How to Fill Your Address Book Without Lifting a Finger (Almost)

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Processing all the incoming e-mails in your inbox can sometimes be a full-time job. There are so many questions to be answered, so many tasks to be started, so much information that needs to be assimilated. And that’s without even considering the sender’s e-mail signature.

If your e-mail inbox sees a constant stream of new people (and, with it, new contact information), you might be a little overwhelmed at trying to get them all into your address book. Sure, you can simply right-click the e-mail address and at least get that information added, but what about their full name, title, company name, phone numbers, address, etc.?

Where Microsoft Outlook and Gmail leave a functionality gap, resourceful programmers often attempt to fill it. In this case, a plug-in called WriteThat.Name offers to analyze your incoming e-mails and extract that important contact information for your address book.

Unless otherwise noted below, all instructions and screenshots are for Microsoft Office 2010 for Windows.

Installation

WriteThat.Name for Microsoft Outlook is available for a free trial download at http://writethat.name (the signup for Gmail users is there as well). If you’re installing the Outlook plug-in on your local machine, it requires a Microsoft .NET installation (which the install wizard for WriteThat.Name will prompt you for if it doesn’t find it already installed). Once installed in Outlook, the plug-in immediately starts asking questions about setup:

WriteThatName-address-book-setupWriteThatName-account-setupWriteThatName-setup-complete

Although the download comes with a 30-day trial, users are prompted for a user id and password and then taken immediately to a payment page to pay $48 US for an annual license. The plug-in will still work for the trial period even if you ignore the payment page.

You can either have the extracted addresses appear in a separate address book in Outlook, or you can have them imported directly into your default address book. The separate address book sounds like a good idea, particularly as you’re getting used to the plug-in.

First Test

The WriteThat.Name plugin examines each e-mail as it comes into your inbox and attempts to extract the contact information from the e-mail signature. (If you want to go back and extract information from previously received e-mails, you’ll have to purchase a license for something called Evercontact, which currently costs $35 US.)

To test WriteThat.Name’s extraction capabilities, I sent myself a test e-mail from my Gmail account.  I included a very basic e-mail signature at the bottom of the e-mail containing my name, a mailing address, and a cell phone number. Here’s how it did:

WriteThatName-test-1

As you can see, it did pretty well with getting a name, e-mail address, and telephone number, but it was baffled by a fairly standard format United States address. I looked around the program settings and the FAQs on the website to see if there was any way to “train” the software to recognize that address format. I found nothing to indicate that was possible.

Second Test

I tried again, this time including a job title and organization but making the address a bit simpler:

WriteThatName-test-2

WriteThat.Name does well enough with names, titles, company names, and phone numbers, but mailing addresses (at least the U.S. format) seem to consistently flummox it. That said, the entries that WriteThat.Name places in your address book are editable, so you can always go back and fix those places where it failed to pick up the city and/or state name. And, as you can see above, it always embeds the original e-mail signature into the Notes section so you can see exactly what information it was extracting from.

The Verdict

If you have a lot of new people showing up in your inbox on a regular basis, and you need to be able to extract at least the name, company name, title and their phone numbers, WriteThat.Name does a respectable job of automating that process. If getting their mailing addresses is particularly important, or if you don’t have the volume of new senders to justify the annual fee, you might think twice before shelling out for WriteThat.Name.

Summary

WriteThat.Name

Reviewed by Deborah Savadra on .

Summary: WriteThat.Name expertly extracts names, emails, phone numbers, and job titles from incoming emails. Mailing addresses? Not so much.

Breakdown:

  • Price and features: 3
  • Hardware and design: 4
  • Included software: 3
  • Performance: 2

 

Overall score: 3 (out of 5)

(image:http://www.flickr.com/photos/heyrocker/2954514315/)

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  • Peggy Gruenke

    The other product available is Copy2Contact. It does not do it automatically, but it does a good job of properly mapping the fields from the signature. This brings up a pet peeve of mine – jpeg email signatures. People – you make the task of saving your contact information so difficult.

  • Marta Rossi

    Really better GlipMe: more features and doesn’t require to read my emails – http://www.glipme.com