Maintain a Unified Contacts List across all your devices

I have faced this problem of having to synchronize my contacts list time and again. And this is generally done whenever one is in any of the following situations: 

 – You have a new laptop or multiple laptops or PCs
 – You have a new mobile or multiple mobile devices
 – You have a new email account or multiple email accounts…
 – You have are moving from an old mobile to a new mobile, etc…

During any of the above situations we generally get or send out messages from/to our friends to send us an updated contacts info and such other requests.

Call it the need of the hour, I dug around and found that there are multiple ways one could keep your contacts synchronised between computers, between accounts and phones and devices – call it a grand unification of contacts list.

Right now there are paid apps and there are free apps that you can use to keep your contacts synchronised and since I am an entrepreneur, I for one look to find the most cost effective way which works and with the available email accounts and devices that i had with me.

So to setup a unified contacts list, i did the following (guess now no one will absolve me if i say i did not have your contact or i cannot say, hey i lost your contact, or changed my phone and hence lost your contact, etc, etc. Well i dont intend to do that since everyone of my contacts is important to me.)

Step 1: Consolidate all your contacts to a single source:

A couple of online services (yahoo, gmail, facebook, etc) provide you the ability to upload your contacts as an excel or csv format online. The reason you would do this, is to ensure you are using this service to get all your contacts to one common place. 

I also looked to consolidate my contacts list across these different sources by looking at the inventory of the sources and which source already had the ability to consolidate these accounts. I had a yahoo account, a gmail account and a work account hosted on google apps for business, two mobiles (one a smart phone another a keypad phone), one laptop, an ipad and a old desktop. Each had different email clients and with their own contacts list over the period of time.

After researching on the options that are available in the accounts and devices that i had, I chose the Yahoo Contacts service since, the Yahoo Contacts service had the ability to connect to your gmail account and download the contacts just providing the username and password of your gmail account, and it also had the ability to import csv files.

I exported the contacts in an excel format from the smartphone, keypad phone, and all the other devices like the ipad, laptop, desktop. I uploaded all of these contacts to the Yahoo Contacts service. I connected my gmail accounts to the yahoo contacts services and imported all the contacts.

Please note here, that since you are doing this activity for the first time, you can be rest assured that you might have to update some details manually for at least 5 percent of the contacts, since its not necessary all your devices will output the excel in the way its required by the Yahoo Service. 

So after some initial hiccups and reading through the steps for extracting contacts from each of the devices, i went about and got all the contacts into the Yahoo Service.

Once i had all the contacts uploaded to the Yahoo Contacts Service, i ran the find and merge duplicates option. It threw up suggestions to merge and since this was the first time, i went about manually figuring out which contacts were duplicates and needed to be merged and which were marked by the program as duplicate but were actually different contacts. 

After a couple of rounds of running the merge duplicates, i came to a baseline version of my contacts list, i now had all the contacts from all the devices and services into one single location. This included the contact numbers, email ids and addresses all had been successfully consolidated into this list.


Step 2: Create a Backup

Once i had this baseline version of my contacts list i uploaded this version of my contacts list to the following services:

a. Google Apps for Business domain account; 
b. iCloud account. 
c. Yahoo Contacts

I Choose the Yahoo Contacts to be the “Backup” account since The Yahoo Contacts Service provides an option to download contacts from Gmail contacts.

To keep the backup updated, I created a reminder to go back into the yahoo account and run the import contacts from gmail once in a while. 

Step 3: Keeping your contacts across devices in sync: 

Now with the backup in place, i needed to provide a mechanism to keep the list synchronised. 

I chose the Gmail personal account, as the “Active” account, this would be the account that i could connect to all my devices. I chose this because, Apple does not have a synchronise option with Yahoo Contacts for its address book (https://discussions.apple.com/message/19287741#19287741). 

My Inventory of Gadgets: a Mac Book Pro, iPad, a windows 8 PC and an Android Phone.

a. Mac Book Pro Address Book: 
The MBP Address Book is updated by synchronising my icloud.com account with the google contacts list. Apple provides a service to synchronise your Address Book with your gmail account. This link will provide you with the setup details http://support.apple.com/kb/ph4625

b. iPad: 
I had configured the gmail account to be synchronised as a Microsoft Exchange Service in iOS6 , which allows for the contacts to be synchronised between the iPad and the “Active” gmail account. This link will provide you the setup for the iOS devices
 – http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4872

Update: Apple has now enabled direct google contacts sync in iOS7, find the details in the link below. This would mean, that if you did not have a Mac Book Pro, your iCloud and Google Contacts would still be syncrhonised using iOS 7.
http://www.idownloadblog.com/2013/06/25/apple-enables-direct-google-contacts-sync-in-ios-7/

c. Windows 8 PC: 
I configured the windows 8 PC to synchronise my “Active” gmail account using an open source sync tool available at http://sourceforge.net/projects/googlesyncmod/files/.

I used this option instead of Google Sync, since its got a more elaborate process to setup. http://www.google.com/sync/index.html

 Update: Here is a paid version of a mail and calendar sync with Outlook
http://scand.com/products/outlook4gmail/

note: Please do this task after you have completed the above steps.

d. Android Phone: 
I configured my “Active” gmail account to be the only contacts source , (you need to update the settings on your phone to show you contacts only from this source). So now whenever i add a contact on my phone, the system updates my “Active” gmail account with the new contact information across all the devices. Additionally if i were to update any contact information on my phone, the same will be reflected in each of my devices. 

Now with all your contacts consolidated and linked with all the devices, you are well on your way to staying connected with your friends, family and business associates from anywhere and more importantly from any device.

Please do write in with your comments and queries, we will be glad to be of help. 

Note: At this time, try and not connect with your Facebook Contacts since it seems to be forcing duplicate entries for the contacts. It will be great if somehow the Facebook service is able to “update” your existing contacts birthday’s and anniversary instead of creating new entries in your address book.

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