Archive for December, 2010

Phone Numbers

First of all, happy holidays to everyone!  I may edit this article in the near future with more screenshots to hopefully make things a bit more clear.

I have received quite a few questions about phone numbers in gContactSync so I’m hoping this can help explain what it does and why I chose to do things this way.

Address Book Window Terms

There are a few terms I use when talking about the address book:

Directory Tree (Address Books list)

This is where all your address books and mailing lists appear on the left side of the window.

AB Results Tree (Contacts list)

This is the list of contacts in the selected address book or mailing list.  This is on the top right part of the window.

Contact View Pane

The contact view pane is at the bottom right of the window with the details of the selected contact or mailing list.

Phone Number Types

Google allows multiple phone numbers and has a “type” for each phone number (Mobile, Home, Work, Pager, etc.) while Thunderbird by itself only has 5 fields, each with a predetermined type.  I personally like Google’s approach more as it is more flexible.  Some people may have multiple phones of the same type (like me since my phone I have for home doesn’t work where I go to college, and that phone has poor reception at home) and I don’t know a whole lot of people with a pager.

So, I decided to add phone number types to Thunderbird and added two phone number fields to get the total to 7.  I felt this was a reasonable limit to the number of phone numbers that might be associated with one individual, and it fit in the new/edit contact dialog well at the time.  I changed the labels to ordinal numbers (First, Second, Third, etc.)

So synchronization of phone numbers is done in the order in which they appear in Gmail.  The first goes into the top field in TB, which used to be the work number, and the type is set to whatever it was in Gmail.  This seems to work well, but, as many people have noticed, it doesn’t work as well for the phone number columns.

Quite a few people have asked me to leave the phone numbers alone, so I added a preference that will have gContactSync not use phone number types and synchronize the phone number fields as they are.  If you have more than one phone number of a given type that TB supports than only the first is synchronized.  This preference is especially useful if you use other synchronization applications in which case they probably use Thunderbird’s phone number fields the way they were intended to be used.

In 0.3 this preference is found under:

gContactSync -> Preferences -> Main -> Add phone number type fields (ignore existing field names)

You can also just edit the preference:


Once you do this I highly recommend resetting all synchronized address books:

gContactSync -> Preferences -> Advanced -> Reset All Synced ABs

With phone types

Without phone types

Notice the numbers are not in the same order, and that not all numbers are shown in Thunderbird.

Phone Number Columns

Thunderbird has a list of contacts when you click on an address book or mailing list.  You can add or remove columns easily and sort by one of them.  When Thunderbird didn’t have phone number types one could sort by work or home phone numbers, for example, and easily see the home phone number for a given contact, for example.  Now that there are types, one must select the contact and look at the contact view pane to see which phone number is which.

To make the column labels more consistent, gContactSync renames them to First Number, Second Number, etc.  If you don’t like this then uncheck:

gContactSync -> Preferences -> Interface -> Rename the phone column labels

or edit:


Mobile and Pager Numbers

There is one more issue related to phone number types and synchronizing based on index.  When the new/edit contact dialog was reworked the pager and mobile numbers were swapped relative to Thunderbird 2.  Now there is an inconsistent ordering of phone numbers as shown in this picture below:


gContactSync swaps the mobile and pager number fields if and only if phone types are enabled to make it more consistent with the old dialog and the contact view pane.  To disable this swap, manually edit the preference extensions.gContactSync.swapMobilePager to false.  This preference was added after gContactSync was translated so it isn’t in the preferences dialog.


gContactSync 0.3 Progress Update

I’m still working on gContactSync 0.3.  I had to prioritize work, job hunting, and college over gContactSync for a while.  I was the project leader and developer for two software teams for college so I was pretty busy.  I apologize for the lack of progress and responsiveness to questions and problems.  Please resend your question if I missed you.  The good news is I only have one semester left.