Thursday, March 29, 2007

How will you choose a replacement of address book program?

You have been using Email for years, and almost all Email programs came with an address book module. Are you satisfied with such container of contact info? Probably not. This is why you have been searching for a better solution. While there are hundreds of solutions around, based on Web or desktop, you might need to ask yourself a few questions before making a choice.

  1. Do you have more than one Email accounts? Do you use different Email client programs? For example, Mozilla Thunderbird, MS Outlook and Hotmail.
  2. Do you sometimes want to store some contact info that could hardly be stored in designed fields of the address book?
  3. Do you sometimes use computer to make telephone calls and Skype calls?
  4. Do you need to print mailing labels?
  5. Do you have some organizational contacts to record?
  6. Do you want to sometimes record multiple notes for a contact?
  7. Do you want to have a multi-level category system to categorize contacts?
  8. Do you want to run the address book program on an external portable drive such as a flash disk or iPod?
  9. Do you want to run the address book program on LAN to share the address books with staffs in the same office?
  10. Do you want to outline the relationships between contacts?
  11. Do you exchange contact info with other people?
  12. Do you often need to do copy/paste in order to copy contact info from/to other documents?

If you have 3 affirmative answers to the questions above, did you find any program that adapted such needs?

If not, then you might find the answers interesting made by Open Contacts.

  1. Open Contacts is not an Email program and it has good interactions with different Email clients. It can natively interact with MS Outlook through Office COM, Mozilla Thunderbird and other conventional mail programs though MAPI, Portable Thunderbird through commandline, Lotus through Windows Shell, and web mail through copy/paste.
  2. Open Contacts have almost all fields created dynamically, so that you can insert unlimited field/value pairs.
  3. Open Contacts interacts natively with Windows Telephony (Dialer) and Skype. And you can seamlessly integrate telephony and skype if desired.
  4. Open Contacts provides built-in functions of printing selected info of selected contacts in a compact format, thus you can easily have a tidy and handy address book. In addition, with exported CSV/Excel files, you can print rich formats of mailing label through dedicated label printing programs.
  5. Designed with separation of people contacts and organizational contacts, Open Contacts provide associations between people and companies. So you can easy find people working in the same organization. In addition, you can record the relationships between one person and multiple organizations.
  6. Almost all existing address programs provide only one Notes field, Open Contacts provide unlimited notes besides the primary one.
  7. While grouping contacts is the basic feature of almost all existing address book programs, Open Contacts provide multi-level categories.
  8. Open Contacts was designed to be running without installation, thus it can run on an external portable drive such as a flash disk plugged into any Windows workstation (Windows 2000 or above).
  9. Open Contacts was designed to be running as a client/server application talking to a standalone Firebird database server.
  10. You can create relationship links between people and companies.
  11. CSV, vCard, LDIF and XML.
  12. Open Contacts provides a set of copy/paste functions for you to exchange info between Open Contacts and other documents through Windows clipboard.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Plan B of Contact Management

Web base contact management has been becoming more and more popular in last few years. The advantages are obvious. I am not going to discuss them here.

Though there are still some criticisms against it, saying privacy and reliability etc., however, web base contact management is still the most attractive solution for metro people who "always" have reliable and constant internet connections.

However, small or large disasters do strikes occasionally. Plan B. Do you have a handy plan B for contact management?

Some prefer the PC desktop/notebook as a hub for all contact info and sync selected data to other platforms/programs. They won't be effected if the internet connection to the Web base contact management site is down. You still can access phone numbers and ring people. But when power is down, computer is useless. With laptop and UPS, things will become just a bit better.

Mobile phone / PDA is handy , though they are not good candidates to be hub of contact info. I am sure that everyone will naturally store emergency numbers and frequently used numbers in phone. Yes, you have already got yourself a plan B.

When you are busy having phone talks during power outage, the battery of your mobile phone become flat. You then can not access the address book on the mobile phone in order to ring through land line which is generally not effected by power outage. So, a low tech solution will come to rescue, if you have implemented such solution: printing those contact phone numbers on paper, one copy at home, and another copy in your wallet.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Was Open Contacts designed for your use cases?

Open Contacts is an address book, or contact management program. However, it is not a CRM or PIM program.

If you find existing address book / PIM programs that your are using can not fit your needs, Open Contacts is a much more powerful candidate for you to consider. However, if you want event tracking, sale/marketing activities as well as billing etc., then Open Contacts is not for you. Obviously you should then eyes on CRM programs. Open Contacts is positioned as a bridge between conventional address book program and CRM program.

One of the features that make Open Contacts stood out of existing address book programs is its great extendibility to other programs running on desktop or the web. Though Open Contacts is not a PIM program, however, it is relatively easy to construct a PIM utility using existing programs. Please read
Build your own portable PIM with Open Contacts and other portable programs
for details.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Open Letter to Users of Open Contacts

Hi All

I am writing to you to discuss the development path of Open Contacts (OC).

When OC is distributed as freeware, we have developed a few commercial extensions. We provide this piece of software sitting between conventional address book programs and CRM programs. After all, we do not intend to lock you, as we do provide a few ways of exporting data which can export almost everything you have inputted to external files which can be imported to other programs. In the future when you want to move to a more comprehensive platform of software application, data will be easily transfered.

As you might agree, contact management is not a single feature, and should rather work along side with other functions, such as a CRM system, an email client or a calendar program.

