Hands On: Cardhop by Flexibits attempts to rein in the mess that Apple's Contacts can be

Posted:
in Mac Software edited November 2017
Just as Fantastical does some excellent things over and above the default Calendars application, Flexibits Cardhop delights with some new tricks beyond what Contacts can do.




Contacts hasn't changed dramatically in all the years it has shipped as a part of OS X and Mac OS. There've been minor changes like the name change from Address Book to Contacts, the addition of supporting Google Accounts in OS X, and its early days as a receiver of data from iSync, which worked with mobile phones in the days before iPhone.

One thing Contacts has never gained is a sense of fun and speed. Normally, I don't interact with Contacts unless other paths to use its data have failed me, whether that's a Spotlight search on a name, or starting a new email and seeing if the contact I'm looking for will populate the To: field.

I might have an extreme use case, though. I currently have 1604 Contacts cards. That's down from about 32,000 a few years ago. I regularly had to decline to share my address book with applications, because it would crash them in the process.

I've whittled it down from contacts I've lost touch with, and duplicates that seem to clone themselves with alarming regularity. Worse are the contacts that somehow get created out of multiple email addresses all belonging to someone other than any of the email addresses in the contact card.

No one said managing an address book was easy, especially when you introduce the local On My Mac copy, the iCloud copy, and other accounts like Google.

Cardhop is about making contacts useful and possibly delightful. Flexibits may not have Jamie Zawinski's guidance for software developers working on calendars and contacts in mind, but it's close.




Cardhop, like Flexibits, runs in the dock and in the menu bar of your Mac running El Capitan, Sierra, or High Sierra. It's possible to hide the dock icon or menu bar icon as you like, but it's an either/or situation: one of the icons will be visible.

Clicking on the icon in either location will bring up the main window for the application. The top of the menu and default cursor focus is in the search bar.

Just like Fantastical, the search is very flexible. You can enter any part of a name, email or other piece of information, and Cardhop will merge the details and search across all your accounts, local to your Mac, iCloud, Google, and so on.

Adding a contact is easy. Start by typing the name and hit return to create it. You can choose which account the contact belongs to, and edit the rest of the details just by moving the cursor over the field in the contact record. Right-click or control-click to add a contact to a group, or move a contact between groups. So far, this is all normal for a contacts application, and a mild improvement over the Contacts application that macOS has had for ages.




Here's where the magic happens: You can take action on a contact directly from the search field. By typing "dial Wendy", "call Wendy", or "phone Wendy", the application will start a call with Wendy. It can do this either by using continuity to place the call from the Mac, or if you've set up Bluetooth with your phone it can place the call.

You can copy a contact's information by typing "copy Wendy" and it will copy the contact's card to the clipboard. You can specifically choose what to copy by typing "copy Wendy work phone". You can compose emails by typing "email Wendy" or "mail Wendy" and specify which email address. It also understands "FaceTime", "ft", "facetimeaudio", "fta", "message", "text", "Skype", "tweet", "Website", "map" as commands to handle the contact.

Map directions to their address, open their Web site, or contact them any number of ways, and we're already using an application that's way more powerful than plain old Contacts.

One feature that I like is "large" or "show" followed by the contact's name. This shows the information in a large banner across the middle of the screen, making it easy to see from across the room. And, when viewing a contact whose birthday is approaching, it displays confetti animated over the contact card, similar to the effects you see in Messages on iOS.




And if that were all it did, it would be an incredibly useful contacts application. One of the things I do is take notes every time I place a call for work. Currently, I've been storing these notes in Apple's Notes app, and creating a new note for each call.

This isn't great, because my notes aren't associated with a specific contact, and if I edit them at all, it changes the date stamp for the note, rather than keeping them in chronological order. Some of this is self-inflicted -- that's what I get for trying to use Notes as a customer relationship management (CRM) app.

Cardhop makes it easy to add notes to a contact record, and these notes sync with Apple's Contacts app, and over the sync services of the account. If I add notes to a person's record, they sync back to Google or iCloud and appear in that contact record everywhere.

This isn't groupware, per se, in that it doesn't share this access with any other person in a delegate relationship. But, for a single-user database of notes from calls, Cardhop does the job very well.




Preferences allows you to adjust the global keyboard shortcut that prompts the app to pop up from any other application. This is convenient when you take a call and want to add notes, or quickly start an email with a contact.

You can also customize the actions icons in the contact record. For Apple's Contacts app, they're frozen as Text, Phone, FaceTime Video call, Email. For Cardhop, you can change them to any of a long list, including what type of call - phone only, FaceTime, Skype, and more.




Contacts have never been a subject that's been given a lot of attention throughout many years of Apple's software updates -- and this may be intentional to allow third-party tools to thrive. Cardhop's smart parsing and actions give contacts the features that have been missing, and so richly deserve, and it delights in a way that Contacts doesn't.

