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Issue 3.2



Issue: 3.2 (November/December 2004)
Author: Toby Rush
Article Description: No description available.
Article Length (in bytes): 3,832
Starting Page Number: 8
Article Number: 3202
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Full text of article...

Macron Software's ABDialer is an excellent example of taking a simple task and providing it to the user with a sense of style and simplicity. The program's primary purpose is to automatically dial phone numbers in the Mac OS X Address Book. One would think that a program with this goal shouldn't need five screens of preferences, and seeing so many bells and whistles might lead one to think that the program suffers from serious "feeping creaturism."

However, further investigation shows that ABDialer doesn't exceed its mandate; it simply provides a comprehensive set of options that really do make sense. In keeping with Apple's digital hub strategy, the program provides a good deal of assistance to people whose occupations revolve around two appliances: the computer and the telephone.

ABDialer's main window is very similar in purpose and structure to that of the Mac OS X Address Book. The most notable difference is that the entries are formatted to show only the contact's name (and company, if present) and phone numbers. If a contact has multiple phone numbers, all are listed with the appropriate labels (work, home, etc.). ABDialer does not allow adding of new contacts; it simply displays the data entered into the Address Book application.

The next most notable difference is the field at the bottom of the window and the bright green telephone icon alongside it. Clicking on a line in the contacts list places the selected phone number in the field, where it can be edited; clicking the telephone button dials the number.

How does it dial the number? That's where the preferences come in: ABDialer can dial over the computer's modem, if it is connected to a telephone line (a telephone connected to the same phone line is required to complete the call, of course). The program can also emit touch-tones over the computer speakers which can be picked up by a phone handset. Probably the most technologically hip dialing method, however, is the capability to dial a nearby mobile phone using Bluetooth or IrDA.

The list of features goes far beyond just dialing, however, and make ABDialer an incredibly useful and elegant piece of software:

  • The program can hide its Dock icon, making it feel more like a background application;

    Letters in phone numbers are automatically translated;

    iTunes playback can be automatically paused while dialing;

    iChat status can be automatically set when dialing;

    Calls can be logged;

    Pulse dialing can be used instead of touch-tone dialing;

    The main volume can be changed temporarily while dialing;

    Phone numbers can be analyzed so that prefixes, country codes, and area codes are stripped or added when necessary.

The program also provides a utility menu on the right side of the menu bar that places your entire address book within easy reach, grouped alphabetically if desired.

Rather than try to do too much, ABDialer proves that a large amount of functionality is not always a bad thing; the program is focused on a single goal, and meets that goal with flair.

End of article.