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Mac 101: Address Book A-Z

New to the Mac? Welcome back to our Mac 101 series, which explores the basics of Mac OS X, provides tips and tricks, and dives into key features of Apple's bundled applications.

Address Book is the contact management software bundled with every new Mac. It's easy to use and well integrated with Mail and iCal. Let's explore some of its capabilities.

Creating a new record

There are three ways to do this. The first is to select "New Card" from the "File" menu. The second is to click the "+" icon below the "Name" column. Finally, you can press Command - N on your keyboard.

Next, fill in the fields. Some have drop-down titles. For example, you can label a phone number as "work", "home" or "mobile". Finally, you can add a note to the notes field.

Adding a photo is fun. Just click the photo box next to a contact's name and a new window appears. From there, you can browse to a photo on your computer or take a snapshot with your iSight camera. You can even apply some filters to the photo by clicking the Filters button on the right hand side of the window. That photo will appear on that person's record, on email messages retreived with Apple's Mail and on a synchronized iPhone or iPod.



Edit an existing record

To edit an existing record, first select it in the "Name" column. Next, click the "Edit" button at the bottom of the window. You'll see all of the fields take on their drop-down titles, indicating edit mode. Once you're done, simply click the "Edit" button again and your changes are saved.

Preferences

There are some interesting options to fiddle with in Address Book's preferences. For example, you can choose to sort by first or last name, format address for several countries or let people know when your own card changes automatically.

There are several synchronization options available as well, including MobileMe, Exchange, Yahoo! and Google. If you share contact information via vCards, you'll find several format options. Sharing is also possible across Macs.

The fun stuff

Now that you know the basics, let's have some fun. What if you want to store non-standard information like a person's Twitter handle? First, enter edit mode. Next, click the green "+" icon next to an empty field. Select the drop down menu and click "Custom". A new window will appear. Name your custom field "Twitter" and you're all set!

You can also have fun with Smart Groups. These are dynamically populated groupings of contacts as defined by your criteria. For example, I created a group of Christmas card recipients.

First, I added the word "Christmas" to each record's Note field. Next, I selected "New Smart Group" from the "File" menu. A new window appears. I gave it the name Christmas Cards and set the criteria to be "Note contains Christmas." All set!

Best of all, I can also use Address Book to print tidy Avery labels.

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