If you've got a well-organised contacts book, our hats are tipped in your direction. Keeping track of hundreds of people across dozens of sites and services is no easy task, and it seems strange that no one's quite cracked the formula for getting all this information sorted out. Here are four apps taking on the challenge.
Most of the places that store contacts—Google, iCloud, Outlook—let you import and export them, so there is the option of cobbling together one master list from all your different platforms. However, here we've focused on apps that do a lot of the hard work for you and offer some level of cross-platform sync to keep everything in order.
FullContact promises that "all your contacts are in one place and automatically up to date". Sounds good to us. You can sign in with a Google account if a lot of your contacts are already stored there (you can also use an email address to register).
Once you're in, you get the option to add all of your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn contacts to the mix as well; that will either terrify you or be exactly what you were looking for, depending on just how tidy you keep these networks. You can manually import data from images, vCards and CSV files too.
FullContact has some neat features, such as the way scanned business cards are transcribed by hand by the app's staff, and the public data that can be pulled in from the web about the people in your address book. Tagging is a neat way of splitting your contacts into smaller groups.
We found the duplicate spotting to be a bit hit-and-miss, but doing the task manually isn't too laborious. It's great to be able to mine Facebook for contact pictures rather than having to do it yourself. The web interface is slick and easy to navigate and the search feature works well.
A basic account on FullContact is free—that gives you room for up to 5,000 contacts, once-a-day syncing with Google, and monthly contact updates. Pay $9.99 (£6.55) a month and you get 25,000 contacts, real-time syncing with Google, and daily contact updates. There's an iOS app out now, and Mac OS X and Android apps are in the pipeline.
Brewster starts off by using your Google contacts as its backbone before giving you the opportunity to import more information from services such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Brewster takes its time processing your contacts and when it emerges out the other end you'll find a sparse report on the state of your address book. Beyond a basic people search, it doesn't actually give you access to your contacts on the web or on iOS, it just syncs everything back to your Google account.
And Google being Google, that means all of your newly improved contacts are available just about everywhere. By connecting to your friends and colleagues on Brewster itself, you can make sure you always have their most up-to-date contact information (and that they have yours in return).
A lot of the magic of Brewster happens behind the scenes as it picks out the relevant information from each profile, merges contacts together and so on. It's perfect if you want to relinquish all control of your contacts management and let everything be taken out of your hands. It's less appealing if you want to be able to tinker and tweak yourself.
Brewster is completely free to use and there are apps available for iOS and Android (you don't actually need them if you're already syncing all your Google contacts to these devices). Having little control over the two-way sync is a little unnerving, but some are going to find it fits their needs perfectly.
Cloze draws you in with the tempting offer of a "no-work way to see everything about your contacts in one place". Right off the bat you'll be prompted to add Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and once you've jumped through these hoops you can import contacts from Gmail, Microsoft Exchange, Outlook.com, Yahoo and iCloud too.
Cloze takes a few minutes (or hours) to chew through all of the contact data you've imported, working out how often you communicate with each person in your network. When you're in, you get to the inbox; this holds recent email messages and mentions on social networks. You can sort the inbox by date or by person (so people you interact with most often appear higher).
The Contacts section lets you quickly search for people based on name, location, job title and so on (assuming Cloze has been apple to import this data from your networks). There are filters and sorting options to play around with and you can add people to customised lists.
Each contact pane shows social updates, a timeline displaying recent interactions, related people and your relationship strength with the person in question. Cloze not only unifies all of your contacts, it helps you intelligently sort through them based on their importance.
There's an iOS app and an Android app in beta. Cloze Pro removes all of the various API limits and includes bonuses like follow-up reminders and smart context profiles automatically calculated by the app. It costs $19.99 (£13.10) per month but you can sign up for a 14-day free trial to see if you're going to find it useful.
Zoho is an impressive online suite of tools that holds its own against the might of Google Drive, OneDrive and iCloud, but even if you don't use any of the company's other online apps, ContactManager is definitely worth a look. It provides a centralised database for all your contacts, and also links in tasks, notes and emails accordingly.
Sign up for Zoho ContactManager and you can import contacts from a CSV file, Gmail, LinkedIn or Outlook (note the business angle here?). It's not quite as slick as some of its rivals but once you're up and running, you can link individual contacts to their Facebook and Twitter profiles and get updates right within the app.
There's the ability to find and merge contacts, but Zoho gives you more control over the process than most of its rivals, and you can add your own sets of customised tags to make it easier to switch between different groups. Tasks and deals can be added on a contact-by-contact basis if you're using the contact manager professionally.
The online interface of ContactManager has recently been given a refresh: it's clean and tidy and chunky, and most of the options you need are easily found. It's perhaps not as dynamic and interactive as some of the other apps here, but if you want to dive deep into your contacts management then this Zoho offering won't disappoint.
A free account gives you 500 contact slots to play around with, but you can up that to 10,000 contacts for $15 (£9.83) every month or an unlimited number for $25 (£16.38) every month (you know, if you really need to do some serious networking). There are no mobile apps, though—everything is accessed through the web.
This article originally appeared on Field Guide, Gizmodo's blog on how to get the best out of your tech