- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Plaxo, the online address synchronization service, got a new look and more features yesterday. It’s not perfect just yet, but it’s close, and what it offers is impressive.

The basic Plaxo idea is unchanged: a free, online “address book for life.” If you’ve ever switched computers or digital assistants or cell phones you likely know what it’s like to lose contact information for someone, perhaps not discovering so until you wonder how to get in touch with Sarah or Joe.

By keeping your contact list in their computer, and connected via the Internet’s “cloud,” tech-speak for a worldwide network of computer access, Plaxo solved that problem. If you could get to a computer with a Web browser and Internet access, you could reach your contact list.

But what if you have an Apple Macintosh computer at work, a Microsoft Windows-running PC at home, and you are on the road with that fancy new cell phone, the one that has its own Internet connection? And what if you not only have Microsoft Outlook at home, but also use online directories and/or calendar services from Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Sterling, Va.-based AOL?

There are many, many places to store digital contact information — how do you keep it all in sync? The new version of Plaxo, a 3.0 release the company calls it, handles this. You have multiple synchronization options — Outlook, a Yahoo address book, Google’s calendar, etc. The firm says more will be online soon, including Google Mail’s address book.

Having this feature is a good thing, since it can help you keep everything together data-wise. I’ve used it between my office PC and home Mac; so far, so good. Another plus is Plaxo’s offering of a Wireless Application Protocol, or WAP, version for mobile devices such as the Palm Treo and Apple Inc.’s IPhone, which is to debut Friday. Using a Treo (I’ll test a BlackBerry Curve soon) I could call up my contact list and find the needed information. That’s very cool.

Ben Golub, Plaxo’s president, suggests that users needing to organize more than about 1,500 names should subscribe to the firm’s premium service, which costs $49.95 a year and includes 24-hour telephone support.

The Web “look” of Plaxo 3.0 is impressive. You have a list of contacts in the left column, with either a calendar, individual contact details, tasks, a calendar or notes, in the right. Along the bottom you’ll find a list of synchronization options.

I also appreciate the “de-duper” feature of Plaxo, another “premium” service, which went through the 2,800 names in my file and quickly removed 52 duplicates. In the Apple Safari Web browser, the feature hiccupped on handling six “near dupes,” as Plaxo called them, which needed editing and merging. That’s because Plaxo isn’t fully compatible with Safari just yet, but Mr. Golub said this will happen. Meanwhile, Mac and, presumably, Linux, users can find solace in the Mozilla Firefox browser.

What I said a year ago in February remains true: Plaxo is utterly invaluable if you want to keep things in order. The new version may have the odd kink that needs to be worked out, but the firm has a good track record.

Accessibility via the Internet and mobile phones is a great plus.

I can’t endorse Plaxo enough; you might find it as indispensable as I do. Details are at www.plaxo.com.

c Read Mark Kellner’s Tech Blog at www.washingtontimes.com/blogs.

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