If you open the Facebook app on your iPhone and select the friends section it will open up a list of your friends, but hidden away in the top left hand corner or here:
You will see the option to “Sync”, which means exactly what you might imagine… YES! Finally you don’t have to take photos of each of your friends for your iPhone contacts, you can just have Facebook pull down the most recent version of their profile picture:
First you need to turn it on and then select if you want it to replace existing photos, which means it will replace any photos you already have and do this each time you sync, which as you can see I’ve selected (as I like the variety that results each time I sync) or don’t if you prefer.
And then just sit back and let it do it’s thing.
Cool. And hassle free. (After all, would you have ever got round to adding all those photos anyway?)
So. Spanning Sync turned 3 last week and as I’ve been using their service to sync calendars between my many computers since it was in early beta that means I’ve had 3 years of calendar syncing bliss.
Don’t get me wrong there have been problems; as software moves through early betas there always are… but overall the service has been an incredibly good fit for my needs, infinitely superior to google’s offering.
I eulogised them in an earlier blog post, Contact Sync, but if you’ve not got round to giving their service a go and you need to sort out your calendars then I highly recommend you check them out.
Though I’m trying out Google’s sync capabilities in my latest installation its not my sync tool of choice as I’ve been syncing comprehensively since I got my iPhone. I had to find a suitable solution for managing all my contacts (986 and counting) so approximately a year ago I stumbled upon Spanning Sync, which has been taking care of my contacts and calendars ever since.
As Google’s contact API has developed, slowly I must say (why can’t most companies understand this is perhaps one of the simplest problems for them to solve that would rid their consumers of daily irritation?) it has improved and improved, but I have to say it still has some way to go. Anyway despite this being Â a critical product my impatience got the better of me earlier this year and I decided to try out the beta of version 3.
Now this should have been fine, but I was one of an unfortunate number of users that ran into a duplication bug that I just haven’t been able to shrug completely from my MBP, iMac, Mac Mini and thereby my iPhone. Now I don’t think I lost too many numbers and time machine on my iMac managed me to rescue those that I had, but it has left my contacts addresses pretty messed up.
I finally bit the bullet late this evening, after finding my mother’s address duplicated twelve times and bought a relatively new product released by the spanning sync team – their contact and calendar cleaning software. And I have to say it runs like a dream. Now I reckon it will take a good deal of passes to properly weed out these problems across all my machines, but finally I won’t be editing them manually again. Phew.
The interface for Spanning Sync Contact Cleaner is simple and straightforward:
It usefully highlights some of the problems that the google contact API has and presumably most similar contact sync systems. How can BSc be a bad suffix? How about Sir or Lady being bad prefixes? Come on. Real world here. We might not all know a Lord or Lady, but I find it particularly useful to at least be able to add a persons qualification to the end of their name, especially when I’m dealing with a professional.
It is however eminently handy to be able remove blank spaces from the end of words, to change people to companies and vice-versa when it detects an error, as well as removing duplicates properly (why Apple couldn’t have built a better system into address book for this I’m not sure). Anyway once you start to bulk up with contacts all of these problems become tiny irritants for sufferer of OCD like myself and a mostly automated system is very helpful.
At the end of all of this it might occur to any Mac Fanboys out there to ask, why not just use MobileMe? Well. I don’t like to be forced to only use Apple stuff and I’ve tended to find their software, which whilst better than Windows in almost every conceivable way, not that polished in comparison to tools specifically designed for the purpose. Plus $99 a year. Really? After I just spent Â£2k on a laptop, leased for 2 years, and you want me to pay extra. No thanks!
Oh I nearly forgot to say that there is a $5 discount if you’re already a subscriber to Spanning Sync proper! Excellent. All in all $14.99 isn’t a great price to pay to save a couple of OCD hours tonight spring cleaning and I’m sure it’ll save many more hours in the future…