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Introducing Contacts

Christopher Breen | May 3, 2013
In weeks past we've talked about configuring the Mail and Calendar applications. Without the third leg of this personal information trio--Contacts--using the first two could be a lonely proposition. In this lesson we'll look at the cans and can'ts of Contacts.

The power behind headings

Some features are so delightful to discover that I almost feel like I'm spoiling the surprise by pointing them out to you. So I'll be a bit vague here, and you can find out for yourself.

When you click a heading--Home, Work, Mobile, or the like--a menu will appear with a list of helpful commands related directly to the kind of information found in that field. For example, if you click Work in a phone field, you'll see Show in Large Type (great for seeing phone numbers from across the room), Send Message, and FaceTime. Click other headings and see what you can find. (Hint: Need to map a contact's street address? You're in luck.)

Creating groups and smart groups

As I mentioned, Contacts has singular advantages over "real" address books. One is that you can create groups of contacts--your business associates, friends, family, bowling teammates, and political action committee members. To create a group, choose File > New Group (<Shift>-<Command>-N) and name your group. That group appears in the group pane.

To add members to your group, just select All Contacts, select the contacts you want to add to the group, and drag them in. They'll continue to appear in All Contacts because, well, it includes all of your contacts. But they'll also appear in the group. Should you delete someone from a group--because your sloshball team's third baseman has concentrated on the slosh to the exclusion of the ball--that person remains in your All Contacts list. Delete them from All Contacts, and they're truly gone.

Back in our Fall term, I described the workings of Smart Folders in the Finder. Contacts has its own smart technology, called Smart Groups. And the idea is similar. You set up a condition (or series of conditions) to gang together contacts that meet those conditions.

Let's say you want to have a group that includes those people who live nearby. You could do this in a couple of ways.

Choose File > New Smart Group (<Command>-<Option>-N). In the sheet that appears, enter 'Nearby' in the name field. Click the first pop-up menu, and choose Zip. Configure the next pop-up menu to read Is, and then, in the field to the right, enter your zip code. Click OK, and a Nearby smart group will appear that contains contacts who live within your postal code.

You can do something similar with your phone number. In this case enter Phone Begins With and then enter your local area code. The only hitch here is that you're searching an area broader than a postal code. Also, some people's mobile phones use an area code that differs from the code currently assigned to where they live.

 

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