Keeping my personal contact lists up to date has always been a challenge. The past few years I’ve experimented with different solutions, and I’ve consistently (since 2001) had to work with platform (Mac/Windows) issues and MS Exchange. I’ve worked at times with several Palms (a Tungsten and a Treo 600) and also synced contacts with cell phones via bluetooth. Currently, I have a set of contacts I maintain in MS Outlook for Windows XP on an Exchange server, a set of contacts I keep in the Mac OS X Address Book, and also contacts that are part of my Yahoo email account. These are the 3 “platforms” I’m referring to in titleing this post. My goal is to keep the contacts on all three of these platforms the same, and be able to edit/change a contact on any of these platforms and have that change propagate seamlessly to the other two. Ha! What a pipe dream. I’m far from realizing this fantasy, but I’ve made some progress lately.

For several months I’ve used Yahoo’s free Intellisync program for Windows, which syncs Outlook contacts and calendar items (on Windows PCs only) to an online Yahoo address book and calendar. This has been nice, and has worked pretty well. I like being able to grant individuals “read-only” access to my calendar via Yahoo, which is something I can’t do for people not on our Exchange server using Outlook/Exchange by itself. The only glitch I’ve run into is that Intellisync doesn’t like multi-day appointments that have set times, but it does sync multi-day “all day” events. I just upgraded to Outlook 2003, however, and I’m not sure if the version of Intellisync is going to still work. Hopefully it will.

On the Mac side of things, I started experimenting with the public version of Plaxo several weeks ago but didn’t find it synced well. I’m now a beta tester for their new Mac client, however, and things seem to work well going from the online Plaxo version to the Mac OS X address book, but not the other direction. In other words, when I make an edit to an address book entry online in Plaxo and then sync to my OS X address book, the change is immediately made there as it should be. When I make a change in the OS X address book, however, and then sync– that change for some reason is not uploaded to Plaxo online.

I’m hopeful Plaxo will improve its functionality to the point where I can make edits in my OS X Address Book and they’ll be replicated in the online version, and therefore to my Yahoo address book as well. Using Plaxo actually introduces a fourth “platform” for contact syncing– but since Yahoo does not have a sync client for Mac OS X, I am not sure what else I can do.

I am forced to use MS Outlook on Windows for some mail, and I want to continue using my Mac (and therefore the OS X Address Book), so I’m not sure if there are better solutions out there than the ones I’m trying. I abandoned MS Entourage a year ago and don’t want to go back to it– it’s support for Exchange syncing got better, but I don’t have the option presently to sync my Mac to Exchange and I’m liking Apple Mail better than Entourage anyway.

It is handy to have all my contacts web-accessible via Yahoo, so I’m not averse to syncing across three platforms. Four seems like overkill, but Plaxo appears to be the only solution out there (which is free or commercial– but I’m using the free version) that will sync Yahoo contacts to Mac OS X Address Book. I may try using Plaxo to sync my Outlook contacts, and ditch the Yahoo Intellisync program. It looks like as long as I edit my address book using the online Plaxo interface, those changes should propagate to the other platforms.

If you have thoughts or suggestions along these lines, I’d love to hear them.

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3 Responses to Synchronizing contacts across 3 platforms

  1. Ryan Collins says:

    I’m thinking of putting all my addresses into my GMail account and then use GCALDaemon (http://gcaldaemon.sourceforge.net/index.html) to access that address book from other systems. GCALDaemon exposes the address book as an LDAP server, so it should work with just about anything.

  2. Wesley Fryer says:

    I hadn’t heard of GCALDaemon, thanks for that reference. I reinstalled Intellisync and it seems to work wonderfully with Outlook2003 and Yahoo, and Plaxo seems to sync well with Yahoo… so I may have to just make my address book changes either in Outlook, in Yahoo, or in Plaxo and let my OS X address book just “mirror” the changes made elsewhere. I think that is going to work for me.

  3. I have a similar issue with synchronizing my calendar in more than one place. I also use Outlook (Exchange), a Treo 650 and Google calendar. I’ve been trying a lot of sources, one being the open source Remote Calendars software. What I really want is to be able to enter events in any of the three, and like you said, have it update to the others – but I’d like to do it by category. Right now I’m working with a hard-sync (Palm software) with my Treo and Outlook calendar at work, and GooSync on my Treo to sync with Google Calendar. The problem there is I have more than one calendar in Google I want my full calendar in all three places but an additional shared Google calendar my husband can see that doesn’t fill his with my 10 or so tasks during my work day. I can’t even imagine what my new Mac will bring to the problem! I look forward to seeing suggestions here and hope they might help me too!

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