Friday, May 12, 2006

To Buy Or Not To Buy/Use: PLAXO Mac / PC Contacts Synch

Plaxo is a neat little web site/service/software, mostly free, which I consider something everyone should consider using so we all can have updated contact info for each other. However, it should be used with some caveats.

Here's my problem with Plaxo. It is good to see it now available on Mac as well as PC, BUT, it does NOT elegantly handle vCards where you have multiple Home, Work, email addresses for people. Most people can have an email account, a hotmail account and a gmail account and you may have them all tagged as Home in your Apple AddressBook.

When you upload your AB to Plaxo, Plaxo only takes the first one of the Home and the first one of the Work addresses. That means your data going to your OTHER machines via Plaxo is NOT accurate and incomplete. So, be aware of that.

They would like you to add additional fields to your AdressBook like Email2, Email3, Or Home Email2, Home Email3, etc. but that is also not a good solution because many cell phones/PDAs that I synch with will ignore those fields.

Additionally, I had this happen several times before I stopped updating the Mac from Plaxo... I uploaded all my data to Plaxo from AddressBook (by the way, Upload of large AddressBooks is finicky, best way is to create a new contacts folder online on Plaxo, add a dummy vCard there like DEL:ETE THIS and then SYNCH.

That works more reliably, taking your cards online and copying that one dummy card down to AdddressBook. Then delete that from the AddressBook and you are fine. Now, going to the PC and synching that folder with Plaxo gets all your people's vCards into the PC Outlook (which in this day and age is too stupid to import multiple vCards from one file, dumb Microsoft). The only caveat is that multiple email addresses will NOT show up in the PC because Plaxo will only show you the first one of each Home/Work email etc. that it took.

NOW you run into a more dangerous problem unless they have fixed it. You have some automated script on Outlook that checks/updates AOL IM addresses or something in the Contacts on Outlook... these get synched up from PC to Plaxo and when you synched from Plaxo to Mac next time the data from online (which was missing some of the Home/Work additional email addresses) would overwrite and delete what info you had on the Mac AddressBook. I learnt this the hard way.

I THINK they may have "fixed" it by enabling the new updated data to come down from Plaxo but NOT delete the extra fields you have in AddressBook but I am NOT going to test it on my data anymore. Had enough wasted hours cleaning up messes before.

A suggested workaround of having TWO separate Contacts and something like Contacts-PC folders on Plaxo can keep your Mac/PC data separate, but then what's the point of synching?

I have also seen a bug where Mac data sent to Plaxo shows up online OK but FAILS to display in PC Contacts. That same data exported from Plaxo and pulled into Outlook shows up fine. That is a bug on their PC side, not Mac side.

Another annoying thing is that sometimes people with vCards and Plaxo accounts think they are being cute by having their nickname of some dumb term in the Name field. So, "NASCARFAN" that person uses in HIS vCard will come and overwrite your entry for him as John Smith in the name fields. Then you are trying to find John Smith in AddressBook or Mail's address fielf and you will not see it unless you type or search for NASCARFAN or whatever.

So, overall, I am happy they are on Mac also, but am holding off committing it to automatic updates for fear of losing precious existing data fields from the AddressBook. However, if you have a few hundred contacts and mostly they don't have too many email addresses, etc. you will find it a huge convenience - and it is free for the basic services.


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