Plaxo: Start Looking for Alternatives

by Maskil on July 9, 2009

Plaxo
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In my previous life in corporate IT, I looked for a way to synchronise my growing Outlook address book between work and home. I was therefore overjoyed when I discovered Plaxo, and took advantage of my prized Windows admin privileges to install the Plaxo Toolbar for Outlook on my company desktop.

I’ve remained a fan of Plaxo through thick and thin ever since, despite countless Outlook hangs and crashes over the years, and even having my address book synched into oblivion on at least one occasion.

According to one of the latest announcements from Plaxo, the Plaxo Toolbar for Outlook will shortly become part of their premium service:

Important service alert regarding the Plaxo Toolbar for Outlook

We’re making some changes to our service in the coming weeks. The Outlook Synchronization feature, which has been a free feature of our service, will now become part of Plaxo Premium, effective July 30, 2009. This change will allow us to continue to invest in the development and support of this valuable (but high-cost) feature.

Outlook Synchronization will join other “power address book” features in the updated Plaxo Premium, alongside the Contacts De-Duper, Automated Backup and Recovery, Unlimited eCards, and VIP Support.

To ease the transition, we’re offering all current users of the Plaxo Toolbar a 20% lifetime discount on Plaxo Premium. You can upgrade to Plaxo Premium for $47.95/year, a $12.00/year savings off the $59.95 annual subscription. Sign up now to lock in your discount.

Do I find the Plaxo Toolbar for Outlook useful? Yes indeed. To the tune of USD60 per annum? No way in hell! Not even with all the other features of Plaxo Premium (most of which I’d have a hard time finding a use for) thrown in.

Generally speaking, suppliers of these cloud services tend to either:

  • Create a free product, plus additional value-added services packaged as a premium or paid service, or
  • Create a paid service, and then package a subset of the features as a free product.

Plaxo has found a third alternative: gradually cannibalise the free service by stripping out all the good stuff and moving it to the premium service. Way to go guys!

I’ve criticised Plaxo’s pricing and revenue model before, and I was extremely critical when they did away with the one, single, only unique selling point (USP) of their eCards; the fact that the e-card was sent as the body of the e-mail message, instead of as a link to a dodgy site (especially as I’d just recommended it to a family member).

Like many, I’m still tied to the old paradigm of desktop computing, where your software and data reside on your own hard disk drive. Also like many, however, I’ve started to trust my backups (and even original data) to various cloud computing services. Apart from synchronisation, this is where I saw the value in Plaxo.

So what are the alternatives to Plaxo Toolbar for Outlook?

  • Because my main e-mail account is on Gmail, I would have preferred to use Google Apps Outlook Sync for Microsoft Outlook. Unfortunately it’s only available for Premier Edition, not Standard Edition. I’m not aware of any plans to make it available to the great unwashed, and certainly not anytime soon.
  • I’ve already downloaded and installed the Microsoft Office Outlook Connector, which enables me to use my synchronised Hotmail (Windows Live) account from within Outlook. Now I just need to find out how to make the Windows Live calendar and contacts my defaults, while keeping Gmail as my default e-mail account.
  • Something like Live Mesh (Beta)? That’s another whole new learning curve.
  • Switch completely to a webmail interface. But I don’t think I’m ready for that “cold turkey” step yet…

If anyone else out there has any other suggestions, please leave a comment below.

In the meantime, I’ve just entered my first reminder in my Windows Live Calendar:

30 July 2009, Uninstall Plaxo Toolbar for Outlook!

Links/Reading/Resources:

Related posts:

Update:

Added the link to Michael Wexler/The Net Takeaway’s resource page for other Plaxo alternatives not covered here.

Another (offline) suggestion from a reader was the LinkedIn Outlook Toolbar, for those who are registered on LinkedIn.  I haven’t evaluated the tool, but it might do the job, at least on the Contacts side.  Here’s what LinkedIn has to say:

Manage your LinkedIn Contacts from Outlook

* Update your Outlook contacts with LinkedIn profile information
* Receive notifications when your contacts change their LinkedIn profiles
* See when people you e-mail frequently are not in your network

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  • http://www.nettakeaway.com/tp/ Michael Wexler

    I have the same concerns, and I've collected a list of potential replacements on my blog. Please check http://www.nettakeaway.com/tp/article/438/plaxo-n… I actually didn't include the MS Office connector, so I'll add it.

    • http://blog.maskil.info/ Maskil

      Great, thanks Michael, I’ll check out your list.

  • http://www.nettakeaway.com/tp/ Michael Wexler

    I have the same concerns, and I've collected a list of potential replacements on my blog. Please check http://www.nettakeaway.com/tp/article/438/plaxo-n… I actually didn't include the MS Office connector, so I'll add it.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Maskil Maskil

      Great, thanks Michael, I’ll check out your list.

