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  1. Computer Skills
  2. Synchronization
Computers

Sync and Manage Your Contacts in Address Book

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:MediumLanguages:

Your contacts are a mess. So are mine. This tutorial is going to show you how to clean them up and get everything from Facebook and Gmail into Address Book and onto your iPhone.

If you want to sync your contacts to Address Book in OS X, but you don’t have an iPhone, things are going to get a little convoluted. There are a few more steps involved, and it’s just a bit more work. But we’ll walk through a few different ways to import your contacts from Facebook, Gmail, and Yahoo! to your Mac. We’ll also look at using your iPhone as a powerful tool for syncing contacts.

We’ll walk through a few different ways to import your contacts from Facebook, Gmail, and Yahoo! to your Mac.

Syncing Facebook Contacts to Your Mac

Let's start by walking through how to get your Mac contacts synced up with those from your Facebook account.

Step 1: Syncing Facebook to Yahoo

To import contacts from Facebook, first you’re going to need a Yahoo! email account. You read that right. If you want to import your contacts from Facebook into Address Book you’re going to need a Yahoo! email account. (You can follow a similar process to what I’ll lay out here in Hotmail, too.)

You read that right. If you want to import your contacts from Facebook into Address Book you’re going to need a Yahoo! email account.

Log in or sign up for Yahoo! email. Click the Contacts tab, and you’ll see a list of all of your Yahoo! contacts, which may be none at all if you never or rarely use Yahoo!. Find the "Import Contacts" button and click it to get started.

Syncing Facebook contacts to Yahoo!
Syncing Facebook contacts to Yahoo!

Click the Facebook icon to begin the authentication process. Sign in to Facebook if you aren’t already, and agree to share your contacts with Yahoo!. When your contacts have been imported, click OK, and you’ll be returned to the main contacts page.

There will be a confirmation letting you know how many contacts have been imported. Before importing all of that into your Mac’s Address book, you can also clean up any duplicates, but this should only be an issue if you actively use Yahoo! email or your friends all have three Facebook accounts each.

Step 2: Syncing Yahoo to Address Book

Getting those new email addresses onto your Mac is relatively painless. Pop open Address Book, open Preferences, and select Accounts.

Getting those new email addresses onto your Mac is relatively painless.

There are two ways to go about it at this point. You can either select On My Mac from the accounts list and select the Synchronize with Yahoo! checkbox or add a Yahoo! account to the accounts list.

If you decide to take the first option, you’ll need to give Address Book permission to access your Yahoo! account. Enter your Yahoo! ID and password on the next screen. Address Book will then prompt you to either replace your contacts data with the data it’s getting from Yahoo! or merge the data. I was wary of replacing the information I had on my computer with what’s on Yahoo!, so I chose to merge it instead, but that’ll be your call.

Adding a Yahoo! account to Address Book
Adding a Yahoo! account to Address Book

Your second option is to add a Yahoo! account to Address Book. Click the plus sign below the accounts list, and choose Yahoo! from the account type drop-down.

Enter your Yahoo ID and password and click "Create." You can choose to also sync up your mail, calendars, and chat in the next window. Click Create one more time, and you’re off to the races.


Syncing Gmail Contacts to Your Mac

This method is much more straightforward, but again, there are two ways to accomplish syncing with Gmail. The first is similar to the the above with Yahoo! and the On My Mac account, except now you’re choosing to sync Google. You’ll be prompted to agree to allow Address Book permission to sync with Google, and then you can enter your Gmail login.

Using the vCard format allows you more control over what information is added to Address Book but won’t create a link between Address Book and your Gmail account.

The second option for importing contacts, using the vCard format, allows you more control over what information is added to Address Book but won’t create a link between Address Book and your Gmail account.

You’ll need to log in to Gmail in a browser and click Gmail in the upper left corner of the page. Select Contacts, and you’ll be brought to the Gmail Contacts page. Click More, and choose Export. You can choose which contacts groups you want to export or even only a single contact. Select vCard format, which is best for Address Book, and export.

Exporting an Address Book ready file in Gmail
Exporting an Address Book ready file in Gmail

Find the vCard file in your default downloads folder and open it to import the contacts into Address Book. If there is any overlap, Address Book will ask what to do, whether to keep the old contact, accept the new Gmail contact, merge them, or keep both.

