Organizing your contacts and business cards with mobile apps

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By: Christopher Matthews

Networking and Socializing

You’re a networker, bustling around, making contacts, collecting so many business cards. So how do you organize them? Personally, I like to digitize those business cards.

Think about it. You just made a solid new contact at a medical conference. Great!

Networking in action! It helps you to find a new job, learn about a new product or training, catch up with a colleague from years past, or maybe even learn about that new hot drug on the market.

Now you need a way to remember their info to get a hold of them later. They just said, “Here, let me give you my business card.” You graciously accept it and subsequently drop that in the free promotional materials bag right next to the 200 others that are probably meaningless.

How in the world are you expected to keep track of all these things? You could write a note on the back of the card.

Like so many others’ cards, my cards are UV coated on both sides, so you’ll need a Sharpie. If you have one, my background graphics don’t facilitate legibility. So, this tactic may not work right in all cases.

If it’s a routine card exchange, I drop it in the bag and scan it that night when I have a chance to lay out my promo materials and books, and I’m recapping the day. If I think it is really important, I make sure to scan it right away. I’m a geek! When I do that, I leave an impression on the person that I get the card from. Usually, they stop what they are doing or talking about and ask me about what I’m doing. I reply that their info is important and I don’t want it lost in the shuffle, so I’m scanning it. They ask me what I’m using, how did I find the app, and is there one for their smartphone platform. I believe it even adds to my credibility as a customer, information seeker, or colleague as I’m ensuring I don’t lose their contact info. Finally, I, like most other struggling college students in the healthcare arena out there, don’t have a bundle of cash lying around to buy every hip device and slick app on the market, so I look for free apps. Sometimes that means “ad-supported”, but I can live with that.

Are there any apps that works across multiple smartphone platforms?

Below I’ll get into my favorite app to use, but before then, I’ll discuss apps for multiple platforms.

CamCard Free: It’s one I have less experience using, so I’m not terribly sure about all it has to offer… yet. I have signed up for an account and am working on using its features, including one called an “AR Card”, which is their specialized digital business card. It can include images of your traditional business card, front and back, but it also can include digital multimedia so you can deliver a custom audio and/or video message to your card viewers. It’s called CamCard by IntSig.

I found it on Blackberry, Android, and iPhone. Curiously, they offer it for Windows 8 and RT on their website, but not for Windows Phones [scratches head]. A simple search on the Windows Phone Marketplace revealed it was available and I got it for my Windows Phone 7, so I’m sure it will also work on Windows Phone 8. I guess CamCard’s folks just overlooked adding a link to that app to their website.

Yolu Card Reader: It has a few less features than the CamCard Free app, but it is still a decent app overall. It doesn’t support more than 20 languages like some apps, but it does support English, Chinese, and Japanese. It offers two-sided card scanning, as with CamCard. Other features include the ability to drag-and-drop cards between groups and to sync to the cloud as a backup service in real-time. I also think the interface is easy to navigate and more refined, and you can create a digital business card in the app. It’s available on Android, iPhone, and even Windows Phone 8 (sorry Windows Phone 7 users).

What’s available for Android?

Many apps are available for Android. I found only one other than Yolu and CamCard that I thought was worthwhile:

CardToContact Card Reader

What I like about this card scanning app is that you can select the e-mail account you want to synchronize with–whether it is Outlook or Gmail or another account. You can also export a card to .vcf format, backup and restore cards across multiple devices, and in one of 20 languages. Although they don’t offer cloud synchronization through their own services yet, they anticipate releasing that feature soon. Presently, it appears you can save the file to your device or a memory card, so you may even be able to select the file and sync it to Dropbox, SugarSync, or SkyDrive. The app has an easy to navigate, well-laid out interface.

Apps for the iPhone?

I have to say the best app I found for collecting business cards digitally is CardMunch by LinkedIn.

It really is a shame this isn’t available for Android or any other platforms. I have used this app for a year and a half on my iPhone and one of its instant appeals is that unlike MANY other iPhone apps I found for business card collection and scanning, it didn’t have a limit to the number of cards you could scan and save per week.

Additionally, after your card is scanned and uploaded to the LinkedIn service, it is cross-checked against the LinkedIn user database and if the card matches to someone on LinkedIn, you are offered a chance to connect with them. I first used this feature at the WebEOC User Conference in Denver in 2012 and it helped me to connect to several of the presenters and people who were willing to mentor me and share their ideas and status boards. If I were job hunting or trying to connect professionally to anyone with whom I exchanged cards, this tool would have to be my most highly recommended.

The only drawbacks to this service and app is that it doesn’t offer two-sided card scanning, and processing (OCR or optical character recognition, which is what scans and “reads” the image for text) is not performed on the device at all, so you must have a connection to the internet. It’s a minor issue for me. I’ll continue to happily use the app as long as I have an iPhone (my work is supposed to replace it with an Android phone soon).

Evernote Hello

So there I was, thinking how cool it would be to make one of my BS-IT programming projects into a card scanning app for Evernote, but someone thought about it long before I did. Check out Evernote (link above) to be your all-in-one notes taking, organization tool, that now manages contacts.

How about other platforms?

I didn’t find anything else on a simple search of the Windows Phone Marketplace, but I did find one more free app on the BlackBerry World app store, called Business Cards for Blackberry 10, but since I neither own nor have access to a BlackBerry 10, I can’t tell you anything about the app.

As can be seen, I can now attend a medical conference and not have to worry about where I’ll store the business cards I collect. I can organize them and even jot notes on the contact cards that are created. I hope you find one of these free apps to be useful in helping you organize your business card collection too!

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