Save time with Smart Groups in Contacts on the Mac

Updated June 12th, 2019.

Everyone knows you can search the Mac’s Contacts app. The problem is, when you do, you don’t get to specify where (that is, which field) to search for what you’re looking for. Plus, you can’t look for two things at once. Examples:

1. Suppose you want to find everyone in your Contacts whose phone number has a 512 area code. If you do a Find for 512 you will find everyone who has “512” anywhere in his info– maybe it’s part of his house number, maybe it’s in his zip code, maybe it’s in a note you wrote about that person. You get what you want but you also get a bunch of stuff you don’t want. Yuck.

2. Suppose you want to find all of the people who live in Santa Monica, Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Culver City, Sherman Oaks, and Studio City. That’s six searches and you can’t show the results all in one list. You get what you want but you have to search six times. Yuck again.

On top of that, next time you want to find all of the people who have phone numbers starting with 512 or who live in those Southern California cities you have to do the work again. Smart Groups is what you want. Here’s how it works.

Go to the File menu in Contacts and choose “New Smart Group…” Enter some search criterion, and notice that in many cases you will be able to not only specify that the item is found, but also to specify WHERE: which field, and “begins with” or “ends with” or “contains” etc. Click the “+” to add criteria. Give your search a name, then click OK to save it when you’re done. Your search criteria will be saved, and your “Smart Group” will show up on the far left pane of the Contacts app. It will be there every time you launch Contacts.

The “smart” part is that every time you click on that particular Smart Group, the search is applied, so the results are always current! They ought to call this “It’s a miracle, and it will save you a ton of time” Groups.

Here’s an example.

Smart Group in Contacts
Making a new Smart Group for people in the 512 area code

Here’s another. Notice how I am able to search for both “Texas” and “TX” in the same search. Notice also that I am searching for cards that match “any” (that is, either) criterion. That is an important thing and it will trip you up if you don’t watch out. If you chose “All” instead of “Any” there’s no way you’d find anything, since nobody’s state is going to be both Texas and TX at once.

Contacts Smart Group
Making a new Smart Group for people whose State includes “Texas” or “TX”

Note: this works in older versions of the macOS, so if your Mac has an Address Book instead of Contacts, it will work exactly the same way.

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