Contact Management

by Jonathan Gennick

I'm thinking of buying myself a new handheld (I currently
have an old Palm), and also perhaps a new notebook computer
(either a Thinkpad or Apple's Powerbook). I also want to buy some contact management software. I'm starting to look at alternatives, and I could use some advice.

One thing I've long
wanted is to have better integration between my handheld
and my desktop, and in particular in the area of contact
management. My old Palm is fine for keeping a list of addresses
and phone numbers, but it doesn't go much beyond that. And
the email program I use doesn't interface with the Palm, so
I have these islands of contact data. You know the story.

So I'm curious. If you do the contact management thing, what are you using?
And if you're successfully integrating a handheld with some
sort of contact management software and also,
simultaneously, with a good email program, I'd love to know
the details of what you are doing.

I want functionality such as the following:

* When I add someone's email address to my email software's
address book, I want that to show up in my handheld. And
vice-versa. What's more, if I add an email address to my email software's address book for
someone whose phone number I already have on my handheld, I want the
software to detect that and merge the two entries together, even though the two entries lie on different devices.

* I want to be able to keep a record of phone calls and
other contacts with authors and prospective authors, and I
want that record simultaneously on both my handheld and my

* I want to set ticklers, so I can remember to follow-up
with people when I need to.

* It might be nice to have email exchanges automatically
get filed in the contact manager.

* It'd be really great if all this could somehow interface
with my Motorola v60i cellphone (I'm locked into that
model), so that any phone number I enter in any device automagically gets propogated to all others. For example, when I enter a new number in my cellphone, I want to see that number in my handheld and in the contact management software on my notebook.

* Whatever functionality I haven't thought of yet, I want
that too.

There are lots of good handhelds out there, lots of good
notebooks, lots of good software, but what I want is a
handheld+notebook+software (+maybe cellphone) solution that
works; I want the components to play well together; and I want them from major vendors that will be around
for the long-haul. And I don't like to tinker. I'm also somewhat averse to using MS Outlook because of virus issues. I've not been hit by a virus in two or more years, and I attribute that largely to my avoidance of Outlook.

If you use a combination of notebook+handheld+contact management software, I'd be greatful for any advice or suggestions that you can offer.


2002-12-06 12:21:23
PowerBook + iSync
Apple's iSync 1.0 is expected to be announced at MWSF in january. I'm using the beta, and it works nicely for me. It might not have all the features you requested though.

As far as laptops go, you should definitely get a GHz PowerBook. I ordered mine yesterday :-)


Jonathan Gennick
2002-12-06 13:46:33
PowerBook + iSync
Thanks. Yes, I'd sure like to order my GHz Powerbook today. I'll look into iSync. Actually, having a separate piece of software for syncing to various devices seems like a good idea. I wonder whether it'll sync up to Windows handhelds.
Jonathan Gennick
2002-12-06 13:46:40
PowerBook + iSync
Thanks. Yes, I'd sure like to order my GHz Powerbook today. I'll look into iSync. Actually, having a separate piece of software for syncing to various devices seems like a good idea. I wonder whether it'll sync up to Windows handhelds.
2002-12-06 16:39:35
I'm using a PowerBook G4/400, Handspring Treo 300, and iSync beta. Here's how it works so far:

- Addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, etc. entered in any of your devices (in my case, the Handspring Treo; any compatible Palm will do) will be available to all apps that use the system Address Book app. Right now, that includes the built-in Mail program. The reverse is also true. Since the Treo is also a cell phone, the phone always has the latest info too. If you're locked into that particular phone, and it's Bluetooth compatible, there is some functionality to iSync with cell phones too. You'd have to see if that's one of them.

- Calendar appointments (but not to-dos yet) are likewise synced.

- There is a record of phone calls on the Treo, but they are not linked to the contact record in the phone book, nor are they synced to the computer.

- You can set reminders in the Treo as appointments or to-dos (appointments will sync with the computer), but this is probably not nearly as easy or complete as you want.

- If you have a .Mac account, your contact and calendar info are also backed up to that account. At least if you lose your expensive equipment somehow, your data is somewhere safe.

-iSync is SLOOOOW. Hopefully the 1.0 release will help here.

- I've had intermittent problems with the Treo not getting the latest update after a sync. Again, hopefully a bug that will go away with the real release.

Anyway, it's not a perfect solution, but it's the best I've done with having all my devices have the same info on them, regardless of where the info was entered/updated.

2002-12-06 16:40:43
PowerBook + iSync
To my knowledge, iSync doesn't work with the Windows handhelds yet.
2002-12-06 16:41:42
Sorry, I meant for this to be in the other PowerBook thread.
Jonathan Gennick
2002-12-06 17:36:20
Thanks for your reply. The only reason I'm locked into the Motorola v60i phone is that there is really only one choice of cellular company where I'm at. Well, there are two, but only one with a national service plan. I get no Sprint, no Nextel, No AT&T, No T-Mobile, and no Cingular, which pretty much rules out any of the PDA phones such as the Treo (which I agree is quite cool, and I'd buy it if I could use it).

I have discovered, however, that my Motorala phone (supposedly) will sync with the Palm. That does open the door to syncing a Powerbook to a Palm, and then the Palm to the phone. That's a bit roundabout, but I guess it could work. Not sure I'd do it daily to sync appointments, but I might do it weekly or monthly to sync up phone numbers.

Jonathan Gennick
2002-12-06 17:38:28
PowerBook + iSync
That's unfortunate, though I'm not too surprised given that iSync is a Mac product.
2003-01-07 17:14:16
It got much better recently...
As you probably know, Apple release iSync 1.0 and a new release of iCal. I'm happy to report that they've handled the complaints from my previous post. Syncs are faster, accurate, and include to-dos. It still doesn't support Windows handhelds, but for Palms, this is a good solution.