Thursday, June 26, 2008

Birthday Reminder Programs

You may have a handful of buddies for whom birthdays you would celebrate yearly through sending gifts or greetings. If you use computer often, you would immediately want to get assistant from computer programs. So, there are actually quite a load of such programs around, free or commercial, they could be found easily through searching "Birthday Reminder" in Google search.

They fall into two categories:
1. Web service.
2. Desktop program running on PC, Mac, PDA or mobile phone.

Here's a list of popular programs of birthday reminder:

There are so many of them, you would ask which one to choose.

First, you are going to ask yourself what you want and need.
  • Do you use computer programs only for reminding you about your buddies' birthdays, not anything else such as appointments?
  • Are you often online?
  • Do you have a cell phone?
  • Do you want to be reminded through popup, Emal or SMS?
  • Do you mind paying a small fee?
  • Do you use computer to store contact information?
Actually, any calendar program can take care of the job of birthday reminding. A birthday reminder can be simply a whole day event plus an alarm in advance. However, if you don't use any calendar program to remind you about appointments and meetings etc., and just want to be reminded about birthday, a dedicated birthday reminder program might be more appealing to you.

If you are often online, obviously an online service can be helpful in timely manner. In addition to alarms of popup, Email or SMS, some online services can even do gift sending for you. However, there might be some catches which I will discuss later.

If you have a cell phone, SMS is very handy to notify you. Such service generally can only be provided by an online service, such as Google Calendar and

If you have already used computer (PC, PDA or online address book) to store contact info, it will be good that the birthday reminder program may get the birthday info from the address book program to save you from redundant keyboarding.

Have you make up your mind for which ones to choose?


If not, I would pick up a few apparently popular ones to evaluate (excluding those on PDA and mobile phones).

MS Outlook
  • Popular in Windows, de facto standard of personal information manager, available in most cooperate Windows PCs and at home.
  • The calendar function is very good.
  • Great sync features with PDA and cell phones.
  • There might be add-on programs that can generate birthday events from Contacts. I haven't found out.
  • Searching calendar is poor.
Mozilla Sunbird

  • Fast
  • The UI is elegant, though less luxury than MS Outlook's UI.
  • Available in Windows, Linux and Mac etc.
  • Portable through portable drives such as USB flash disk, with Portable Sunbird.
  • Searching calendar is excellent.

  • If you consider close integration between address book and calendar is critical, Sunbird won't be a candidate.
This long standing online service is popular in North America.

  • Alarm through Email and SMS. (SMS is a paid service with an annual fee)
  • Gift sending.

  • Need to spam to buddies for inputting birthday info for you, and implicit invitation for joining the
  • Does not support iCalendar import which should be the basic feature of any calendar program.
  • If your friend was born on 1984-02-29, BirthdayAlarm considers the birthday is on the 1st of March in a normal year. If you consider 28th is a more reasonable day to celebrate, you get a catch.
Birthday Calendar::Facebook App
It was claimed there was 2 millions subscribers within the first month.

  • Close integration with Facebook, thus birthday info of your Facebook buddies will be available for reminding you.
  • Gift sending

  • If your social circle is not limited to Facebook community, this Facebook app is not so appealing.
  • Though the app may import CSV from MS Outlook contacts, but if the day format is not US date format, the program will fail to recognize the date info of the birthday field. And because the CSV has to be in DOS CSV format, non-English characters will be screwed up. You don't want your Spanish friends to get greetings from you with wrong spelling of their names.

Google Calendar

  • Elegant UI and fast, among the best online calendar programs.
  • Alarm through popup, Email and SMS. Best of all, the SMS notification service is basically FREE, as long as Google provides such service in your country.

  • The searching calendar function is not so stable, sometimes it endless keeps retrieving info from the web. I am not sure whether this is a temp bug, or long standing problem.

