Data in Denial

Sync Entourage-Address BookOne of the disappointing things I noticed during last week’s Macworld Expo announcements was Microsoft’s sketchy details about their impending Microsoft Office 2004 for Macintosh release. Specifically, there was nothing said about integration of the contact management component of Entrourage with Apple’s built-in Mac OS X Address Book.

This core application is the closest thing to a system-wide contact manager you’ll find in a consumer operating system, and I’ve been patiently waiting for such a thing for years. Being a dedicated Entourage user, I’ve felt frustrated that this very robust Microsoft product can’t take advantage of the Address Book. I have no desire to manually maintain two separate contact databases — something I’ve tried to do in the past and found to require too much effort — so I’m desperate to find a way to link them.

Sync Along at Home

The best solution I’ve found is Sync Entourage-Address Book, an ambitious though notably kludgy AppleScript application by Paul Berkowitz. It manages to get the job done, but I’m still, in effect, maintaining two separate stores of contact information, and to get them to synchronize is a manual process. It’s not really enough for me. What I want is a direct link between Entourage so that data that is manipulated in either application is automatically reflected in the other.

The Impossibles

When I’ve mentioned this on various email discussion lists, I’ve been surprised to find that the response is not so much along the lines of, “Yeah! That’s what I want too!” Rather, I often get a response along the lines of, “Do you realize how difficult that would be? You probably don’t“ (or something like that) followed by a treatise on how many variables Microsoft would have to take into account in attempting something so complicated.

This completely baffles me. What I’m asking for isn’t an organ transplant — it’s making sure that the information in one address book looks like the information in the other. Yet somehow, these apologists for unambitious software engineering treat it as if it would require the efforts of the largest software operation in the world in order to get something like this done. They don’t seem to realize that Microsoft is the largest software operation in the world, apparently. And what’s more, if an enterprising AppleScript jockey can cook up a halfway decent solution all on his own, why can’t Microsoft produce something a billion times as good?

My guess is that many people have lowered their expectations for software features so far that they can’t even expect one of the basest forms of data to be entered into a computer — addresses! — to be handled in the way computers were meant to handle them — dynamically. I mean, who wouldn’t want this?


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