Panther’s Mail: Adding sender to Address Book

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
November 13th, 2003 • 6:04 am

I like the fact that Mac OS X includes a built-in architecture for contact management — known as the Address Book — and that it keeps improving with each new version of the system.

The version in Panther comes with a number of changes, including several new (optional) fields, such as “Prefix”, “Department”, “Birthday”, etc. You can edit your address book record template in Address Book’s “Preferences” dialog, and the changes will be reflected in all your records.

What’s still missing, however, is a proper way of adding a new record when you’ve just received a new email from someone in Mail and want to add that person to your address book.

You can choose the “Add Sender to Address Book” command in Mail’s “Message” menu (or hit cmd-Y) but there are several problems with this command. First of all, it doesn’t automatically switch you to Address Book so that you may further edit the new record. In most cases, new records created by “Add Sender to Address Book” do require further editing, so this automatic switching should at least be an option in the preferences.

Then, of course, the command tries to guess what the first name and the last name are based on that person’s email headers, and does not always succeed. Address Book does include a command called “Swap First/Last Name”, but it’s only accessible through the menu bar — there is no keyboard equivalent and it cannot be made to appear on the record itself as a button next to the First Name and Last Name fields.

Finally — and more importantly — the “Add Sender to Address Book” command doesn’t automatically offer to add this new person to one of your groups. Compare this to Safari: When you click on the “Add Bookmark” button, Safari automatically prompts you to add the bookmark to a specific bookmark folder. With “Add Sender to Address Book”, not only do you have to manually launch Address Book once you’ve selected the command, but then you have to manually find the newly created record before you can further edit it and add it to a group. And let me assure you that finding that new record is not always easy, especially if Mail/Address Book didn’t interpret the email headers properly and didn’t put the first and last names in the correct fields!

The best way that I have found to locate a newly created record in Address Book is to select the “All” line in the Groups pane, and then do a search for the new person based on the email address.

But this involves a lot of typing and clicking for something that you should be able to do automatically!

Clearly, the whole business of adding a new contact to Mac OS X’s Address Book from within Mail could be improved. Maybe for version 2.0 of Mail?

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