Saturday, January 15, 2011

Spanning Sync contacts cleaner - a quick review

I bought Spanning Sync's Contact Cleaner for $5 from the OS X App Store.

I've used their flagship product for years to sync my OS X Address Book to Google. It's relatively expensive ($25 or so a year) but it mostly works. Since synchronization between differing data models is an impossible problem, "mostly works" is excellent.

So I was willing to give this utility a try.

Briefly, for an early product, it works pretty well. It has a few bugs, but it's definitely worth $5. The app offers to make an Address Book backup on 1st use -- that's a good idea.

I'm a pretty good test case because

  • I sync my OS X Address Book to both Google (Spanning Sync) and MobileMe
  • I have over 800 cards in my personal book (more in my separate corporate directory)
  • I routinely define a "Family" as a "Business" to get around the first name, last name problem.
  • For individuals I often link them into "Families" by use of the "Business" field to hold a family name (or, in my case, the domain name for our family)

These are the bugs I found:

  1. If you choose open in Address Book, then change type from individual to business in Address Book, Contact Cleaner will crash
  2. Details view for "one name" errors omits email addresses
  3. Details formatting not always optimal
  4. Can't manage the individual to company conversion

I'm also a bit suspicious about how it manages group memberships when it merges or alters contacts. This may just be my paranoia coming out.

Some advice on using Contact Cleaner

  • Turn off all other sync while using this tool. I sync my OS X Address Book to both MobileMe (and thus to my iPhone) and to Google Contacts [1]. Just disable your network connection.
  • If you edit in the Address book, save your changes (click out of edit mode) then Rescan in Contacts Cleaner. Otherwise it won't pick up your edits.
  • I like to make changes in Address Book then rescan - gives me more control and I can see the full results
  • Be wary if you use non-default Address Book fields. This kind of cleanup is a very hard problem.

[1] I sync a selected subset of my entire Address Book to Google Contacts. I create new addresses in OS X and then let them sync to Google. Once they sync I can safely make smaller edits on either side (esp. email address updates). I can also do merges safely on the Google side. Group assignments are independent. I define a "Family" entry as a type of "Business", that seems to work.


Martin said...

I wish I would finally sync my contacts with Google … it is still not reliable enough for me, each sync attempt ends in chaos.

John Gordon jr said...

Martin, I wrote a post up for you on contacts sync:

John Gordon said...

I've been using it again with iCloud and it seems to be working quite well.