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Author Topic: A-book: a very good, sync-able, alternative addressbook  (Read 11601 times)
m_s
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« on: October 09, 2005, 03:56:31 PM »

I have conflicting desires.  I have been searching for a single security program that would cover everything, so that I could stop running separate Anti-Spyware, Registry protection, and Anti-Trojan programs; but I have at the same time been fragmenting my work-life into various separate segments and moving away from the colossus that is Outlook.  I think I have found the answer to my security question now, but that’s not what I’m writing about here; rather, I want to say a few words about one aspect of my efforts to break free of Outlook.

Outlook is a mixed bag.  I’ll start by acknowledging that it is an excellent program – I see it now as a suite of programs, a set of very well-considered and well-designed interlinked utilities: calendar, address book, email, notebook, tasklist.  Of these, I have mainly used the first three, and that demonstrates one of my reasons for wanting to switch away from it: it’s more than I need; and, as such, it’s bloatware from the start as far as my needs are concerned. 

For email, I switched to The Bat!, which can do absolutely everything I need (Outlook could do most of it, but The Bat! does it using far less resources, and it does the bits that Outlook couldn’t do so well – and that Thunderbird couldn’t do at all).  I’m a little uncertain about my calendar at the moment: I’m inclining to Calendarscope, but still a little tempted by EssentialPIM (I hope to write either a mini-review or a longer piece on Calendar programs in the not too distant future).

And that’s left me with addressbooks – or, rather, it’s left me without one.  The Bat!’s addressbook might be enough for most people: it is email oriented, but it allows you to enter personal and business postal addresses, and it gives you a memo slot for each contact, so you could add any further tags you wanted.  But it can’t be synchronised with a Pocket PC, and that’s a fundamental lack for me, as I’m often travelling and need to be able to carry my addressbook without lugging a laptop.

I posted a thread here at DonationCoder, but received few responses; so I did some searching, and turned up a few programs.  The one I think I will be going with is A-book ($29.95, plus $19.95 for the optional PocketSyncomatic, both from Xeletrix.com).  Here’s why…





The main interface is clean and simple, well laid-out, easy to understand, and visually pleasing.  You can easily remove Toolbar, Statusbar, or Book Tree on the left, and you can elect whether or not to display card details, and where to display them. 

Within the Book Tree, you can display nested groups of contacts, which makes it very easy for me to separate out addresses from different regions.  Another way I could do this would be by establishing a different Category for each region, and then filtering by Category; but I like the simplicity of being able to see all my Indian contacts in one book, my American contacts in another.  This distinction points up a major difference in how A-book and Outlook arrange their data – Outlook is more category-oriented, A-book more book-based.





The properties for each contact can be viewed in Simple Mode, where the information is more compactly displayed, or in Advanced Mode, where it is separated into sub-sections – General, Business, Home, Personal, and Other.  Each of these sections is pleasantly and spaciously laid out, with a pleasing choice of colors and a thorough selection of types of information recordable.





It is possible from the main interface window to dial telephone numbers of your contacts, a feature that’s of little use to me, but may be to some users.  And you can send email via your default email program (which is useful to me); where a contact has more than one email address, a dropdown menu allows you to choose which to send to.  Printing is easy from the main window, and can be done as a report or a memo, or directly to envelopes or labels.

A-book supports vCard and Comma- or Tab-Separated imports; and it’s possible also to export to each of these formats.  A particularly attractive feature is A-book’s ability to ‘Save for web’, which allows you to export your contacts as a css formatted html file viewable in any web browser.  This will be very useful for me in sharing contacts with colleagues – the instance that comes immediately to mind is when I have had someone cover for me during my vacations, and he’s not had access to my addressbooks in that time, and not needed them the rest of the time.





With PocketSyncomatic, it’s easy to synchronise your addressbook with a Pocket PC.  Having to pay $19.95 for the sync is likely to turn off a few customers, especially since it’s free with Outlook; but then Outlook is more expensive ($109 for the standalone according to Microsoft.com, though I know it’s available cheaper than that).  What I like about PocketSyncomatic is that you can synchronise specific books – again, you can do something similar in Outlook via categories, but I prefer the mode of organising by books instead of categories.

A-book can be set to start automatically when Windows runs; by default, it starts minimized and sits in your system-tray.  I don’t understand why some programs seem to use so much more memory than others while they’re effectively inactive in the system-tray – no doubt there’s a technical explanation.  (I wish more apps were like Find & Run Robot, for instance, which uses much more memory when it’s active than when it’s taking a break from Finding and Running.) 

