In a previous post I lamented the limitations of the Address Book app that comes with Mac OS X Tiger, in particular its inability to take into account relationships between contacts and the sharing of addresses between multiple people.  However, it is with great satisfaction that I discovered that by default this humble app does in fact support these features, and with the inclusion of a small plugin copes with it very well.  So my apologies to Apple for doubting the capability of your software, you have surpassed my expectations once again!

While the fields are not available by default, delving into the template settings (Address Book -> Preferences -> Template) brings up a whole range of extra bits of information you can include in each contact’s detail, including a ‘Related names’ item.  This has several selectable states, including ‘Father’, ‘Mother’, ‘Parent’, ‘Sibling’, ‘Friend’, ‘Partner’, ‘Manager’, and others too.  The idea then is that you can type the name of the related person there and so keep track of relationships between people.

The main problem with this is that by default there is no automation to ensure all the information is consistent.  For instance, if I was to mark on my details that my Spouse is Ellie Dawkins, that would not be reflected on her card automatically.  I would have to go to her card and manually type in that her Spouse is Matthew Dawkins.  Not ideal.

This is where a plugin I found comes in handy.  This introduces an extra contextual menu item whereby you can make the relationship work both ways automatically.  For instance, I enter in that my Spouse is Ellie Barton, then click “Make Ellie Barton spouse of Matthew Dawkins”, and the information is updated in her record.  Nice.  There are limits to how intelligent it is, though, since it only works to one level.  If I tell Address Book who my father’s father is, my record does not automatically recognise that that person must be my grandfather.  Similarly, two people with the same parents are not automatically shown as being siblings.  Nevertheless, it is a time-saving and useful feature that I thought was missing.

I am still on the lookout for other plugins for Address Book that would copy addresses in for people who live in the same house, and it would still be nice to have a map of the address alongside the contact details, rather than having to open up a browser to show a Google Map.  Still, I am very much impressed by this ‘Related Names’ feature that has somehow got brushed under the carpet – I hope that in the next release of Mac OS X they will make more of such features.

Categories: Technology

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