For a number of years I have received emails from readers, some I’ve known, some I haven’t, stating that they were “using Plaxo to update their address books” and that I should fill in the blanks with my address and phone to complete their records.
I have to admit that for the most part I wasn’t so good at complying (I don’t do so good with LinkedIn requests either.)
Recently, I found myself staring at load of work so I did what many small business owners do, I decided it was time to change my email client and update my address book. (When I was in college I always decided to clean my room the night before a big test.)
So let me set the table. I was, like the majority, an Outlook user for years. Pretty much had to be, or so I thought. About 6 months ago I bought a Mac and was an Outlook user no more. In an attempt to stay with familiar business tools I started using Microsoft’s Mac version called Entourage. The program works reasonably well, but not really. The Mac native tools, Mail, Address Book and iCal are nice free tools, but pretty weak excuses for a business application and, between you and me, I find it amazing that Apple doesn’t think these tools should automatically work together.
There is a point to all this, just hang in there.
I am a Firefox user from way back so I’ve always kept an open ear for things coming out of Mozilla. I’m a little late to this party but I’ve starting using Thunderbird 2, Mozilla’s open source mail application with the Lightning calendar extension, on my Mac and I think all is well again. To be fair, I used Thunderbird for a period several years ago but it was too buggy. This newest version is awesome and becoming much more Outlook compatible. (I can accept meeting requests generated from Outlook users.) The Lightning extension is based on Mozilla’s very functional Sunbird calendar program.
Well, as anyone who has made an address book, email and calendar change on the same day can attest, loading the new programs is the easy part – getting years of data moved isn’t so easy. And this is where the all new Plaxo stepped in.
I won’t bore you with any more details but, well, maybe one more, Plaxo can subscribe to Google Calendars so I uploaded my calender via iCal to a private Google Calendar and synced that with Plaxo and then using the Plaxo add-on for Thunderbird, to bring my entire calendar into Thunderbird. (Thunderbird can subscribe the Google Calendar feed) Here’s the cool thing about this set-up. When I update my calendar on my local machine, the change gets put on my Google Calendar. This makes a great way to share a calendar or several calendars without ever going online to make changes. For example, I have a workshop and speaking calendar that I display on the workshop page of my website. When I book a speaking gig, I put it on my calendar on my laptop, it goes to the workshop Google Calendar, which throws off an RSS feed, that automatically displays this change on my workshop web page.
So, I went to Plaxo for what I thought was a nice workaround for some data transfer and I stayed (and bought the Premium account) because this service has become so useful that I believe every small business should employ it. I heard lots of chatter in the blogoshere about the Plaxo 3.0, but I kind of ignored it. If you have, you shouldn’t. There are many useful features and more to come.
And now the karmic part. All you Plaxo users send me your update requests and I will honor them!
One last sidebar: Syncing the mobile. I couldn’t find a program that would sync with Thunderbird on a Mac to a Windows Smartphone. Plaxo will soon offer over the air phone syncing for my Windows Smartphone and that will be awesome. For now, I add entries to my calendar/phone, which write to Google Calendar, which is subscribed to by iCal, which can update in a program called Missing Sync for Windows. Not perfect, but perfectly duct tapeish!
So, what’s your elegant duct tape solution for getting all your communication devices playing nice?