Robert Scoble broke the news on Sunday night first as far as I can tell. The address book, calendar and task management and synchronization platform Plaxo opened their new version 3.0 beta to the public.
As a user and fan of Plaxo, did I go and tested it out right away of course. I had a whole day to play around with it and here are my comments.
The new version included a complete overhaul of the web interface, the part of Plaxo, which I used the least to be honest. The interface was user friendly before and it did not change with the new version although the number of features increased and had to fit on the page as well.
I liked and still like the synchronization features, the de-duper, the auto update and the easy web access to your contacts via cell phone the most. With Plaxo was I finally able to clean-up my address book for the first time to an extent, which I had never thought possible before. Plaxo offers plug-ins for Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express. In addition, Mac users who are using Mac OS X have a plug-in available as well. I did not see any plug-in for Linux though.
The Plaxo plug-in automatically synchronized my contacts, calendars, tasks and notes (which is new I believe). The one thing I had hoped for did not make it into V3.0 unfortunately.
I posted comments in their support forum in April, after two other people already noted the same, but the Plaxo support people did misunderstand the request first.
Plaxo synchronizes images of people, if they provided one and shared it in their Plaxo profile. Images I specify in Outlook myself on the other hand, does Plaxo ignore and not use, even for contacts who did not specify an Image at all. I am a visual person and the image for the contact helps me a lot to make associations about where we met etc. I hope that Plaxo will implement a feature like that in the near future.
Plaxo Syncs with MS Outlook, MS Outlook Express, Max OS X, Yahoo! Mail, Gmail, MSN Hotmail/Windows Live, LinkedIn (Pro Version) and Windows Mail. As I already mentioned, mobile access is also available, free (it used to be a Pro-Account feature). Users also have the option to do a one way import from the sources I mentioned above.
The De-Dupe feature was extended and does now also include calendar entries. It is still a Pro feature, but that does not cost a lot. Full access to all features is available for less than $50 per year and well worth the investment.
A cool feature, which was available in the previous version as well, was the auto update of contact information for people in your address book that also have a Plaxo account. That happens automatically and requires no configuration at all. Plaxo informs you of contacts who created an account recently to let you know about it frequently. Plaxo also reminds you of birthdays, if either you or your contact provided the birthdate.
Another feature is to send out in bulk or individually a request to contacts (Plaxo users or not) to update their information in your address book. I am sure that most of you have received such email from people in the past. I surely did, long before I started using Plaxo myself.
Plaxo supports a large number of fields for each contact in your address book(s). You can see all the available fields here. Not supported are custom fields, unfortunately, but that might comes with a future version of the service.
Another new “social” feature is what they call “Pulse”.
Pulse allows users to show their Amazon wish list, Flickr Photos and Blogs to other Plaxo members. It looks very similar to the Facebook start page where you can see what your friends did. It’s the same logic applied here. Plaxo plans to extend the “Pulse” feature and support more sources of content. It is a good idea and makes perfectly sense to me.
I already have my contacts in Plaxo and those contacts often provide information, such as the URL to their blog etc. in their profile. The Amazon.com wish list makes sense for birthday alerts. Instead of sending them an e-card via Plaxo, you might want to get your friend or contact something from his Amazon.com wish list. It is a nice touch IMO.
That version 3 is still beta is noticeable. There are delays for some of the features. What was funny was the fact that I got messages for past requests minutes after I made them and canceled them, because I did not wanted to wait. It obviously still finishes such tasks in the background automatically anyway and alerts you when it is done.
You might consider it a good thing, but I was freaked out by the pop-up messages I got much later while I was doing already something completely different.
Overall is Plaxo a service I strongly recommend. I checked out a few other similar services, including CardScan, which has some nice features as well. I like Plaxo better though. Their sync service is less intrusive and no additional application litters your notification area of your task bar.
If you did not check out Plaxo yet, now it is a good time, especially after all the new features they made available to the free version of the service. Additional reading to the Plaxo 3 launch is available at Techmeme.
Here is the video that shows the product manager from Plaxo explaining the new version.