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Transition to Online, Part III (Google Contacts)

Posted: January 12th, 2010   |   Category: Blog | Labs | Strategy | Tools

As mentioned in previous blog posts (Online I, Online II) about my transition to online tools (and towards more open environments), I’m in the process of changing all of my habits so that they are much more conducive to the Internet world.

This article is about using the beta Contacts App with Google Apps.

Importing from Outlook

Importing contacts from a location is pretty straight-forward.

However, before you start the download / export process, consider adding ‘categories’ to as many contacts as possible.  When you do, the import of the CSV file will automatically tag all of your contacts into groups and it will make your life extremely painless.  If you don’t tag your contacts in Outlook, don’t worry too much because you can use the ‘Group’ function with the Contacts App.

Eliminating Duplication

The Contacts App has a great feature for eliminating duplicate contacts, something I’ve always wanted with other contact management tools.  After running through several thousand contacts, the feature found about 300 contacts that were obvious duplicates from my Outlook days.

Now, the greatest challenge is removing everything.  The Beta product for Contacts doesn’t have a ‘compare’ feature, which would be extremely useful in this case.  Odds are, most of the duplicates are in fact duplicates, but odds are pretty good as well that I’ve got relevant content saved with each listing.  Getting everything mashed into a single contact will prove to be time consuming, but eventually worth the trip.

The good news is that there’s nothing absolute about the duplication removal tool.  If I don’t want to proceed, I just cancel and then maybe jot down a few folks at a time that I want to modify.

Integration with Gmail

I did a test email to see if I’d be able to select from my newly imported contacts and the results were incredible.

Not only were my most frequently used contacts immediately available, but I was also able to search all of my contacts for specific details, an action which significantly supports the idea of tagging all of your contacts with specific information or sorting them into unique groups.

I could also choose from ‘All Contacts’ as opposed to the default, which is ‘Most Contacted’.

After double-clicking on the contact in question, the email address automatically gets populated, much like it would have with Outlook.

The key difference:  speed.  I can’t recall Outlook operating this fast or efficiently.

Another big difference:  I know I’m repeating myself, but the fact that all of my contacts were available online is a real delight.  Trying to get to this information in the past using some kind of remote system was just a headache, plain and simple.

Feedback

However, after my experience, I will be so bold as to have some feedback for the Google crowd:

  • Allow labels as you would with Gmail.  It would allow users to add tags such as ‘friends’, ‘media reps’ or ‘clients’.
  • I could probably ‘trick’ the Contacts App with the ‘groups’ or ‘custom’ features, but would prefer something a little more obvious.
  • Allow users to connect with Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn contacts.  This would ‘hyper-accelerate’ the adoption of Google Apps as people consolidate their activities from many platforms to just one or two.  It would also prove that Google’s interested in being open with all applications and not just those that belong to Google.

Summary:  Once again, I feel like Google is on to something big.  The ability to access my contacts, regardless of platform and location means everything to me now.

In fact, I see people that use mobile devices, but who can’t access information that they’ve sent or contact info when they’re using their phones.  This kind of structure will change all of that when they make the leap from application software to online software.

All I need to ensure is that I’ve always got my web hookup running :)

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