Contact Hopping

I need to manage contacts on my iPhone a lot, usually at work when I need to quickly add someone’s name and phone number at a minimum. Apple’s Contacts app is terrible for getting contacts in quickly. Each field is separate, you can’t just paste a full address into one field, weird phone number formatting affects it, and it forces people to wait on you as you try and fail to rapidly get their information into your phone.

For a time, Greg Pierce of Agile Tortoise saved my life with Interact. Sadly, he’s since discontinued support and sale of Interact to focus on the amazingly excellent Drafts.

Interact’s most treasured feature was, for me, its brilliant Scratchpad. You could dump in or write a bunch of text and it would parse it to find a name, email address, phone number, physical address, and more. You could even help it by quickly tapping tags to insert at the beginning of a line to directly specify what the text on the line represented. Interact made getting new contacts into your Contacts data store fast and easy.

The other thing Interact brought that Apple has mind-bogglingly omitted from Contacts on iOS is contact group management. This is important to me because I like to categorize work contacts into groups, friends and family into other groups, and food (restaurants) into yet another group. Apple’s Contacts app doesn’t let you assign contacts to groups, create groups, edit groups, or do anything at all other than filter by pre-existing groups you’ve created on your Mac.

Not ideal.

Fortunately, even though Interact is now an artifact of history, help has arrived. Flexibits, makers of the popular calendar app Fantastical 2, recently introduced Cardhop for iOS.

On the surface, Cardhop for iOS is simply a beautiful way to view Contact data on iOS. Ok, but there’s already a Contacts app that comes free with iOS. Why pay $3.99 for better scenery?

The answer is that Cardhop is much more than a shiny skin on existing iOS capabilities. Cardhop does groups. Make them. Delete them. Add people to them. Remove people from them. Cardhop also brings back the equivalent of Interact’s Scratchpad, and it does it with the same natural language parsing technology Flexibits pioneered in Fantastical.

It’s glorious.

Type in or paste in names, email addresses, phone numbers, addresses, and Cardhop figures out what you want. You can create new contacts this way or update existing ones. Cardhop allows you to specify multiple numbers and addresses and have them entered as “home” or “work” appropriately, all very quickly compared to finding the right fields in Contacts and changing the labels to match the data type.

Add Contact

Interestingly, with Cardhop you can even delete fields from existing contacts by typing things like “Apple Washington Square address remove”.

In the interests of transparency, I want to clarify that adding new contacts and adding fields to contacts this way works extremely well, but attempting other activities with natural language phrases is somewhat less robust. Removing fields with commands takes some fiddling. Sometimes Cardhop just refuses to understand the same request phrasing that works fine at other times. And as shown in the photos below, you have to get your word order just right for Cardhop to grasp certain wishes.

Address Remove   Remove Address

Still, adding new contacts or adding new bits of information to existing contacts is really when you need the power of natural language parsing and intelligent data handling logic. Deleting an existing field from a contact is pretty much a two-tap operation and is usually not performed in haste as someone you’re meeting for the first time stands waiting for you to quit staring at your phone screen.

Cardhop solves a problem for me, it’s great to look at, and it comes from a known, trustworthy application developer. I think it’s a no-brainer on iOS for $4 unless you just really never need to add contacts quickly while people are waiting for you to get their number in so they can tell you their address. I find myself in those situations often enough that this app paid for itself on day one.

I’ve only scratched the surface of what Cardhop can do. David Sparks has some video tutorials of Cardhop for iOS that he created for Flexibits, and there’s also a Help Book and FAQ for the app.