Mac OS X has a great built-in address book and a number of useful third-party alternatives, but out of all the options Cobook is our favourite. It's a very new app, currently still in beta, but its intelligent search and social media integration make it very easy to love.
- Identifies the type of information you're searching or adding as you type it.
- Automatically updates your contacts via social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
- Utilises the Mac OS X built-in Address Book database so you can still use Address Book if you want. This means you can still sync with iCloud and any other service Address Book supports (e.g. Google Contacts).
- Lives in your menubar for quick and easy access.
- Very simple setup process that walks you through everything you need to do to get started.
- Global keyboard shortcut allows for full keyboard control.
- Automatically checks for updates and offers to update itself.
Cobook understands what you're typing based on its format, whether you're searching or adding new information to a contact. If you type in a phone number that doesn't exist it'll offer to create a new contact. If a contact is listed, it will offer to add whatever information you've put into the search field. Cobook just knows what you're trying to do. This makes it super easy to find and update your contacts.
On top of that, Cobook pulls data from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to updated your Address Book without any effort on your part. This saves a lot of time because your updates will involve adding notes more so than it will involve adding phone numbers and addresses.
All in all, Cobook automatically updates your address book for you and makes it much easier to perform an manual updates you need to make yourself. Plus it's free, and we love apps that both cost nothing and also happen to be pretty amazing.
Because Cobook's interface only lives in the menubar, this poses a few problems. First and foremost, if you want to view contact information while you're typing in another window, you can't really do that because clicking away from Cobook will hide the interface back in the menubar. Additionally, Cobook can really only live in one location and can't be resized. While I like having it tucked away in the menubar, it can be problematic on occasion and it would be nice to be able to switch to a moveable window when needed.
Because Cobook syncs with your social media accounts, you're letting it change you address book based on what other people input into their profiles. Most of the time this is great because you don't have to update anything at all, but you also can end up with more information than you want or a different information than you need. This isn't Cobook's fault, but it's something to be aware of when using an app that uses data you don't control to change the data you do.
Address Book is the obvious competition. It's already built into Mac OS X and is pretty great. Cobook relies on it, so it's hard to argue it can do anything that Cobook can't. In fact, you really have to use them together if you're planning on setting up sync with iCloud (or other services) as Cobook can't handle that functionality. While it's technically another app and therefore competition, both work very well together and you don't really have to pick one or the other.
Microsoft Outlook for Mac is what you use when you need an address book app with Microsoft Exchange support. Other than that, there aren't too many pluses.
Contact Book ($5.49) is an Address Book alternative that pulls from the same database but offers a slightly different interface and a few bonus features. You can colour-code contacts, add social networking information, remind yourself of various events and more. But it costs $5.49 and does less than Cobook, so it's hard to consider it as a better option.
Private Contact ($7.49) is a simple address book that's designed for storing private contacts. The idea is pretty simple and straightforward, but useful if you want to safeguard your contacts.
The Daylite Productivity Suite ($US230 or $US30/month) includes more than just a contacts app. It is, as the name suggests, a large suite of tools to help you get things done better. This allows for tighter integration with its other apps so you can better manage your contacts and sort them by relationship rather than just name. This is a good option if you're looking for something more business-oriented, though the cost is pretty high if all you want is the contacts app.
Lifehacker's App Directory is a growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools across multiple platforms.