Cardhop sells for $14.99 from Flexibits.com or the Mac App Store.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 17
    you had 32,000 contacts? how is this possible?
    cornchip
  • Reply 2 of 17
    SoliSoli Posts: 6,647member
    1) They've done a great job shoring up a lot of the shortcomings in Contacts, but I can't see myself using it at this point. I do like making calls from my Mac, and this seems nice, but I don't think I make enough calls to warrant the expense. I will, however, give the 21 day trial a go before making a final decision.

    2) I dislike that the FaceTime app opens up when making a call. Continuity works fine, but it still feels like a bolted-on feature years later.

    you had 32,000 contacts? how is this possible?
    I've never been as high as 32k, but I used to have thousands since I dealt with countless customers and clients and I didn't like having business cards so I'd transfer all the data into Contacts. This also included (at least) hundreds of businesses.

    I hope he explains how he was able to get into the 5 digits.
    razorpitbloggerblogchia
  • Reply 3 of 17
    vmarksvmarks Posts: 491editor
    you had 32,000 contacts? how is this possible?
    Somewhere I have a screenshot of OS X Address Book with the 32k contacts.

    I started digitizing contacts in 1997 with a PalmPilot. I kept every record I ever added. I added business cards of every person I ever met. In the days before LinkedIn, people could ask me who I knew that worked at 'blank' and I could pull up five contacts there, and have an answer from three of them within a couple of hours. Go to a conference, meet a bunch of people, save their cards. Go to a meeting, add cards. There were some duplicates, which sometimes happened with iCloud syncing issues or back in the days of using a SonyEricsson or Nokia phone with iSync. I had five digits by the time I got the first iPhone on July 1 2007. Add a card for every email contact that isn't spam, and you start to see how this adds up.

    I regularly crashed every app that wanted access to my contacts for years. I spent some time reporting it as a bug to developers, but eventually gave up - I know when I'm an edge case. (Currently, my iCloud contacts, iPhone contacts, and macOS contacts are out of sync, all signed into the same iCloud account. It's a boring area that doesn't get enough attention, clearly.)
    watto_cobrachia
  • Reply 4 of 17
    Some of Apple's limits seem logical, some not, IMO:

    Limits for iCloud Contacts, Calendars, Reminders, and Bookmarks

    To help iCloud keep your Contacts, Calendars, Reminders, and Bookmarks up to date, keep your information within these limits.

    Calendars and Reminders

    • Total number of calendars, events, and reminders: 50,000
    • Maximum combined number of calendars and reminder lists you can have: 100
    • Maximum size of all calendar and reminder data (not including attachments): 24 MB
    • Maximum size of all event attachments: 1 GB
    • Maximum size of a calendar event including attachments: 20 MB
    • Maximum number of attachments per event: 20
    • Maximum number of attendees you can invite to an event: 300
    • Maximum number of people with whom you can share a private calendar: 100
    • Maximum number of characters in a reminder title: 100

    Contacts

    • Total number of contact cards: 50,000
    • Maximum size of a contact card: 256 KB
    • Maximum size of a contact photo: 224 KB
    • Maximum size of a contact group: 256 KB
    • Maximum size of all contact cards:
      • Card text: 48 MB
      • Card photos: 200 MB
    • Supported file types for a contact photo: JPEG, BMP, PNG, GIF
    • vCard import limits:
      • Total number of vCards: 50,000
      • Maximum size of a vCard: 256 KB (photo + text)
      • Maximum photo size for a vCard: 224 KB

    Bookmarks

    • Total number of bookmarks: 25,000
    • Maximum size of a bookmark: 4 KB
    • Maximum size of all bookmarks: 24 MB

    Information about products not manufactured by Apple, or independent websites not controlled or tested by Apple, is provided without recommendation or endorsement. Apple assumes no responsibility with regard to the selection, performance, or use of third-party websites or products. Apple makes no representations regarding third-party website accuracy or reliability. Risks are inherent in the use of the Internet. Contact the vendor for additional information. Other company and product names may be trademarks of their respective owners.