  • Dave B

    I've been looking for the same solution myself. So far the most promising product I've found is
    http://www.easy2sync.com/en/produkte/index.php

    I haven't actually used it yet but there is a freeware edition which I'm hoping will do everything that I want it to do.

    • http://blog.maskil.info/ Maskil

      Thanks for your contribution, Dave. There’s been a great deal of interest in this topic, so any additional alternatives are welcome.

  • Dave B

    I've been looking for the same solution myself. So far the most promising product I've found is
    http://www.easy2sync.com/en/produkte/index.php

    I haven't actually used it yet but there is a freeware edition which I'm hoping will do everything that I want it to do.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Maskil Maskil

      Thanks for your contribution, Dave. There’s been a great deal of interest in this topic, so any additional alternatives are welcome.

  • Paulie

    Have you checked out http://www.unyk.com?

    • http://blog.maskil.info/ Maskil

      Thanks for the heads-up Paulie. This one is new to me, but it looks like a promising solution, at least to the Contacts part of the equation. Synchronising the Calendar will require a different solution.

  • Paulie

    Have you checked out http://www.unyk.com?

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Maskil Maskil

      Thanks for the heads-up Paulie. This one is new to me, but it looks like a promising solution, at least to the Contacts part of the equation. Synchronising the Calendar will require a different solution.

  • Arnoud
    • http://blog.maskil.info/ Maskil

      Thanks Arnoud. All suggestions are welcome. This may just be the solution for some:

      Yahoo! Autosync synchronizes the information you store with Yahoo!—in Address Book, Calendar, ToDo List, and Notepad—with your desktop personal information manager (PIM), such as Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express, or Palm Desktop. It’s an upgrade to what used to be known as Intellisync for Yahoo!

  • Arnoud
    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Maskil Maskil

      Thanks Arnoud. All suggestions are welcome. This may just be the solution for some:

      Yahoo! Autosync synchronizes the information you store with Yahoo!—in Address Book, Calendar, ToDo List, and Notepad—with your desktop personal information manager (PIM), such as Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express, or Palm Desktop. It’s an upgrade to what used to be known as Intellisync for Yahoo!

  • roberto.martins@gmail.com

    I had been using Plaxo since the beta days and it was the most useful tool I had for a long time. Everyone above is right. Let’s summarize:
    * it is a rip off to pay $60 a year (or $48 with their “generous” discount…) for something that used to be free
    * no one needs another subscription to take care of
    * 90% of your contacts are not going to pay, so you lose the major benefit: having them updated at all times
    * I am using Funambol as a free option. It’s got a funny name, but hey, it is part of the free source movement so it’s gonna be free for a long time… http://my.funambol.com/c/portal/layout?p_l_id=PUB.1001.1
    * It also syncs your mobile phone, including iPhone, BBerry, Android and Windows Mobile. Pay attention to any data costs that your carrier might have for that service if you don’t have a data plan
    * It syncs Contacts, Calendar but not Tasks.

    Of course it is not a substitute for the former Plaxo service. And I thought that one day Microsoft would buy Plaxo and embed it into Outlook… can you imagine the possibilities of that?? ALL your contacts would be Plaxo users (well, almost all)…

  • roberto.martins@gmail.com

    I had been using Plaxo since the beta days and it was the most useful tool I had for a long time. Everyone above is right. Let’s summarize:
    * it is a rip off to pay $60 a year (or $48 with their “generous” discount…) for something that used to be free
    * no one needs another subscription to take care of
    * 90% of your contacts are not going to pay, so you lose the major benefit: having them updated at all times
    * I am using Funambol as a free option. It’s got a funny name, but hey, it is part of the free source movement so it’s gonna be free for a long time… http://my.funambol.com/c/portal/layout?p_l_id=PUB.1001.1
    * It also syncs your mobile phone, including iPhone, BBerry, Android and Windows Mobile. Pay attention to any data costs that your carrier might have for that service if you don’t have a data plan
    * It syncs Contacts, Calendar but not Tasks.

    Of course it is not a substitute for the former Plaxo service. And I thought that one day Microsoft would buy Plaxo and embed it into Outlook… can you imagine the possibilities of that?? ALL your contacts would be Plaxo users (well, almost all)…

  • http://blog.maskil.info/ Maskil

    Thanks for summing up, Roberto, and for the suggestion regarding myFUNAMBOL. No one product will work for everyone, but the more choices we can highlight, the easier it will be for other users to find a Plaxo alternative that suits their needs.
    (Just as a matter of interest, although technology is not my main focus, this post is by far my most clicked-on piece.)

