Mac OS X’s Address Book: Can’t ‘Go to My Card’ during a search

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
February 2nd, 2010 • 1:32 pm

Address Book has a useful command called “Go to My Card” (in the “Card” menu). Why is it useful? For a variety of reasons. For example, you might want to copy your own mailing address from your own card in order to paste it somewhere else.

Or, as often happens to me, you might need to refer to your own mailing address as it appears on your credit card statement, because such and such a web site requires it, and your mailing address as it appears on your statements is slightly different from the way you would normally write it, and you can never remember the exact differences, so you have it as a separate mailing address entry in your own card, and it’s handy to be able to double-check without having to dig out a recent credit card statement.

Unfortunately, Address Book suffers from one annoying flaw when it comes to using this “Go to My Card” command: It does not work when you have something in the search field.

When you type a text string in the search field, Address Book narrows down the list of addresses currently displayed in the “Name” column to those that contain the text string somewhere in their fields.

The problem is that selecting the “Go to My Card” command does not cause Address Book to automatically exit the search mode and jump to your own card. Instead, it just does… nothing. You are expected to understand that this means that you have to clear the search field and exit the search mode first, and then select the “Go to My Card” command again.

I don’t know about other Mac OS X users, but I often use the search field to search for something and then promptly forget to clear the search field before I move on to something else.

And so when I come back to Address Book and select “Go to My Card” command, I get frustrated because it does not automatically exit the search mode for me.

Granted, it’s a minor annoyance, but it’s representative of the lack of polish that the Address Book application still suffers from after all these years, even for those features that it does include. (It is also in dire need of some new features.)

In addition, there are other situations where Address Book does automatically exit the search mode, without requiring the user to manually empty the search field. For example, if you do a search and then, while viewing the search results, you click on a group in the left-most column, Address Book automatically empties the search field, exists the search mode, and displays the contents of the selected group.

To me, if it’s capable of automatically exiting the search mode in such a situation, then it should also be able to do so when the user selects the “Go to My Card” command.

Several years ago, I wrote about the numerous problems with the Edit mode in Address Book. To Apple’s credit, many of the problems described in that post have since been fixed. (I cannot reproduce them in Address Book in Snow Leopard.) But as the example above demonstrates, there are still other areas where Address Book’s user interface can turn out to be rather frustratingly rigid and user-hostile.

I should also point out that, sadly, one of the “hidden features” in Address Book’s search feature that I described in another post and made the rigidity of the search interface a bit more tolerable has since been removed from the application. Today, in Snow Leopard, if you start a search while a specific group is selected and there are no matches in that group, if you want to extend the search to all groups you have to click on “All contacts,” which exits the search mode and forces you to retype your search request.

Previously, Address Book was smart enough to exit the search mode, but not before it had put a list of search matches from all contacts in the “Name” column in answer to your search request. As one of the commenters on my blog post at the time noted, the disappearance of this feature appears to indicate that this was probably an “accidental side effect” and not an intentional thing on Apple’s part.

The bottom line here is that Address Book’s user interface is too rigid to be user-friendly. If you want to start a search in all your contacts, you need to first make sure that “All contacts” is selected. And if you want to use the “Go to My Card” command, you need to first make sure that there is nothing in the search field.

User interfaces that force you to do things in a specific order and do not offer an alternative when you forget to do things in the right order are simply not good enough in this day and age. I am all for iPods, iPads, iPuds, and what not, but come on, Apple, some improvements in the “smartness” of our systems—whether they are of the flat and portable variety or of the more traditional desktop variety—would be appreciated too. We are in 2010, after all. It is about time our computers started demonstrating a semblance of intelligence.

[UPDATE: Reader ‘The Skeptic’ notes that the same thing happens when you do a search for a contact using the global Spotlight menu and then select a result in the menu that is a contact card, to view the details. If a search is in progress in Address Book, Mac OS X brings Address Book to the front, but fails to cancel the search and display the desired card.]

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