The other day I did a sync with my phone using iSync and Bluetooth. Ah, the “just works” experience for which the Mac is famed.

Until I looked at my phone. Hmm, all the phone numbers had been zapped. And so had all the contacts – about 2000 of them – in my Address Book.

No problem – I’ve got a backup of my address book. Which I made five months ago. OK, that’s annoying (actually, it’s REALLY REALLY annoying) but it’s not life-sapping. So I restored from the backup and did a sync again. Order is restored: my phone has all the numbers that it should. The calendars are there too.

And the Address Book is fi– no, wait. Any time I try to do a search, I get the SPOD. For absolutely any search. No matter how long I wait, it never finishes.

I’ve just had a look at the prefs, and checked them with Preferential Treatment (it’s nifty!), which identified that some of the system prefs were bust. OK, delete or rename those, and let’s try again. No, it won’t have it – still SPODs. OK then, delete all the address book files in my ~/Library folder and let’s try again.

Empty address book. Restore from backup. Full address book. Search? SPOD.

F***. F***. I’ve never liked the Address Book program. Compared to Palm’s one, which I used to use before Palm imploded, Address Book is clunky, slow, stupid, inflexible, and near-impossible to script (I’ve tried to script searching for contacts; it fails because you can’t search on any field in a phone field or name or address.) The trouble is that trying to sync from Palm to a phone is an even more huge pain, and I want to have my contacts dynamically updated and synchronised on my phone. So I’ve tolerated Address Book, with its multitudinous faults in its search facility (because search is what you want to do with addresses, by and large).

But it’s still rubbish. Compare the Palm search: you enter a string, hit return, it starts searching, and you get a list of contacts in a new window, for easy reading. Address Book gives you the search results in its monolithic single-window view. Single-window is soooo 1995 for something like that. And think: when you do an iTunes search, how do the results come up? In a list. Why doesn’t Address Book do that?

Anyhow, right now I’m stuck with an Address Book that doesn’t work, a list of contacts I can’t, and a head full of ire towards whatever it was that caused this glitch. The thing that irks me most, though, is that Address Book is such a rubbish solution to the task of filing and searching addresses, notwithstanding this praise from a Linux user trying to get KDE to have one as good. I’d have to say, aim higher, KDE people.

In the meantime, I will probably try to restore Address Book from CD (hello, Pacifist). But if anyone has any suggestions for how to get it to behave – and even better, to speed the hell up on searches, or point to any plugins that will make it useful, or who could kick someone at Apple to remind them that they’ve got one good search paradigm (iTunes) so it would make sense to apply it to the others – I’d be grateful.

Update: Thanks to Damien for the perspective :-).. and the suggestion from Mike (#6) (add your hard drive to “Privacy” in Spotlight to remove the search index; close the window; then open it and remove the hard drive from the “Privacy” list) seems to have sorted things nicely – Spotlight is quick again, and Address Book searches actually work. Good grief, I can even search the contents of Mail messages – which I never used to be able to.

Even so, I think that the search interface on Address Book could be substantially improved. It’s a core function.