In some ways, the built in Mac OS X Address Book wears like an old pair of sneakers – comfortable and familiar. What it lacks in style and features, it makes up for in dependability. Over the years, updates to Mac OS X have brought numerous improvements and enhancements. Yet despite these changes, the Address Book has remained largely the same. A facelift here and there, some improved syncing capabilities, but not much to get excited about (in fact, the Lion overhaul was largely protested).
Seeing the opportunity for real feature improvement in the realm of contact management, the team at Cobook have created a unique, innovative app that breathes some life into the Address Book. If you’re looking to give some more muscle to your Address Book, Cobook will take care of the heavy lifting.
What Is Cobook?
Cobook “cohabitates” alongside the Address Book and runs locally on your computer as a native application. Under the hood, it seamlessly integrates with the built in Address Book – what you see in Cobook is being synced directly with your Address Book data. At its core, Cobook is a contact manager with an emphasis on workflow and ease of use.
Clicking on the Cobook menu bar icon opens a simple, elegant drop down menu showing a list of all your contacts. Hovering over a contact opens a slide out window revealing all the specific details for that contact. This seemingly basic functionality is something sorely lacking in the built in Address Book. However Cobook’s feature set doesn’t stop here. In fact, after spending some time with Cobook, you may never want to open the Mac Address Book again.
Need to add a new contact? Simply type the name of your contact in the Cobook’s search field. Not recognizing the name from your current list of contacts, Cobook will prompt you to add this person as a new contact. With your newly created contact, begin typing any of the contact’s details like a phone number, email address or birth date and Cobook will accurately identify this piece of information and prompt you to add it to the proper field within the contact. All of the fields available from within the Address Book can be accessed and populated by Cobook.
Because much of our contacts’ information is spread out across different social networks, Cobook is designed to pull in this information and organize it all from within the application. Cobook can match and fetch your contacts’ profile information from Facebook and Linkedin as well as grab tweets posted on a contact’s Twitter feed. If you have social network contacts that aren’t currently in your Address Book, Cobook can be configured to import their profile data as new contacts.
A recent update to the application now includes integration with Google Voice. Right click on a contact’s phone number and select from one of several connection methods including Google Voice, Skype and Apple’s new Message app. In fact, Cobook integrates nicely with other apps – click on any URL in a contact and the default browser will open. Clicking an email addresses will open a compose window (Kudos for Sparrow support).
Of course, to take full advantage of Cobook’s social network integration, you’ll need to give it permission to access this content. But here again, all of this data is being stored locally on your computer.
There is a possible downside to using Cobook’s social integration – whenever someone’s Facebook or Linkedin profile is updated, this content will automatically update your local contact data as well. Currently there is no ability to turn off or override this feature. Though most would likely want this information to be kept current anyway.
Will Cobook work with Google Contacts? According to the developer, the answer is “yes” but with the following limitations:
- It’s not possible to sync the same contacts with both iCloud and Google
- Contact tags are not synced
- Social profiles are not synced
Managing and organizing groups is made easy with the use of tags. Contacts can be assigned multiple tags to different groups. Cobook can send out tag-based group emails as well. Need to clean house and tidy up your contacts? Cobook has automatically created tags for those contacts missing pertinent information (#no email, #no phone, etc.)
If you need to edit a contact’s information, this can be accomplished directly from within Cobook in edit mode – updated information will automatically sync to the Address Book. Want to rearrange your contact’s details? Simply drag and drop them.
The recently discovered privacy leak in the iPhone’s contact application giving other apps unfettered access to this data has once again raised concerns about how our personal contact information is handled. So how does an application like Cobook handle your personal data? Regarding your data’s privacy, here’s what Cobook has to say,
Cobook cares about privacy. All your data is stored locally on your computer only, we don’t have any access neither to your data nor accounts. In fact we don’t even have any servers, except for a component that collects bugs.
Cobook is currently in public beta and is available as a free download. It is in active development and as of this writing, is in it’s twelfth beta build. Kaspars Dancis, cofounder of Cobook stated in an email that an initial release of Cobook will be available sometime in April. It will be available in the Mac App Store, yet there is currently no pricing information available for Cobook’s initial release.
As a beta build, Cobook seems stable and reliable. All of its features work as stated and I have not experienced any crashes or hiccups. Of course, as with all beta software making a backup of your data (in this case, your contacts) would be advisable before proceeding with installing and using Cobook. Also note, this app runs on a 64 bit system only.
For active users of the built in Mac Address Book, Cobook looks to have its sights on becoming the “go to” app for contact management. Social Network integration on top of quick information access from the menu bar makes Cobook a versatile tool for all your contact needs.