Do you use Gmail or Google Apps for your email? If so, you might want to check out the Windows program iContact. iContact gives you desktop access to all your Gmail/Google Apps contacts.
Why do you need to use this? Well if you need to use contacts in more than one program or service (like email, IM, Skype, or others) or use a desktop app and need it on more than one computer, it’s difficult or even impossible to automatically keep everything in sync. The solution that iContact proposes is to have Gmail contacts as your central repository for everything having to do with people you know. When you need to look up one of them, instead of opening a full browser you open this small stand-alone contact manager to find or search for the person you want. It keeps everything in the cloud in your Gmail contacts, so they’ll still be available on any device with internet access and a decent web browser.
To get iContact, you can download it as a zip file with a portable executable and accompanying files, or an msi installer package (although the msi doesn’t seem to do anything special except extract the files and create a shortcut”¦um, I guess it’s good for people who don’t have unzip software?) and then run the executable.
Enter your Gmail credentials (if you’re using an @gmail.com account, you can just enter your username; if you’re a Google Apps user, enter the full email address, i.e. your_name@your_domain.com), and then watch as it loads your contacts. Certainly a lot faster than opening a web browser, signing into Gmail and navigating to the contacts!
You can edit your contacts by selecting one and clicking ‘edit’ at the bottom, add or remove contacts by clicking the (+) or (X) buttons, and all changes you make are made directly to your online Gmail contacts. I noticed, however, that if you modify your contacts in iContact, it won’t show up in Gmail until you refresh the page. The reverse is true for anything you do in Gmail, you have to sign out and sign back in to iContact in order to show the changes.
When you click a contact, you can then do a few things. If you have their email address stored, you can click the email category next to the address (Home, Work or Other) and click ‘Send Mail’ to open your default mail program and begin a new message to that address. For phone number, click the category (Home, Work, Mobile, Other, etc.) and you can choose ‘Call with Skype’ or display in large text. For addresses you can drop down the category and choose ‘Show Map’ to map it on Google Maps, and for any piece of information you can click ‘Copy’ to copy it to your clipboard. This solves the problem of having a separate contacts list in every program!
iContact currently doesn’t work with contact groups (in Gmail/Google Apps you can add contacts to a group, enter the name of the group in the To: field when writing an email, and send to all addresses in the group at once).
Also, unlike the Gmail contacts manager, there are no “actual contacts” and “suggested contacts” for people who you’ve communicated with but haven’t explicitly added as contacts. They all just show up in the same list.
These limitations aside, iContact does its job well. It’s certainly a convenience for people who use a desktop mail or chat client (especially Skype) and who wants all their contact information in one place without having to sync.