  • Maskil

    Thanks for summing up, Roberto, and for the suggestion regarding myFUNAMBOL. No one product will work for everyone, but the more choices we can highlight, the easier it will be for other users to find a Plaxo alternative that suits their needs.
    (Just as a matter of interest, although technology is not my main focus, this post is by far my most clicked-on piece.)

  • http://www.moorewebexposure.com/ Chris

    Great post, I am in search of a solution as well. I had not used plaxo for some time and when I finally got Outlook I wanted to sync my contacts and low and behold they are try to charge me to do it! Forget Plaxo, there must be something better out there!

  • http://blog.maskil.info/ Maskil

    Thanks for the positive feedback, Chris. Please stop by again and let us know once you’ve decided on an alternative. I’d like to update the post if it’s something that’s not already on the list; I’m sure others could benefit from your experience.

  • http://ppmartin.wordpress.com/ ppmartin

    I think that while the convenience of Plaxo Sync justifies to pay a premium, $60 per annum is indeed a little steep, particularly when I have to pay three times that amount (for three users), as there is no “family discount”.

  • http://blog.maskil.info/ Maskil

    Thanks for the feedback; good point. Plaxo – like any other business, real-world or online – has the right and the duty to make a profit for its owners/shareholders. Plaxo needs to remember, however, that it’s delivering a non-essential service, and should price accordingly. To my mind, Plaxo (and all the other useful but not essential cloud services out there) should price in such a way that the customer doesn’t need to think twice about it. At $10-20 most of us would probably reach for the plastic without a second thought. At $50-60, we’ll be asking some hard questions about what value the service adds.

  • MartinS

    I have used soocial (http://www.soocial.com) to sync my contacts and Google caleneder sync to sync calender

  • http://blog.maskil.info/ Maskil

    Thanks Martin. Although I'm not currently using Soocial, I was quite impressed with what they're offering (according to reviews I've read and the tour and other information on their website. It's just a pity they don't offer a one-stop solution for both calendar and contacts.

  • MartinS

    I have used soocial (http://www.soocial.com) to sync my contacts and Google caleneder sync to sync calender

  • http://blog.maskil.info/ Maskil

    Thanks Martin. Although I'm not currently using Soocial, I was quite impressed with what they're offering (according to reviews I've read and the tour and other information on their website). It's just a pity they don't offer a one-stop solution for both calendar and contacts.

  • BC

    I've been using DavMail (free! Google it. Should take you to sourceforge).
    It lets you use webdav with your client (e.g. Thunderbird).
    It's not a 100% in the cloud solution since it is an application that runs in the background.
    However, it'll let you get your calendar and LDAP contacts.

    I'm still looking for a 100% in the cloud solution.
    I was hoping I could use Plaxo to take my Microsoft Exchange calendar and spit it out to Google Calendar for a nice 2-way editing capability. Oh well, dreams are crushed.

    Being able to 2-way edit within Thunderbird is good enough even though all calendars are not consolidated. Adding the Google Calendars to Thunderbird gives the illusion of that happening, though.

  • Disqus

    unyk.com: Synchronization with Gmail is still “coming soon!”. Of course they only tell you AFTER you've signed up.

    Soocial.com: The limit for free sync is 250 addresses. Again, they only tell you after the whole registration process…

  • http://blog.maskil.info/ Maskil

    Agreed. I was not favourably impressed by my experience with either product.

  • http://blog.maskil.info/ Maskil

    Here’s another service to add to the list. I gather that they offer both free and premium services, with the free service being restricted to 3 connectors.

    AddressBookONE
    http://www.addressbookone.com/

  • Pingback: Intellisynch plaxo | Propowerctd

  • http://blog.maskil.info/ Maskil

    I haven’t had time to put this product through its paces, but I thought it would worthwhile to toss it into the pot:

    Scrubly Remove Duplicate Contacts and Add Friends Social Data
    http://www.scrubly.com/

    I first saw a mention of it in this TR article:

    Update your Google Contacts list with social media info
    http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/google-in-the-enterprise/update-your-google-contacts-list-with-social-media-info/

    “That’s pretty much what Scrubly is: a web-based updating service for Google Contacts. With your permission, Scrubly updates your contact list with information drawn from Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. It also consolidates duplicate contact information and deletes blank contacts. (You may manually modify Scrubly’s recommendations any time.) Scrubly writes the updated information back to your Google Contacts list.

    Scrubly charges a fee of $19.95 for a “one-time scrub” of your contacts, or $39.95 per year for an unlimited number of “scrubs” during the year. If you have fewer than 250 contacts, Scrubly is free.”

    Anyone out there taken it for a spin?

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