    Published Date: Sep 30, 2016

    source: 
    https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202158
    Soliuraharajony0cornchip
  • Reply 5 of 17
    SoliSoli Posts: 6,647member
     Thanks, @philboogie. I’ve never seen before.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 17
    You should really look at BusyContacts and BusyCal is these integrated contact and calendar programs will link your emails in BusyContacts and your events and calendars.   Really an excellent key feature is the alarms in BusyCal: You can set alarms and then when the alarms go off you can tell them to snooze for two seconds or two years or anytime in between it's the way any good calendar program should work. 
  • Reply 7 of 17
    Excellent synopsis, Victor; thank you. Your edulidation of the more technical aspects of the apple ecosystem are a welcome addition to the mix. 
    watto_cobracornchip
  • Reply 8 of 17
    d_2d_2 Posts: 28member
    I still don't get how I can see contacts from an iCloud account as well as an Exchange account, but I can't move them between accounts or easily decide which contact to assign new ones to
  • Reply 9 of 17
    I still wish there was a way to create or edit groups for contacts on iOS.
    razorpitchia
  • Reply 10 of 17
    I still wish there was a way to create or edit groups for contacts on iOS.
    I still can’t believe this ability doesn’t exist after all these years.
    Solichiajony0
  • Reply 11 of 17
    SoliSoli Posts: 6,647member
    I still wish there was a way to create or edit groups for contacts on iOS.
    I hear how iOS is going to put macOS to death pretty much everyday, yet there are still so many basic features that would still work fine with a touchscreen device that don't exist. This is one of them that is a head scratcher.
  • Reply 12 of 17
    Unless I've just missed this somewhere, I still don't know why any of these apps don't seem to be able to use the Mac's built in camera to snap a pic of a business card, extract the data and assign it to the appropriate fields. Or at least paste the pic of the card into a contact's field for reference.
  • Reply 13 of 17
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 1,008member
    vmarks said:


    I started digitizing contacts in 1997 with a PalmPilot.

    I was fortunate to have been given a Zire21 back in the day and had all my contacts backed up to that & probably a phone here or there. Never been affected by my *one* Mac crash or lost or broken phones. Between the Zire21 & figuring out iSync (ugh) I still have all that crap. Probably need to do an audit myself now that I think about it!
  • Reply 14 of 17
    frank777frank777 Posts: 5,765member
    nishkabob said:
    Unless I've just missed this somewhere, I still don't know why any of these apps don't seem to be able to use the Mac's built in camera to snap a pic of a business card, extract the data and assign it to the appropriate fields. Or at least paste the pic of the card into a contact's field for reference.

    Yes. A thousand times Yes.

    The technology required to do this is about what, 20 years old? And given that Macs only have one Contacts app with industry-standard file formats, the lack of such a solution is somewhat ridiculous. I have about 300 business cards sitting on my desk and an AIO printer three feet away.

    Why can't I lay 12 cards on the scanner and scan them all in at once?
    It would be great to come back from a conference and get everything up and running the same day.
    Bonus points if I can add tags (for use in BusyContacts) when I approve the scan of each card.
    There's no reason Macs shouldn't have the best contact management solution out there.

    If a competent Mac software studio wants to make some quick cash, test the idea on Kickstarter. It will work.
  • Reply 15 of 17
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 2,307administrator
    frank777 said:
    nishkabob said:
    Unless I've just missed this somewhere, I still don't know why any of these apps don't seem to be able to use the Mac's built in camera to snap a pic of a business card, extract the data and assign it to the appropriate fields. Or at least paste the pic of the card into a contact's field for reference.

    Yes. A thousand times Yes.

    The technology required to do this is about what, 20 years old? And given that Macs only have one Contacts app with industry-standard file formats, the lack of such a solution is somewhat ridiculous. I have about 300 business cards sitting on my desk and an AIO printer three feet away.

    Why can't I lay 12 cards on the scanner and scan them all in at once?
    It would be great to come back from a conference and get everything up and running the same day.
    Bonus points if I can add tags (for use in BusyContacts) when I approve the scan of each card.
    There's no reason Macs shouldn't have the best contact management solution out there.

    If a competent Mac software studio wants to make some quick cash, test the idea on Kickstarter. It will work.
    Use your iPhone to do the scanning and OCR with one of about a thousand different apps. 

    Sync your contacts with your Mac.
  • Reply 16 of 17
    frank777frank777 Posts: 5,765member
    Use your iPhone to do the scanning and OCR with one of about a thousand different apps. 

    Sync your contacts with your Mac.

    No, because individually scanning 30 cards after a conference is time-consuming, unintuitive and definitively not the Mac way of doing things.

    Apple just needs to spend a bit of time on Contacts, the way they polished Photos and Notes in High Sierra.

    Add:
    • the ability to add tags to contacts
    • the ability to keep Business and Personal contacts separate (I know Groups can work, but something more magical for salespeople)
    • the ability to see contacts you haven't interacted with in awhile.
    • hooks for easy interaction with card scanning apps
    • a cool way to hide the complexity for those who don't care to use it.
  • Reply 17 of 17
    razorpit said:
    I still wish there was a way to create or edit groups for contacts on iOS.
    I still can’t believe this ability doesn’t exist after all these years.
    Me neither. You can, however, create a group on iCloud.com. Admittedly, not possible when on iOS. But I was able to help someone out who only has an iPhone and Windows PC: she wanted to create many groups, and prefers to do that on a desktop as opposed to her iPhone.

    YMMV.
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