How can I access my data on the move?
July 8, 2008 2:27 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to carry my digital address book around with me. Problem is, it's not in a standard format.

Some years ago I made the probably flawed decision to store all my contact details in a little Windows application called BusinessCards. It works absolutely beautifully, mimicking the original Windows cardfile program but with unlimited entries and the ability to paste loads of text into each file and format it in weird and wonderful ways.

However, even though the .exe can be moved around from computer to computer and the whole program can run off a memory stick, my contacts are still tied to a laptop so I have to wait for it to start up, etc. etc. Ideally, I'd like to access this data on my phone (a Nokia N95), with a fully searchable application that can also be synched with a PC.

There are currently around 2750 individual cards, each containing a varying amount of contact data, none of it in dedicated fields (name, phone, street number, etc.). What are my options? You can save the database in three formats, .bcd format (the proprietary format for the program), something called cardfile 3.0 (.crd files) and Comma Delimited (.csv files).

Does anyone have any recommendations for cardfile-type software for the Symbian S60 operating system? Can I export this data? Many thanks in advance.
posted by jonathanbell to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
CSV is probably your best bet in export formats. It's a very simple text-based format that's been around for a very long time, and even if what you end up using can't import it directly (which is unlikely), it's going to be the easiest thing for an intermediate script to massage.

You might even find that any simple text editor or viewer will be good enough for looking people up with after saving your existing database as a CSV.
posted by flabdablet at 3:01 AM on July 8, 2008

I have not done this myself but i have an idea that is worth investigating.

I agree that the .csv file format is the first step you need to take.

If you use gmail (if not you can easily sign up) gmail can import the .csv file.
I'm not sure how much of your original contact data it will pick up but probably most of it.

From now on you would edit your contacts in gmail and you could access them from any Internet connected device with a browser... theres even a mobile web access site for your phone, and also a small mobile app that runs it's own little gmail app. on your phone.

When you get a new phone, theres no hassle transferring the contacts to your new phone, you just log in to your gmail account and it's all there.

And if you one day get tired of gmail, it has all the export features you would want to move your data to a new place.

Let us know what YOUR solution is.

posted by StephenMeldalFoged at 7:16 AM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I was about to suggest Gmail as well—that's what I currently use (well, technically Google Apps for Domains Email, but same thing) to portably store my huge digital address book.
posted by limeonaire at 10:11 AM on July 8, 2008

How big is your address book? I use yahoo, but I suspect the address book application is similar. Will it grind to a halt with 2,750 contacts in it? Especially as the address line auto-predicts who you're trying to email based on the contact list.
posted by jonathanbell at 12:07 PM on July 8, 2008

none of it in dedicated fields (name, phone, street number, etc.)
The number of cards isn't going to be the problem, this issue you described above is. All 2,750 cards consist of unstructured data that are essentially separate Rich Text files. Even when you export them to .csv, I assume it's going to be a spreadsheet with all the data in one column with 2,750 rows and each cell containing text with carriage returns.

Did you use a consistent layout for all the cards? In other words, for every card is it 1) Name, 2) Phone, 3) Fax, 4) URL, 5) Address or is the data and order of the data different for every card? The contact managers in Gmail and Yahoo Mail require that the imported data be separated into columns corresponding to the type of data.
posted by junesix at 1:08 PM on July 8, 2008

Yes, I figured that might be an issue. I just did a trial run and created a csv file. Everything is sorted alphabetically (the first line in every card was an alphabetical keyword, be it a name or an organisation), but the remaining columns correspond to every carriage return. Gmail wouldn't let me import it into a spare account, so I turned it into an excel file and then accessed it via Quickoffice. It's pretty clunky, but it just about works. If anyone comes up with the ultimate cardfile for mobile that would be wonderful but until then, I'll make do with this.
posted by jonathanbell at 2:37 PM on July 8, 2008

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