Gmail, MobileMe, Address Book synced contacts sanity

  • January 29th, 2009

Latest: Over the air sync options between iPhone & Mac + Google

When Gmail first opened its perpetual beta email service, I realized that having contacts automatically added to my address book was a huge advantage. When it came time to compose a new message, the TO: field provided quick access to hundreds of contacts with no more than a few keystrokes.

That collection of a few hundred had grown to an unwieldy number. I still had quick access to contacts while composing emails, but a large percentage of the contacts list turned into pure junk. Randomized emails, newsletters, anonymous craigslist replies for listed items… Fortunately, Google implemented some logic with My Contacts, Most Contacted, and Suggested Contacts to help gain some control of the mess. I took a few minutes during down time each day to trim my contacts list down.

Separate contacts list with Address Book

To make managing contacts even more of a headache, my desktop Address Book had grown its own database of contacts primarily from my mobile phone. I lost count of the number of times I would compose an email only to realize the contact info was in somewhere else.

The contacts list mothership

Harmony was achieved using Address Book as the core contacts list manager. The setup involved a little manual clean-up but the end result is one that allows me to have access to the same contact info via Gmail, Apple Mail, the iPhone, or any of the other computers I use on a regular basis.

Gmail Address Book Apple

Address Book now supports synchronization with Exchange, Yahoo, and Google. You’ll want to enable Google syncing – entering your Google Account credentials when requested. (Check these instructions on how to properly backup your Address Book – just in case)

Address Book Google sync feature

Address Book find DuplicatesOnce Address Book successfully retrieves all of your contacts from Gmail, you’re ready for even more manual cleanup. You may immediately notice duplicate contact entries. No worries, select ‘Card > Look for Duplicates…’ in the Address Book menu.

What duplicates are found can be easily merged together from the menu bar ‘Card > Merge Selected Cards’. Chances are the merge will combine info for your contacts into the wrong fields. Edit as needed.

Fortunately, any changes you make locally on your computer via Address Book will be synchronized with your Gmail contacts list

It’s smooth sailing after getting your Gmail contacts synced with Address Book. The same can be done with your Yahoo contacts if you’re using that service on a daily basis.

Contact synchronization with the iPhone and Address Book is done with MobileMe. A yearly subscription will set you back $70.

If I was not using some of the other "cloud" features offered – like OTA iCal updates and picture / video sharing – I would probably make use of free alternatives for syncing just the Address Book between computers (see below).

See Address Book updates immediately

Create a new Smart Group

Recent smart groupGmail will continue to add contacts to your address book automatically. If you want to quickly identify which contacts are being updated in your Address Book, you can do so with a simple ‘Smart Group’. Open Address Book and go to ‘File > New Smart Group…’ or Option + CMD + N.

  • Smart Group Name: Recent
  • Match the following: Card, has changed in, 3, days
  • Check ‘Highlight group when updated’ and then ‘Ok’.

With the Smart Group created, any time you open Address Book, the ‘Recent’ group in the sidebar will be highlighted signifying that changes have been made to your contacts list.

Synchronize contacts between machines for free

No iPhone? No need for OTA contact syncing? Looking for basic contact syncing between multiple computers? You’re already setup. If you are using Gmail or Yahoo, simply setup synchronization on your other computers and marvel at the magic of free contacts syncing.

If you’re not a fan of using Gmail or Yahoo to sync your Address Book, you can use one of my favorites – Dropbox. Referencing the wiki, you can sync files or folders outside of the standard ‘My Dropbox’ folder. Using this technique, synchronize your Address Book file in /Users/[yourusername]/Library/Application Support/AddressBook.


  • If you haven’t already caught wind of this update, Gmail now supports offline mode. You know, just like a desktop email client. Read more info on the update then hit up the Settings > Labs section of your account to enable the feature.
  • Credit for Gmail, iMac, iPhone 3G, and MacBook icons.