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5/9/2011
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Review: Nimble Makes Swift Work Of Contact Management

Software as a service merges all of a user's social, email, and traditional contacts from Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Gmail, and traditional mail clients into a single, easy-to-use application.

Nimble Contact Integrates Connections Across Mail, Social Networks
Slideshow: Nimble Contact Integrates Connections Across Mail, Social Networks
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
For many people, traditional methods of contact management are dying. Being handed a business card can seem a bit anachronistic and few will take the time to enter the personal information in their contacts tools.

Today, the way that many people handle contacts (including myself) is to use social networks. If I meet with a person, I'll most likely try to connect with them on LinkedIn (if they are a business contact), Facebook (if they are a social friend), or sometimes both. By using social networks in this way, contacting someone becomes much easier and you can be fairly confident that the contact information is up-to-date.

But one weakness to this approach is that, while social networks are great for gathering contacts, they come up a little short on the management side. That's where a new beta service called Nimble Contact comes in.

Delivered via software as a service, Nimble Contact makes it possible for users to gather all of their social, email, and traditional contacts into a single application that makes it very simple to find, manage, and communicate with their contacts. Nimble Contact does this by connecting to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Gmail, and traditional mail clients.

When you first log in, Nimble Contact asks for login information for the networks that you want to use within the service. For the social networks and Gmail this is as simple as username and password, though for connecting to mail through IMAP, additional server information is required.

Once in Nimble Contact, users can access a number of functions by clicking on tabbed areas of the application. These include Contacts, Messages, Activities, and Social. The Social tab provides a combined view of the user's Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn feeds and also lets users post status updates or send messages through these services. This worked well but there are plenty of apps available today that do the same thing.

Where the real power of Nimble Contact comes is, not surprisingly, in the Contacts area of the app. Within the Contacts area I could import a number of contacts from social networks, Gmail, or by uploading CSV files and vCards. With the Gmail and social network contacts, since all of the activity happens online, Nimble handles the contact imports in the background and notifies the user when the imports are complete.

At this point, Nimble Contact provided what is quite possibly the best contact management experience I've ever had. That's because every bit of contact information available on any of my connections was combined and made easily available from within the app.

By searching on a contact's name, I could see where the information was pulled from (such as Google, LinkedIn, or Facebook) and could click through to a profile page for each contact. And this profile page offers users a near-perfect window into contact information and any interactions and communications the user has had with that contact.

From this profile page I could view every bit of information that the contact has defined on their social networks (including email addresses and job information) and could also add unique information and tags of my own. If there are other social network profiles that didn't import into the system, Nimble displays these in a right sidebar and offers the ability to merge that information into the profile. A social stream displays any recent activity that the contact has had on their social networks and Twitter.

A very nice feature in Nimble displayed all of recent messaging history between the user and the contact, including emails, tweets, Facebook messages, and scheduled meetings. This proved to be an excellent way to view communications with a contact.

It was also possible in this area to directly send a message through email or a social network. I could also associate a task or event with a contact and this task would also appear in my Activities tab.

The Activities tab in Nimble Contact is essentially a calendar view into scheduled tasks and events. The app does offer the ability to sync with the Google Calendar so that those meetings and events are also included in the Activities view. I was somewhat surprised however that Nimble did not also pull in Facebook events that the user is attending.

Within the Messages tab of Nimble Contact, users can see a combined view all correspondence, whether it is from Gmail, other email, or social networks, and it was also possible to send messages directly from Nimble and have them be sent through any of those systems.

Nimble Contact is still in beta and, while there are some areas that could use polishing and improvement, overall I was very impressed with this application. There are currently no mobile versions of Nimble, though the company said that an iPhone version is due out in the near future. Along with the free Nimble Contact app I reviewed, the company also plans to release and charge for higher-end team, sales, and customer relationship management versions of the product.


Businesses have myriad technology options for pulling together people and ideas. But getting it right still isn't easy. Also in the new all-digital issue of InformationWeek SMB: A UC champion's survival guide. Download it now. (Free registration required.)

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