One of the best things, in my opinion, about Apple software is that when you learn something in one program, like iTunes, it can often carry over to other applications, like Address Book. Since iTunes has been around for so long and is more or less required to run iPods, iPhones, and iPads, many people have discovered some of its niftier features, such as Smart Playlists that keep music organized based on filters.
If you're not familiar with Smart Playlists, you likely have them in iTunes and just didn't know it. If you see "Recently Added" or "Top 25 Most Played" (identified by a gear icon) in your iTunes sidebar, these are Smart Playlists, preloaded by Apple.
If you right-click on a list title in the sidebar and choose "Edit Smart Playlist," you can get an idea of how they work. Simply set your conditions for the search and iTunes shows you all the entries that meet those requirements. Well, Address Book has a very similar thing--Smart Groups.
Smart Groups allow you to keep your contacts organized based on particular criteria that you can choose and manipulate. A common problem I see when consulting, especially now that so many people have smartphones like iPhones and Android-based devices, is that keeping your contacts organized can be a pain.
One method I've found extremely helpful in my own life has been using one of the labels (fields) in Address Book as an identifier to use inside a Smart Group. I'll show you an example:
- Open Address Book and find a few contacts whose information you'd like to have easy access to in the future. In my case, I like to be able to find any models I work with for my photography business.
- Create a Smart Group. Do so by clicking File in the Address Book toolbar and choosing New Smart Group, or hitting Command-Option-N.
- Give your Smart Group a good name--in my case, Models. Now, in the conditions portion of the window, set the following:
By using the Company field as a label for new contacts, I can quickly identify and organize new contact information I receive. I just have to enter the word "model" in the Company field for any vCard where that applies. This even works if I mark a new contact as a company, as long as I put the word "model" in it.
Of course, there are any number of ways to use Smart Groups to organize your contacts. Try experimenting with different conditions and see what kind of results you get. And, to top it off, you can sync your Smart Groups with your iOS devices for easy access on the go.
Got a great tip about Address Book? Send me a message or let me know in the comments!