Even choosing one contact or the other or merging contacts, I still found that I wound up with a lot of duplicates, we’ll talk about how to get rid of those a bit later.


Syncing Facebook Contacts to Your iPhone

The process of syncing contacts is phenomenally easier with an iPhone, and I’m not just talking about the mobile contacts. Because you’ll be syncing your iPhone contacts with Address Book on your Mac via iTunes, your iPhone becomes a contact management tool.

There are a couple of great iPhone apps for keeping your contacts synced up, and SmartSync is maybe the best I’ve run across. SmartSync will get all the available information for a contact from Facebook and use it to supplement your iPhone contacts, including the pictures. No more default blank faces for 95% of my contacts! Neither SmartSync nor any other Facebook syncing tool I've tried would sync contacts that weren’t already on my iPhone, so if you want to supplement your current contacts, you’ll want to try the Yahoo-to-Mac method laid out above.

There are a couple of great iPhone apps for keeping your contacts synced up, and SmartSync is maybe the best I’ve run across.

Once installed, SmartSync wants your phone number and to connect to Facebook. It will display everyone it’s matched up, anyone it’s not sure about, and everyone it couldn’t find a suitable match for, and you can match any changes you need to the matches before continuing the sync.

Syncing Facebook contacts to the iPhone
Syncing Facebook contacts to the iPhone

In SmartSync’s settings, you can choose to to overwrite existing photos, contact information, and even your contact’s name with Facebook’s information. SmartSync lets you decide what info you want to pull from Facebook, such as birthday and current employment. You can also grab your contacts’ most recent status messages to display with their pictures, if that’s something you’re interested in doing.


Syncing Gmail Contacts to Your iPhone

To sync your Gmail contacts, go into your iPhone’s settings and locate Mail, Contacts, Calendars. Tap to add a new Exchange account. Yes, you read right, an Exchange account; a Gmail account won’t sync contacts.

Fill in your address for the Email and Username, and stick your password in the appropriate place. Leave Domain blank for now, and tap "Next." If you get an error or it just doesn’t work, it should pop open a new field for you to enter a server address, and that’s going to be m.google.com.

When you’re connected, you’ll get the option to sync your mail, your contacts, and your calendars. That’s all up to you, but for the purpose of this tutorial, you’re going to want Contacts enabled.

Setting up an Exchange account to sync contacts
Setting up an Exchange account to sync contacts

When you turn on sync for contacts, you’ll be asked if you want to keep existing contacts or delete them. You may see some duplicates if you choose to keep your contacts, and how many duplicates is going to be determined by how many contacts you have. We can get rid of some of these in the next section, though, so no worries.

All of your hard syncing work on your iPhone will now be reflected in Address Book.

To make all of these contacts changes real, just sync your iPhone to your Mac. All of your hard syncing work on your iPhone will now be reflected in Address Book.


Quashing Duplicates

Ridding yourself of the duplicates created by all that syncing can be a pain, but Address Book has a built in duplicate removal tool that should help a bit. Click the "Card" menu, and choose "Look for Duplicates."

If Address Book finds any duplicate contacts, contacts with the same name but different card information, it will offer to merge them for you.

Fortunately, there are some great tools out there that can at least help lessen the burden of removing duplicate contacts.

Address Book makes it easy to manage duplicate contacts.
Address Book makes it easy to manage duplicate contacts.

The duplicates tool did find and merge some of my contacts, but by no means all of them. Depending on which import method you use, you may end up with more or fewer duplicates, and it will probably take some elbow grease if you handle that manually.

Fortunately, there are some great tools out there that can at least help lessen the burden. Addressbook Cleaner from iMacTools and Contacts Cleaner from Spanning Tools are both great examples of this kind of app.

A duplicate contact turned up by a third party tool
A duplicate contact turned up by a third party tool

Open up the app of your choice, and scan your contacts. The app will return a list of duplicates that’s a little more precise that Address Books. You’ll be given a few different ways you can deal with the overlap, including merging your contacts, deleting them, or opening them up in Address Book so you can edit them on the spot.


Conclusion

There’s absolutely no reason our contacts should live in three or four separate places. With just a bit of contact management, you can get all those bits of data in one place and into order.

Even if your contacts reside in far flung places not covered by this tutorial, the export and import methods covered above should at least get you on the path to a unified Address Book.

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