The Contacts application in OS X has been largely ridiculed by users and reviewers alike for a long time now. It has been accused of being clunky, outdated and technically deficient with synchronisation problems being reported far more often than Apple would like. Even with the visual improvements made in Yosemite, the synchronisation problems have left people in general looking for alternatives.
So what have they been able to feature in this release that sets it above the competition?
- Smart Filters – I love Smart Mailboxes in the native Mail client which means I adore Smart Filters in BusyContacts. You can filter contacts, create saved searches and save your own customisable views.
- Tags – Some people love tags, others cannot abide them. I fall into the former category. You can colour, group and filter contacts with the use of tags, splitting them into family, work, company groups etc.
- Activity List – I’m so impressed with this part. In Card View, the right-hand pane will show all activity with this contact. Calendar information, recent emails and messages are all available to be seen and you can filter these to your liking. In List View, the pane moves to the bottom right-hand corner of the screen.
- BusyCal Integration – Linked heavily with the Activity List, this is how the calendar events of that list are populated. This helps to elevate BusyContacts beyond a mere contacts application. It’s treading very much into CRM (Customer Relationship Management) territory and this could be very attractive for small businesses and freelancers out there.
- Syncing – BusyContacts syncs with iCloud, Google, Exchange, Office 365 as well as other CardDAV servers without issue. I have contacts in iCloud, Google, and Office 365 and haven’t encountered a single synchronisation problem during my trial. Moving users from one account to another was as seamless as two mouse clicks (even better with a nice new Keyboard Maestro macro as well!)
- Social Network Integration – Your favourite social networking sites are able to be integrated with BusyContacts. Adding my Twitter account was an easy experience and watching all of my contacts fill up there, with phone number fields filled in was great to see. Clicking on a contact produced an activity field filled with their latest tweets. Awesome.
When you open the application for the first time, users of BusyCal will be very familiar with the interface. BusyMac have stuck with a format that works. It’s got to be easy on the eye to make people want to dive into it and they’ve achieved that. All available contact lists are on the left-hand side. These lists are populated automatically based on the current configuration in System Preferences -> Internet Accounts. If you have Contacts configured to sync there, they will appear as an option by default in BusyContacts. You can, of course, add more accounts via the Accounts section in the Preferences pane.
The level to which you can customise the columns and fields that are being presented is really quite impressive. The option is also there for you to create up to ten custom columns which again, lends itself very nicely to being integrated as a CRM application.
Backing up the database is automatic and configurable via the preference pane. Simply choose location, frequency and number of backups to keep and you are off and running.
For those looking to collaborate with these address books, BusyContacts also allows you to share address books with read/write privileges or read-only through Exchange and other CardDAV servers.
BusyContacts has been in development for a long time, with the public beta announced last summer. Quite simply, it shows. BusyContacts is a lesson for all developers who feel the need to get their product out of the door as quickly as possible. It oozes both care and class with every feature you see and after the critical success of BusyCal, BusyMac have another winner with BusyContacts.
It’s not cheap, that’s for sure. Currently $49.99 on it’s own, although if you are a BusyCal customer you can get it for $29.99 (both together for $79.98 but I’m sure you can do that math). It’s worth every cent though in my mind, no question.
BusyMac has conquered the Calendar and Contacts market for OS X. I’m excited because I think there is definitely scope for scalability with how these applications can work together to give us a different level of service. There is a real potential for these products to be used as a CRM tool for small businesses with a few extra features installed and it would be interesting to know if this is a direction BusyMac are looking towards.
When the native Calendar app was criticised on OS X, we had BusyCal. When Contacts was under scrutiny, we received BusyContacts.
What I wouldn’t give for BusyMail!
BusyContacts is available here.