How to sync your contacts with OS X Address Book

Stay in touch on the move

Synchronise your contacts

Once upon a time, emailing was something you did from your study at home or desk at work. All your contacts' details sat on your Mac for when you needed them. But email has changed – you can now ping off messages from just about anywhere, thanks largely to webmail accounts or your phone.

But while there's been plenty said about syncing your email messages between the various systems, your contacts list can get overlooked. And that's where Address Book comes in.

It enables you to manage your contacts list on your Mac and sync it to your iPhone or MobileMe account, or your Google contacts. You can even set up CardDAV, Exchange and LDAP accounts.

You'll find Address Book in your Applications folder. To add a contact, just open it up and click the + button below the Name column. Fill in the details you'd like to add, and the contact will be instantly accessible from Mail.

To use it, just start typing the person's name into the To: field and you'll see a drop-down of possible matches. If you've added multiple email addresses, such as home and work, you'll see them all.

If you've got a long list of contacts in a webmail account, for example, let's import these into Address Book. In your webmail service, there should be an option to export contacts – do so in the vCard format. Then switch back into Address Book and go to File > Import…. Pick the vCard file you saved and it'll import all the names and addresses for you.

You might find you've got some duplicates – you can merge these by going to Card > Look for Duplicates…. Careful though: you don't get any control over how it merges contacts, so if there are two 'Work' email addresses, one gets overwritten and you can't choose which. If you've got the time, go through them manually.

How to organise and sync your contacts list

1. Organise your contacts

step 1

If you regularly send mail to the same group of people, organise their addresses into groups. Click the + below the Group column and give it a name. Then drag the names to add from the All Contacts view. In Mail, type the group's name, and all the addresses are added.

2. Smart groups

step 2

Address Book can create groups for you automatically. Smart groups work like Finder's smart folders, in that any contacts that match certain criteria pop up in the group. The more fields you fill in on each address card, the more effective it is. Go to File > New Smart Group…

3. Set conditions

step 3

Give your group a name. You can set up any number of conditions that a contact must match to appear in the smart group. Use the leftmost drop-down to pick what you'd like to match, and type into the text box on the right. You can add as many fields as you want.

4. Use it!

step 4

When someone joins your team, fill in their card and they'll appear in the group. See who's in the smart group by clicking it in the Groups pane. To email the group, start typing the group name into the To:, Cc: or Bcc: field. When it auto-completes, click in the main body

5. Sync to iPhone/iPad

step 5

Chances are you'll want access to your contacts on your iOS device. Fire up iTunes and click your iPhone, iPod or iPad in the left column. On the Info tab, tick the Sync Address Book Contacts box and pick which groups to keep in sync. (You can't sync smart groups.)

6. Sync to Google Contacts

step 6

Now to sync your contacts with your Google account. In Address Book's preferences, click Accounts, select On My Mac and tick Synchronize with Google. Click Configure, type in your details and click Agree. Now find iSync in your Applications folder and load it up.

7. Bring in iSync

step 7

Open iSync's preferences and tick Show status in menu bar – you'll see its logo appear in the top-right of your screen. It's now fine to quit iSync – the menu will remain. Selecting Sync Now from this menu matches up your local address list with your Google Contacts.

8. Other account types

step 8

If you have a CardDAV, LDAP or Exchange 2007 account, you can pull these contacts into Address Book. Open the Accounts tab in Preferences and click the + below the list. In the pop-up, pick your account type from the drop-down and enter your details.

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