BusyContacts: Tom's Mac Software Pick

A Much More Insightful Look at Your Contacts

BusyContacts app running in OS X Yosemite
Courtesy of BusyCal, LLC.

BusyContacts may just be the best of the contact managers available for the Mac, and that's saying a lot. It’s not that BusyContacts is flawless; it has its cons, but overall, this address book/contacts replacement will have you scratching your head, wondering why you put up with Apple's Contacts app for so long.

Pro

  • Contact information includes recent activity for each card, email, and social exchange.
  • Supports multiple cloud services, including iCloud, Google, and Exchange.
  • Syncs with Apple’s Contacts app.
  • Card tags are very helpful for sorting contacts

Con

  • Automatic merging of similar cards was hit or miss.
  • Some sorting options only available in preferences.
  • Really needs to be a complete contact manager.

I’m not that much of a Contacts and Calendar user. I find both of the Apple apps to be basic in nature, with not that much appeal to anyone who really needs the power of a good contact manager.

And while Apple’s offerings are only OK, I haven’t really found a good replacement for either app. At one time, I used FileMaker's Bento, but that database app was discontinued some years back. Going back even further, Now Up To Date and Now Contacts were my go-to calendar and address book, but they've gone the way of the dinosaur, too. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I installed BusyContacts, and saw how it was able to tie multiple data sources together to provide an overview of what was going on with any of my contacts.

Activity List

The key to BusyContacts, and what sets it apart from other contact managers, is its Activity List. The Activity list tracks recent activity involving a selected contact card. Just like most contact managers, when you select a card, you can instantly see important information, such as email address, phone number, and notes.

But BusyContacts goes one better, and pulls up recent emails you've exchanged with the individual, along with any social contact, such as tweets and Facebook postings.

The Activity list is a real game changer. Pull up a contact and you have instant access to the last few emails you exchanged, including date, subject, and a brief overview of the email's content. Need more? Just double-click the email and the actual message will open in Apple Mail. The same will happen for any social media accounts you've been using to communicate with the individual. Those last tweets, Facebook, or LinkedIn postings will be right at your fingertips in the BusyContacts Activity pane.

BusyCal

The Activity list has another trick up its pane. If you use BusyCal, BusyMac’s calendar and scheduling app, then any event or meeting you have scheduled is included in the Activity pane. And it's not just a one-way feature. You can create new events, meetings, and to-dos from within BusyContacts, and they will be synced to the BusyCal app as well.

I have to say, using BusyCal and BusyContacts together can make for an effective contact and scheduling system. I’m not sure it rises to being a CRM (Customer Relationship Manager), though I can see it being used as one for a startup that is minding its pennies.

However, while I liked how BusyContacts and BusyCal worked together, I’m a bit surprised that BusyContacts can’t perform the same syncing trick with Apple’s Calendar app.

BusyContacts Views

BusyContacts has two main methods of viewing contacts: list view or card view. The card view is similar to the view used in Apple’s Contacts, with a multi-pane window that allows you to select from contact cards by groups, then from a list, and finally, showing a card's information.

The list view, on the other hand, displays the same information but in a layout similar to Apple Mail's default display, with the list of contacts across the top, and the card and its information showing up below the list.

While it's nice to have two view options, they don't provide any real benefit, other than letting you slightly rearrange how the app's window looks. I'd prefer to see more sorting options available directly within the card view window, instead of having to set sorting options in preferences.

Final Thoughts

I really liked BusyContacts, and consider it a step above what Apple provides in its own Contacts app. I especially like the Activities list, and how it's able to display all recent activity that involves a selected contact. When combined with BusyCal, you end up with a very effective calendar, contact, and scheduling app.

Even when used by itself, BusyContacts is a pretty good upgrade over the basic Apple Contacts app. If you need more than just the ability to keep an electronic rolodex, BusyContacts is worth investigating.

BusyContacts is $49.99. A demo is available.

See other software choices from Tom's Mac Software Picks.