Up the now the version of Open Contacts has reached to v3.9.5, and we believe that Open Contacts provides richest features in the market of address book programs. Most planned key features were implemented, thus the paces of upgrading will be slowing down. We would like to take some time to review our development, and think about the paths and the focus.

We are thinking of the following options of new features and extensions, and would like your opinions about them. Essentially, it is not about new features, but what you need and what you will need:

1 Evolve to PIM

We were devoted to the best of address book programs running on PC desktop, while almost existing similar products at most just cloned the Windows Address Book (from Outlook Express and MS Outlook) and could never exceed the features of the WAB. However, we thought that many of existing schedule programs like MS Outlook, Mozilla Sunbird and Google Calendar are very adequate, as the requirements for scheduling are very common and stable. We would just try to provide convenient shortcuts and interactions between Open Contacts and these calendar programs. In short, it is unlikely that we will create another PIM program under current circumstance.

2 Provide better and better connections to other calendar programs

Yes. This have been what we always intent to do. The candidates are: MS Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird, Mozilla Sundbird, Google Calendar, Yahoo Calendar. Of course, the development of such interactions will very much depend on many factors: the willingness of the vendors of these programs and websites. In addition, the evolving of Web 2.0 may play a part.

3 Provide pseudo remote access to address book database

For users who need to access the same set of contact info at home and at work, there existing a few ways: 1. Use OC in a portable device. 2. Use a remote PC program to access OC remotely. We are thinking the third way: Let a user to download the database from a remote host (likely managed by the user), after editing, then upload back to the remote host. The following protocols will be supported: FTP, IMAP, HTTP and others.

4 Support schemes of distributed social networking

This subject is the key issue we would like to discuss with you.

About Social Networking

Have you heard of or used the following web sites of social networking? Linkedln, MySpace, orkut and Bebo etc. There are many many, as you can see from this list of social networking.

Are we going to provide you yet another website of social networking? The simple answer is No, as we hated providing you yet another address book program. Otherwise, you might have picked yet another address book program rather than Open Contacts. However, we do believe that Open Contacts is reaching to an edge of providing an alternative solution of social networking, taking care of some of your concerns about social networking websites:

1. Privacy

2. Locking

3. Troubles of subscribing to multiple web sites

We have done some preliminary researches on these issues, and would like to share some findings with you. If you can raise your opinions after reading these materials, we will appreciate.

We would like to provide you a list of blogs we had visited. We did read these blogs and theirs follow-up comments carefully. And we would like you to make your own comments to us, and to these blogs as well. and comments by Konstantin Guericke

Hopefully you will find some useful info or inspiration about what is happening in the Web.

We have a replicated copy of this letter at blogger, please feel free to raise comments following the blog, or just drop us an Email.


Fonlow Support

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Letters about Misc.

Lee Stoddard wrote:

Great program and have been using it for close to a year. Just came across a need to enter a suffix after the last name. ie Jr Sr I see no option or drop down to add this to the display. Currently have added as Lastname(Jr) but doesn't seem proper as I have to edit when sending an email or creating labels. Any suggestions or maybe an enhancement in a future release.

Lee Stoddard

Just create a new field called suffix, probably make this field be a predefined one. When making labels, export this field as well.

Lee Stoddard wrote:
Yes, I can add a new field but this can only be added in a section. I would like it to be added along with the name and surname locations so it can be displayed in the name list. I added it manually in the name field and then it puts the last name in the middle name, and the suffix as the surname. I can then clear the middle name and add the last name and suffix manually as the surname. I just thought it might be better to have an option to show this separate field somehow in the name display as many people have a suffix associated with their legal name. Ie Jr Sr I II III . The Title field I expect is used for Mr Ms and would show at the beginning of the name. The suffix shows after and might possibly also be used for degrees such as MD etc. Using my work around I might run out of field length on the surname in some cases. We don't appear to have any options to make changes in this area. In any case this works for now and is still the best software for this applications I have found.

I understand what you want. However, we had considered this before day 1, and decided to have suffix if desired be dynamic field, regarding to the balance with many other factors.

Ed Philpott wrote:
I want to import several data files into OC and I want them to be assigned to a particular Category. Is there a way to assign a Category during the Import function? Perhaps this could be part of the template.

What you requested was there since day 1, and this had nothing to do with a template.

Open to the Future

The reasons why we selected the name "Open Contacts" for our product was because of the philosophy behind the development of the product:

  • Open to the future. More fields will be added by us or by you, as you might have other info to input in the future. The program will adapt new data fields, and new ways of communication.
  • Open to other applications. The program will interact with other desktop applications and Web applications, through inbound and outbound interfaces.
  • Open to users' choices of freedom. We may or may not provide all-in-one solution in the future, however, we respect your choice of other complementary applications, and the freedom to moving away to other higher end programs. We don't lock you and We are open to your choices.

Providing dynamic fields as the building block of your dynamic contact info is one of distinct features of Open Contacts. With the dynamic action button upon highlighted data field, new ways of interacting with other programs can be introduced without making the user interfaces more complicated.

As described in the product home page, Open Contacts can import data from large varieties of data sources, and interact with different Email programs, Skype and Google Maps etc. In addition, the program provides COM interfaces for other programs to cooperate. Birthday Reminder is a good example.

Open Contacts can export selected contacts to other format: simple text, XML, HTML, vCard and LDIF, preserving most contact info. Only those data fields not supported in other formats will not be used. Thus, you will be free to sync data to other programs/platforms, or move your whole contact management to a highlander program you desire in the future.