A-book tends to run at 15-20mb while minimized, which I feel is a bit heavy, but just as it can be set to run automatically, it can also be set not too, and then I can access it when I need it, and close it down when I don’t.  This actually is my single reservation – everything else about A-book (when combined with PocketSyncomatic) suits me well, and I’m very happy with it as a solution to my (lack of) addressbook problem.


« Last Edit: October 10, 2005, 08:02:07 AM by m_s » Logged
mouser
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« Reply #1 on: October 09, 2005, 11:01:11 PM »

awesome review - the export and import features sound nice, the extra charge for synchronizing not so nice..
i think address books fall into that category of apps where there are probably quite a few good ones that not many people know about - would love to hear more people chime in on what they use for this.  me myself i don't have enuogh people i talk to make use of one  huh

as for the memory use, i personally wouldn't worry so much about it, life's more enjoyable when you dont smiley
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elpresi
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« Reply #2 on: October 10, 2005, 06:12:09 PM »

Hi m_s,
thanks for the very informative review;
I am planning to get a PocketPC pda and have therefore started to consider the possible contact mngr and calendar alternatives to Outlook (which I have never used).
A-book seems great; I am also very interested in your calendar sofware review; I have noticed that Calendarscope can sync to ppc but not so EssentialPIM? 
 smiley

nood question: I just noticed that EssentialPIM can import/export from/to Outlook. Is it possible to export to a Outlook file (without having Outlook installed) and sync from that to PPC?
« Last Edit: October 10, 2005, 07:56:00 PM by elpresi » Logged
m_s
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« Reply #3 on: October 11, 2005, 10:24:58 AM »

I'm not sure how you would interface that exported data with your pocket pc - activesync works directly with outlook, so if you had just a data file, I don't know how you could get it to speak to the ppc (if you see what I mean).

I will get to work during this week to put up a review of CalendarScope.  I've shopped around, and it seems to be the best Calendar.  EssentialPIM is nice, and on their forums there was talk of syncing, but I signed up for that weeks back and have heard nothing more. 

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elpresi
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« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2005, 03:35:33 PM »

Thanks for the feedback  Wink

Also looking forward to your calendar software review; I have being playing with EPIM and Calendarscope. I like EPIM's hierarchical ToDo list (pro version only though) but I find very unfortunate that they do not show the task list in the calendar view, for easy drag and drop on to the calendar (which Calendarscope does)

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clif_notes
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« Reply #5 on: October 16, 2005, 03:13:01 PM »

Technical question: How did you fuzz out some of the screenshot areas?
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m_s
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« Reply #6 on: October 16, 2005, 03:33:09 PM »

That's the wonderful Screenshot Captor in action!   thumbs up thumbs up thumbs up  Use the button that isn't blurred below...

... Oh dear!  How does the eye see itself?  I can't figure out how to use SSC to take a shot of SSC!
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mouser
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« Reply #7 on: October 16, 2005, 04:58:05 PM »

i need to add an easier menu item for it, but you can have sc take a pic of itself, just go into options and set it to not hide itself:


* scself.png (49.14 KB, 649x411 - viewed 911 times.)
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clif_notes
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« Reply #8 on: October 16, 2005, 05:15:23 PM »

Thanks guys, I've been using Printkey 2000. I'll give SC a go.
Any ready to roll reviews of it anywhere?
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mouser
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« Reply #9 on: October 16, 2005, 05:19:58 PM »

screenshot captor is a donationcoder.com app so youll find lots of discussion of it here but no review huh

ps.
if you need to blur lots of areas, check out stefans tip:
http://www.donationcoder....um/index.php?topic=1123.0

(note there is also toolbar button for blur/grey which makes it even easier)
« Last Edit: October 16, 2005, 05:23:03 PM by mouser » Logged
superboyac
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« Reply #10 on: December 28, 2005, 12:35:28 PM »

Hi m_s,
A-book is kind of growing on me ( I just wish it wasn't so bulky!).  Do you know if there's a way to add custom fields to the already big list of fields?  Like, if I wanted to add a field for "Team name" or something.
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m_s
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« Reply #11 on: December 28, 2005, 01:52:11 PM »

Hi Superboyac,

On a quick poke around, it doesn't seem possible to get completely customised field names, but you can choose from a large list of options - click on 'Tools', then 'Options', then click the 'Other' tab and click on 'Select Fields'.

