With an office, a home office, and a laptop that I take with me on the road, I have been looking around for quite some time for a solution that will keep my contacts, calendar, and to-dos synchronized on all machines. My Palm T/X helps, but maintaining data and dealing with e-mails was a bit cramped and frustrating with their Grafitti handwriting system, plus I wanted to maintain the same information on all machines. I tried Google Calendar and some of their other apps, but I just couldn’t get it to sync properly with Outlook on my home machine. I also opened an Exchange Server account with my Internet provider 1&1, which also allowed me to have access to my e-mail from anywhere. However, that limited me to Outlook, and I wanted something that would work with several desktop and web solutions. Then recently I found the answer.
My home broadband provider, Comcast, had purchased Plaxo to create a Universal Address Book, Calendar, etc., for its users. I started playing around with it and found it to be just the thing in many ways. First off, it downloaded and installed an Outlook sync plug-in without a hitch and proceeded to synchronize everything between my computer and its server. Not only that, it has synchronization tools for several apps including Outlook Express, Vista’s Windows Mail, Mac OS X, Windows Mobile, and Mozilla Thunderbird. Since this last app is open source and multi-platform, it also allowed me to use Plaxo on my Linux laptop. Thus this little gem is useful whether you use Windows, Mac, or Linux machines. Unfortunately, the Thunderbird version only syncs one address book, and I have several in Outlook on my Windows PC, which limits its usefulness. Hopefully this will be addressed in a future update.
Second, this is more than just an online personal information manager; it is also a social and business networking site (they call it Pulse) that actually has separate personal and professional profiles with separate security settings on who can see what information. This is quite a boon for people looking to network professionally without disclosing personal information (which is the case on sites like Facebook) and would rather not maintain a separate network for business (like LinkedIn). In looking at it, it has many of the network building features found in Facebook and LinkedIn, so it is a good hybrid.
Third, it keeps your address book updated dynamically for contacts in your address book that also use Plaxo. If one of your other Plaxo Friends changes something in their profile, it is automatically changed in your list!
Fourth, the online contact list has some enhancements to your local information. Each address book entry links to Yahoo Maps to show the location of the contact and give you the opportunity to get directions there from your home or office location (or another address that you type in). You can also place a call to that person from link in the contact info using the Jajah.com VoIP service.
Overall, this is a great tool for the road warrior or anyone working on multiple PCs.