BusyMac comes up with a contact manager that should make it easier to keep in touch.

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Practical Mac

I can’t help but be amused by the name of BusyMac’s new product, BusyContacts, because in my experience managing contact information is pretty boring.

I first wrote about BusyContacts almost a year ago (Practical Mac, March 28, 2014), when Seattle-based BusyMac was showing off an early version of the application at Macworld/iWorld. Then, as now, I was mostly excited that someone was working to improve on Apple’s bare-bones Contacts application.

That built-in utility is a simple container for storing contact information stored at the system level. It was originally called Address Book because it resembled (in appearance and utility) a paper ledger of names and addresses.

The best feature of Contacts is how the information can be synced to iOS devices and other Macs under your control. But as a stand-alone application, Contacts hasn’t received much attention from Apple.

And yet, contact information is extremely important, especially if you track leads or otherwise deal with many people on a regular basis. BusyContacts is a contact manager you’ll actually want to use.

Why? For one thing, the application acknowledges that a person or company in your list of contacts is more than just a name, address and phone number. An Activity pane pulls up email and text messages, Facebook posts and Twitter tweets for quick reference, as well as calendar events in the company’s other product, BusyCal, where the person has been included as an attendee.

BusyContacts does a clean job of merging information from various social-media accounts. For example, you can authorize it to communicate with LinkedIn to fill out information (such as job titles and work contact numbers). Apple’s Contacts also talks to other services and creates separate records for them, but BusyContacts also includes the option to view those linked records as just one. In Contacts, you must select and manually link them.

One notable improvement over Contacts is in how BusyContacts treats groups. In Contacts, adding or removing people from groups has always been clumsy. BusyContacts uses keyword tags instead. For example, I have a group of friends who get together every month for lunch, so each contact includes a special “friendlunch” tag I created.

Better yet, BusyContacts uses tags and other metadata to create Smart Filters. Instead of creating a new group of people who all work at The Seattle Times, for instance, I’ve made a Smart Filter that displays all contacts with Seattle Times in the Company field. When I add someone new from the company to my list of contacts, he or she automatically shows up in my Smart Filter.

Last, BusyContacts enables you to share address books with other people, although, because of technical hurdles, not with the same ease as sharing calendars. It talks to Microsoft Exchange servers with ease, and also supports Fruux, Kerio and other CardDAV servers that are capable of sharing address books. You can also share with other people over the same local network, although those contacts don’t get synced to mobile devices.

I hardly ever have Apple’s Contacts application open on my Mac and its icon was long ago removed from my Dock. BusyContacts looks like something I’ll be using on a regular basis.

The application is available from BusyMac (www.busymac.com) for $49.99; current BusyCal owners can sidegrade BusyContacts for $29.99; or, both applications can be purchased for $79.98.

Apple Watch: Interacting with contacts is going to be a big feature of the new Apple Watch, which Apple is expected to kick off at a March 9 media event.

We know quite a bit about the company’s new wearable from the introduction in September and what Apple includes on its website (www.apple.com/watch). What we don’t know are the important finicky details, like cost: So far, the only number mentioned is a starting price of $349. Apple CEO Tim Cook has said only the Apple Watch will be available in April.

I’ll be buying one as soon as it’s available. For science, of course.

Jeff Carlson writes the Practical Mac column for Personal Technology and about technology in general for The Seattle Times and other publications. Send questions to carlsoncolumn@mac.com. More Practical Mac columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.