I still use A-book and find it really good - especially with the added Pocket PC sync.  However, my mission to break free of Outlook has pretty much fallen apart...  I will start a thread on this sometime early in the new year, because my process might be useful/interesting to others...

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Redhat
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« Reply #12 on: December 28, 2005, 02:39:37 PM »

Hi Superboyac,

On a quick poke around, it doesn't seem possible to get completely customised field names, but you can choose from a large list of options - click on 'Tools', then 'Options', then click the 'Other' tab and click on 'Select Fields'.

I still use A-book and find it really good - especially with the added Pocket PC sync.  However, my mission to break free of Outlook has pretty much fallen apart...  I will start a thread on this sometime early in the new year, because my process might be useful/interesting to others...



I too, am trying to break away from Outlook. Even though it's hard not to use something you've paid for Sad

On the subject of A-Book, it looks great. Although the price for something I may not use too much feels a bit steap, but I am looking into TheBat! so I'll see the address book capabilities of that smiley
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superboyac
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« Reply #13 on: December 28, 2005, 05:43:33 PM »

Hi Superboyac,

On a quick poke around, it doesn't seem possible to get completely customised field names, but you can choose from a large list of options - click on 'Tools', then 'Options', then click the 'Other' tab and click on 'Select Fields'.

I still use A-book and find it really good - especially with the added Pocket PC sync.  However, my mission to break free of Outlook has pretty much fallen apart...  I will start a thread on this sometime early in the new year, because my process might be useful/interesting to others...


I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts.  Like I said in my other thread, I've been looking for a good addressbook for years.  I use Pegasus for my email, and I doubt I will ever use anything else, because I love that program.  The Bat is a fantastic program, but what sets Pegasus apart from every single other email program is it's old-school ability to have it's own desktop configuration inside the program.  I have 3 or 4 mailboxes open at once, along with an addressbook and a notes window, all tiled just the way I want.  Most email programs are limited to some 3-pane format.  If any of them were to go retro and allow that feature, I would consider another email program.  But I don't see it happening anytime soon.

Anyway (that was a little off-topic), I like to know how people deal with all their addresses and stuff.  I still think that someone here should think about writing a software similar to Screenshot Captor for addressbooks.  Screenshot Captor is such a good, high-quality program.  In my mind, I can see combining features from Screenshot Captor and the Find and Run Robot to make a very nice, simple, addressbook software.  But A-bbok is pretty good, but there are many things lacking in it.

FYI, I am not a PDA guy.  Unless my career requires me to have one, I won't do it on my own.  That is why I want to have a good addressbook on my computer.  I think that because people rely on PDA's and cellphones, and their default email contact lists so much, that the addressbook category has been ignored in software.

If you guys ever get a chance to try out the Cardscan software, it is ALMOST the perfect addressbook software.  The only problem with them is that it is only meant to be used with their card scanning hardware.  And you can't try demo of it out.  It can store pictures, but only if it was scanned from their scanner, ie you can't just add pictures you already have.  But it has the search-as-you-type feature that I love, and it has all the fields you can imagine, and customizable fields.  It doesn't have the sophisticated relationship feature that I mentioned in my other thread, where you can share information between contacts that live in the same house, etc.  But no program I've seen has that.

Have I talked enough about something no one cares about?  Ok, I'll stop now...
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« Reply #14 on: December 28, 2005, 05:57:51 PM »

Hmm, you have me interested, superboyac. As a hobby-developer, I think I might just take your idea on.

I am only (half) proficient in C# though, but the latest 2.0 version I feel is much smoother than the previous one. If you'd like me to start on it in C#, just give me the nod  Thmbsup
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superboyac
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« Reply #15 on: December 28, 2005, 06:02:49 PM »

Hmm, you have me interested, superboyac. As a hobby-developer, I think I might just take your idea on.

I am only (half) proficient in C# though, but the latest 2.0 version I feel is much smoother than the previous one. If you'd like me to start on it in C#, just give me the nod  Thmbsup

Hell yeah!  (can i say "hell"?)

If you want, go to the coding snacks request forum, where I've posted a more detailed description of my suggestions.  I have even more specific, minute ideas about it, but I didn't want to make a long, boring post.  I'm very happy you're interested!
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