Tips to Make the Most of Your Mac Contacts

Mac Contacts window against space background

We don’t have to tell you how important your contacts are to you. Whether you’re talking about business contacts that you’ve collected over the years or your family’s phone numbers and addresses, it’s vital that your contacts are both accessible and working perfectly.

Just like any other large amount of data on a computer, contacts have a way of getting out of control. Add in syncing, and before you know it you have an unwieldy list that you can’t navigate. If you’re using a Mac for your contact organization, though, you’re in luck, as we’ve gone ahead and outlined some of the most essential tips for keeping your Mac contacts in order. Check them out below and get your contacts in sync, so to speak.

Display

The first step in cleaning up and managing your Mac contacts is to make sure they display correctly. Open the Contacts app and from the Apple menu bar click on the Contacts, then Preferences. From here, click on the General tab.

General tab of Mac Contacts window

This is where you tell the Contacts app how you want to see your contacts in a list. First, decide if you want first or last name to show first, then make the same choice on sorting. Generally, most people want first name to show first and last name last, but want to sort by last name. Finally, you can even tell Contacts to prefer nicknames if you use them often. When you’re all done just close the window and move on.

Groups

Let’s say you’re looking for the phone number for your plumber but you don’t remember his name. Sure, it’s in your contact list somewhere, but you need to go through a few thousand entries to find him.

This doesn’t need to be the case with contact groups. Open the Contacts app and select the All Contacts item in the account you want to create the group in.

Next, click the File menu, then New Group. Give the group a meaningful name and click anywhere else to save. Now, just drag contacts from the All Contacts group into your new group. (The word “Contacts” will change based on the account you’re working with. For example, iCloud’s version is “All iCloud.”)

Even though that contact is now in the new group, it’s still visible in the full list as well. Contacts can even be in multiple groups.

Continue this process and create groups for Family, Friends, Restaurants, and Repairs, as well as any others you can think of. Not only will you be able to find contacts easier, but you can also export contacts based on groups.

Mac Contacts window showing a contact within a group

Delete Unwanted Contacts

While there’s a lot of automation out there for cleaning up your contact list, sometimes there’s no substitute for some good old TLC. Before getting too far into your contacts, it’s a good idea to start culling the herd a bit.

Old and out-of-date contacts clutter up all of our address books, which means it’s even harder to find the contacts we need. Go through your list and clear out all the glaringly obvious contacts that you don’t need anymore before doing any more steps. This way, you’re only working on the contacts you know you need.

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Remove Duplicates

Ah, the enemy of productivity and busy people around the world. Duplicate contacts can come from a variety of sources, including the simple addition of people twice and the more technical sync settings (more on that in a minute.)

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Whatever the case, getting rid of duplicate contacts needs to be a priority when you’re cleaning house. There are several ways to do this, but Scrubly is by far the best and easiest. Sign up for a free account at Scrubly.com and get your duplicates under control.

Verify Sync Settings

Once your lists are clean and free of duplicates and junk contacts, you should check on your sync settings. You want to sync your contacts to as few places as possible to keep duplicates down and yourself as sane as possible.

To check your contact sync settings, click on the Apple logo in the OS X menu bar and choose System Preferences, then click Internet Accounts.

System Preferences window with Internet Accounts highlighted

Here you should see a list of all the Internet accounts that sync to your Mac. You can easily tell which accounts are syncing contacts by looking under the account name in the left sidebar. Anytime you see “Contacts” under an account that means you’re syncing contacts with it.

As we mentioned, you should only sync contacts for accounts that are absolutely necessary. Even then, check them in the Contacts app often to see what’s being synced with which account.

The last step in verifying your contact syncing is to check what account you’re adding accounts to automatically – meaning, when you save a new contact on your Mac, where does it save to? To see this, open the Contacts app and click on the Contacts menu, then on Preferences. Click on the General tab and see what the Default Account is. Set it to the account you use most often, and your syncing is all set.

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