Google Contacts to my iPhone via Google’s exchange server support while ALSO synching my OS X Address Book (with work and home) to my iPhone.

I did that and ended up with thousands of duplicates, but this isn’t as bad as it sounds. They were segregated by account. Still, it made phone searching pretty slow.

So I spent an hour slogging away at Gmail cleanup. I removed a large redundant group of about 800 contacts, then hand deleted another 200 or so. The 30-40 minute process reminded me that I’ve lived a fairly long time already; some of those names had pretty old memories with them (they still exist in my main contacts – I was just deleting unwanted redundancies).

The good news is that Google’s Contact Merge feature works quite nicely. The bad news is that every time you delete a contact, the screen redraws and you start over again at the top of the Contacts List. Sigh. More evidence nobody at Google uses the Gmail we use.

So now I’d say I’m 77% of the way to completing Project Contacts. I’m waiting now for Google to compete their structured name transition and for Spanning Sync to be suitably updated. Then I’ll start working on the last step. On my iPhone, at least, I do have every Contact at hand at all times. That’s progress.

[1] Turns out my work Contacts don’t change all that quickly, so for various reasons I won’t go into I don’t actually need MobileMe to manually copy changed Outlook Contacts to my iMac. I am probably going to get MobileMe for other reasons however.

[2] Address Book is the least weak of Apple’s astoundingly unimpressive desktop PIM suite, but it’s still not an ideal repository.

Update: I was so pleased with Google's Contact Merge feature I decided to try the same feature in OS X Address Book. Oops! Address Book's Merge is completely automatic. In Gmail Contacts you can review the merged record and revise it or reject it. In almost every merge I did make some corrections. OS X Address Book just executes the merge, it doesn't even identify the merged records. Damn, but Apple sucks so abysmally at everything Palm was good at.

Update 12/23/10: I've been using Spanning Sync, MobileMe, Address Book OS X, iPhone Contacts and Google Contacts all more or less in sync for about a year.

No comments: