Q&A: Custom Contacts

Q I have been trying to use Contacts to build a list of potential clients. Often, several work for the same company, but Contacts insists that I create each card from scratch. Is there any easier way?

A Contacts is a fairly basic address book application, and lacks features such as being able to duplicate, copy and paste whole cards, or perform batch operations such as changes of address, which would make your task easier.

Until recently, you might have been wise to switch to Bento, which uses the same basic address book data, but has much more complete features. Sadly Bento is now dead, and although there are several other address book apps, there is nothing that can quite replace it.

If you can justify the significantly greater cost, go the whole hog and get a proper database such as FileMaker Pro. Although it is not quite as quick and easy as Bento, it has a rich range of tools, and works a treat with FileMaker Go on iOS devices. This could enable you to create and maintain a single database on your Mac, then access and even update it on your iPhone or iPad. FileMaker products have excellent interface design tools to make your database as friendly as Contacts.

Comments When choosing business tools, always plan for the future. Even if Contacts were able to offer an easier way to create multiple entries for those in the same company, sooner or later you would reach its limit. You might then be faced with trying to migrate hundreds of details into a new system.

It is also important to look at the right types of tool. Some users try to manage their client information in a spreadsheet rather than a database. Although spreadsheets have their strengths and have limited tools to work with content as a database, they are no substitute.

When storing personal or sensitive information about individuals, you need to be mindful of the requirements of the Data Protection Act – for which a properly designed database will be much better suited.

Updated from the original, which was first published in MacUser volume 29 issue 13, 2013.