The winners are:

  • Mozilla Sunbird
  • MS Outlook
  • Google Calendar

Companion Tools :

GCALDaemon offers two-way synchronization between Google Calendar and various iCalendar compatible calendar applications. GCALDaemon is primarily designed as a calendar synchronizer but it can also be used as a Gmail notifier, Address Book importer, Gmail terminal and RSS feed converter.

Sunbird Addon for Google Calendar

Google Calendar Sync for MS Outlook

Open Contacts v5.2.4.593 is released

Version 5.2.4

  • Face lifting. The command bar in the edit window is
    moved to the top.

  • Font name of edit boxes, categories and contact list
    can be configurated.

Version 5.2.3

  • Create iCalendar file which may generate birthday
    reminders in any calendar program running on PC, Web or PDA. The new
    function is located in [Main menu -> Output -> Export to Birthday Reminder].

  • Some minor face lifts to the program UI.

Version 5.2.2

  • Improve synchronizing for organizational contacts,
    along with SyncML Client for Open Contacts v1.0.3.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

What Open Contacts is and not?

You might have used a few different address book or PIM programs before. While MS Outlook has become a de facto standard of PIM, there are still a variety PIM program targeting different markets. Most of them can be comparable with MS Outlook.

Open Contacts is an advanced address book program; Outlook is a PIM with advanced address book functions. However, interfaces are provided in Open Contacts to communicate with other PIM programs such as Mozilla Sunbird and Google Calendar.

Open Contacts was designed for interacting with contacts you personally know; Outlook address book was designed for general purpose, including CRM. Though there are users using Open Contacts to manage business contacts for marketing activities, the functions and GUI were optimized with the assumptions that you personally know all contacts.

Open Contacts was designed to be open to evolution of communication methods with people, through unlimited dynamic data fields; Outlook is a typically traditional address book with static and limited data fields.

Open Contacts distinguishes between personal contacts and organizational contacts, and provide relationship links between contacts; Outlook with Small Business add-on may provide separated management for organizational contacts, however, navigating between contacts with relationships is still difficult.

Open Contacts was designed to be portable; Outlook can only be used as an installed program.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Sync contact info between Open Contacts, PDA, smart phones and Web applications

The SyncML Client for Open Contacts is for synchronizing contact info
between Open Contacts and a SyncML server which collaborates
synchronizations between different devices such as smart phone, PDA,
computer programs and Web-base address books like Yahoo Mail, Gmail
and Facebook etc.

The recommended SyncML server is Funambol, which can be installed in
a PC, a LAN server, or a Web server. In addition, there are variety of
SyncML web sites based on Funambol as listed in the Resources.

According to your own privacy policy, you may decide to use either a
locally hosted Funambol server, or a public SyncML Web service.

SyncML Client for Open Contacts is distributed as FREEWARE.

So many options

While Open Contacts is an advanced address book program, we don't want too many feature flooding the GUI and confusing you. Obviously not all users need all features, we tried out best to keep balance.

If you check Chronicles of Open Contacts, you will find the GUI remain very much the same from early versions, and has even become simpler. Most of the new features are optional. It is these options that make the use of Open Contacts enjoyable to a diverse range of people.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Categories in Contact Management

The following content is from Peter Gordon's post. I think the use case illustrated the use of the category system of Open Contacts quite well.

It is easier to think of it in terms of categories, than as keywords.
Have a play with the contact manager: Open Contacts.

You could fit a complete company structure into it.

I use it for other purposes. Lets say I went to school with
Fred and we are best mates. Since leaving school, he has become
my plumber and we belong to the same social tennis group.
Fred would be stored under People|Friends, People|Class Of 1990,
Trades|Plumber, People|Tennis. Now suppose Fred shifts house,
so his contact details change. As he is entered in a database,
changing the database entry once will be reflected in all the
links to Fred.

A search for Fred can be done on his name or more easily by
working down through the tree to a small subset which contains
his name. I use this feature frequently. If my washing machine
breaks I can't remember the name of the service people, but I can
quickly work through Home Maintenance|White Goods|Repairs to find
the info I require.