Google, Yahoo offer online tools to keep address books current

Google and Yahoo are adding features to their address books that automatically update contact details

Google and Yahoo are both embracing the card format to help people better organize the contact information they store online.

Google is updating Contacts, which functions as an address book for communication software like Gmail and Hangouts.

The revamped Contacts, available in a preview version, will make it easier to keep track of a person's contacts by pooling information stored in various Google services, the company said in a blog post Tuesday.

Google gave Contacts an interface overhaul based on the company's material design language, which emphasizes showing information in card-like displays. This design appears in other Google products, including the Inbox mail service.

The ability to merge contact information has been improved, Google said. An updated "find duplicates" tool identifies repeat contact information and gives people the option to combine the details by clicking on a merge option.

Contacts will handle the task of making sure that a person's information is current, Google said. When users update their Google profiles to reflect a new job or home address, for example, these changes will be automatically reflected in Contacts. Finally, the cards will show a user's most recent emails and meetings with a contact.

The preview will be rolled out to Gmail users in the coming weeks, but people who are eager to test the updated service can try it out by visiting a preview website. For now, the Contacts preview isn't available to Apps users.

On Wednesday, Yahoo unveiled its own new contacts feature, which also displays information in a card format. When a user hovers over a name in an email message, a contact card will appear and show information including job title, links to social media profiles and a phone number.

This information is gathered from users' address books and their contacts' Facebook and Flickr profiles and uses technology from Xobni, which Yahoo acquired in 2013. Yahoo's cards automatically keep a contact's phone number current by searching old emails for new information.

The cards allow people to perform actions including searching for emails from contacts, emailing those people and viewing their Facebook and Flickr profiles. However, viewing Facebook information requires linking a Yahoo account to the social media site.

U.S. desktop users will gradually receive the contacts feature in the coming weeks, Yahoo said.

Fred O'Connor writes about IT careers and health IT for The IDG News Service. Follow Fred on Twitter at @fredjoconnor. Fred's e-mail address is fred_o'connor@idg.com

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Fred O'Connor

IDG News Service
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