A look at syncing and thoughts about what I really need

Earlier this week I searched the net for contact-related standards work and found the W3C work in progress on a Contacts API which defines the high-level interfaces required to obtain read access to a user’s unified address book [ http://w3c-test.org/dap/contacts/ ]. This defines a number of fields and attributes. I was unable to find anything relevant on the Dublin Core website or the ISO website.

From this initial search I conclude that a) there is unlikely to be any standard definition of all the fields I want in my address book, b) I am likely to continue to need to maintain an offline separate address book if I want to maintain special fields, c) it will probably be worthwhile trying to use terms that are standardised by W3C and/or ISO, and d) I should think carefully about what my real needs are before spending a lot of effort on upgrading my offline Filemaker address book which is custom built and is expensive to keep pace with Filemaker upgrades.

The particularly useful facilities of my Filemaker application are: 1) The ability to print a hardcopy address book, 2) The ability to manage who gets sent an Xmas card and to record who we received one from, on a year by year basis, 3) The ability to automatically search for an address, 4) The ability to print address labels, 5) The storage of addresses by family as opposed to just by individual. After thinking about this for a while it seems that all these could be achieved using Excel – though the printing of the address labels might be a bit fiddly. However, just to cover all bases I searched the net for low cost address book applications and found StatTrak which seems to possess many of the facilities I require at $29.95.

The synching, export and import facilities possessed by the iPhone, Yahoo Mail, Filemaker and StaTrak are in the table below:

Capabilities BT Yahoo iPhone Filemaker StatTrak
Syncing No Syncs with Yahoo but only one way – it does not push new info to Yahoo The Zulu app syncs with mobile devices enabling Filemaker to be the master contact list – but Zulu requires Filemaker server and costs at least $299. No
Export Yes (to various formats including CSV) Yes (via the free app ‘My Contacts Backup’ to various formats including CSV) Yes (to various formats  including CSV and Excel) Not sure
Import Yes from CSV files No Yes (from various formats including CSV and Excel) Yes from a CSV file
Field additions No No Yes No

I have drawn up a flow diagram showing how the (largely manual) synchronisation process could work between the iPhone, Yahoo and Filemaker; with a master CSV file in Excel in the middle. This has again led me to question the value of maintaining a separate Filemaker file. I feel I’m close to deciding to abandon the Filemaker address book and to move to an excel version – but I shall think it over for a day or two – and hope to be able to find someone else to bounce my thoughts off.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *