Contacts are critical. Telephone numbers and email addresses empower business on an almost hourly basis. Yet, so many Mac users suffer from bloated contact lists and address books in which users’ information is outdated, incorrect, or duplicated across several entries. When individuals must communicate quickly, it’s frustrating, time-consuming, and inefficient to have to navigate through numerous inaccurate contacts entries. Follow these practices to ensure Mac, iPad, and iPhone contacts remain reasonably current and properly synchronized across multiple devices.

Start by organizing contacts

The first step to easily navigate contacts is by sorting them by appropriate group. When you’re scrambling to obtain the telephone number for an ISP because the internet circuit powering telephone service has failed, you shouldn’t have to wade through the contacts for your plumber, auto insurance salesperson, and dog groomer.

Create new iCloud contact groups in OS X by opening Contacts, clicking File, and selecting New Group. Enter a name for the contacts group and press Enter. Then place the appropriate contacts within the group.

If your organization uses contacts administered by a Microsoft Exchange server, I recommend creating different contact groups by creating new Folders within the corresponding application client. I’ve created contact folders within Outlook on Windows, for example, then copied contacts to the folder and found the changes replicate almost instantly to my iOS devices connected to the same Exchange mailbox.

Remove duplicates

Occasional synchronization errors, the process of adding/removing devices, and simple human error all contribute to the creation of duplicate contacts. OS X Contacts can automatically seek redundant entries. To perform a check, open Contacts, select Card, and click Look For Duplicates. Contacts will display a window revealing how many duplicate cards and entries were found. Users can choose to Merge these records, which eliminates the redundant entries. A checkbox is also provided that enables merging cards possessing the same name but containing different information, such as phone numbers and addresses.

Cull contacts

Over time, address books fill with individuals who leave organizations, move into new rolls, or change industries altogether. Unfortunately, there’s no reliable automated method of updating existing entries or removing old contacts that are no longer accurate. You’re going to have to do this one the hard way: manually. Schedule a lunch at your desk maybe two to three times a year in which you sort through contact listings and remove old, obsolete, and outdated entries. The next time you’re in a hurry to locate an individual’s telephone number or email address, the process will prove a little easier as a result.

Ensure you’re syncing as intended

Occasionally, Mac users do not wish to synchronize contacts on their Mac with an iPhone or iPad. In other cases, users seek to synchronize Contacts across all their devices.

Confirm your Mac is configured to properly sync contacts by opening Contacts and selecting Preferences. Click on the Account tab to review each existing contacts mailbox and review its settings to determine whether it’s enabled. Next, open System Preferences and select iCloud. Review iCloud’s settings to ensure Contacts are selected for synchronization, assuming you wish to sync Contacts with iCloud.

To review and confirm Exchange Contacts synchronization settings, open System Preferences and select Internet Accounts. Navigate to the Exchange mailbox in question and confirm the checkbox is selected for the corresponding Contacts entry.

On iOS devices, you may confirm and set Contacts synchronization within iCloud by selecting Settings and choosing iCloud. Set Contacts to On if you wish to synchronize contacts via iCloud. Review and confirm Exchange-based contacts on iOS devices by opening Settings, choosing Mail, Contacts, Calendars, selecting the Exchange mailbox in question, and ensuring Contacts is set to synchronize.

What other tips do you have for managing contacts on your Apple devices? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.