This was fairly tedious, so I thought I’d share it with you, my loyal blog readers 🙂
Over time, my address book has become unmanageable. Until today, what I had managed to achieve was a curious fusion of useful family postal address data, mostly from the pre-social network, pre-email, pre-mobile days of 10-15 years ago when I had loaded it all into Evolution on Linux; several personal and work mobile phone SIMs worth of numbers in various formats, covering probably a 10 year period judging from the names and numbers in there; and lots and lots of email addresses, covering a similar period, but recently bloated by the habits of Gmail and Apple Mail of storing some data automagically.
In short: a total mess. I had multiple entries for several of my close friends and family; original home addresses of university friends I have not been in contact with for 12 years (!); and outdated information for many other folks.
The iPhone was really the final catalyst for sorting all of this out. More than once recently, I’ve tried to find a number for a friend, and had several entries for that person, several of which were out of date. I’ve called a good friend’s brother on a phone he gave him more than seven years ago, twice in the past 6 months. That’s how useless I’ve become at managing this stuff.
Since the iPhone was core to the issue, and since it syncs with the Address Book, I decided to use that as my core tool for fixing the problem.
Here’s more-or-less what I ended up doing:
- Cleaned up multiple entries in Address Book, merging into a single entry for any one contact, including work and personal data, and adding company names where possible.
- Deleted redundant entries such as the university addresses which I knew were going to be wrong.
- Read through the various hints on this page for information on how I could get contact data from LinkedIn and Facebook and elsewhere…
- Exported my LinkedIn Contacts as a .vcf file for import into Address Book… imported and checked the merge information.
- Grabbed my Facebook Contacts phone details using a Greasemonkey script and a tool called AddressBooker (see the above linked hints page for details). At this point I had an issue. Downloading from AddressBooker as .vcf caused all the names to be exported as just FirstName fields, so when I tried to merge into Address Book everyone came up as a “new” contact. A better solution turned out to be to import directly from AddressBooker into Google Mail Contacts first; do any data merging and cleanup there (GMail Contacts has a nice “merge contacts” capability if you have multiple entries for one person); and then export as .vcf, and import into Address Book, checking the merge information as before with LinkedIn. Sounds long-winded, but it would have taken longer to manage manually in Address Book.
- At this point, Apple Address Book contained my “authoritative” contact list. To get it back into GMail, I scrubbed my whole GMail contacts list (slightly scary, but necessary), and then played around with the Automator action described in the Maciverse tips page, trying to use Numbers instead of Excel. Ultimately that was a disaster as it just couldn’t encode the tab-separated to CSV files correctly. The final answer turned out to be a brilliant little (free / donationware) utility called A to G. Get it. Use it. Donate.
- Result! And next time, I’ll try not to let this get so out of hand…
I see another wrinkle in this whole space. Although tools like Google Voice tend towards centralising all your contact details behind a single number you control (great idea – dear Google, when can we get it in Europe? hint hint!), the proliferation of social networks means that we all have multiple profiles and IDs. In particular, I find Skype and Twitter addresses hugely useful. Apple’s Address Book, of course, doesn’t provide “official” spots for those… there’s no entry for Skype in the IM drop-down list, and no space for arbitrary URLs, you have to edit and maintain a list of them. Something more extensible and easy to keep in sync would be very useful.
Update: the broken part
Google Talk appears now to have completely lost my contact list. Gah. So if you were connected to me on Gtalk then you may need to reconnect, or you may get a new connection request from me. Sorry about that…