Today we have a tale of woe, concerning what you’d think might be the easiest of things: getting your contacts up to date on more than one machine. I’ve been using Midentity for a while, and it’s a very likeable service: the basic idea is simple, a kind of peer-to-peer application for keeping your contacts up to date, with some neat things like SMS’ing directly from your machine as well. You change your details on your machine, and anyone that’s linked to you through Midentity automatically gets an update – without any server in the middle to post any privacy problems. It’s well worth a look.
Then in the spirit of adventure, I decided to take a look at Plaxo, a similar sort of service that works through a Web page, allowing people to update their contact details on the Plaxo site and automatically distribute it to others. So I installed that.
Now, to complicate matters, I don’t actually use Outlook for time management: I use TabletPlanner, which is a very very nice application which lets you do lots and lots of cool ink stuff and works really nicely. Crucially, it also synchronises with Outlook, and has always worked perfectly.
At first, everything went perfectly. Then, after a while, I synched with TabletPlanner, and all hell broke loose. Something in TabletPlanner’s sync got messed up, which lead to an odd bug: I would delete a contact, only for it to reappear when I restarted Outlook. Twice. With the name missing, but all the other details intact. I’d delete them, and the two deleted contacts would reappear. Twice. Each. Within 20 mins I went from 380 contacts to 720. And I know I’m not that popular.
Eventually I worked out that it was actually Midentity that was putting the contacts back. Why? No idea. I suspect that TabletPlanner introduced some oddity into the Outlook database that Midentity couldn’t handle, leading to it performing incorrectly. But either way, after the number of crashes I got, it introduced more problems into Outlook, which is a notoriously tempramental piece of software and hates anything messing with its files.
So now I have the grind of deleting Outlook, reinstalling it, reinstalling the plug ins, and pulling all the contacts down from a backup. And the irony of it is that this is one of those things that ridiculously simple to do on a Mac: simply use iSync with a .Mac account and you can keep the contacts and calendars for multiple machines in sync easily and reliably. Why isn’t Apple screaming about this? With more and more individuals having two machines, it’s a key thing to do – and on Windows, it’s a pain in the posterior.
Of course, Microsoft is working on a grand synchronisation plan, having realised finally that it’s actually important. But here’s an example of Apple being far, far ahead, and yet not making the most of this advantage.