You’ve probably heard of Interact, the new iOS app for managing your Contacts database. It got strong writeups from David Sparks, Katie Floyd, Stephen Hackett, and Jake Underwood. And now me.

Interact comes from Greg Pierce of Agile Tortoise, creator of the universally loved Drafts and the criminally underhyped Terminology. It is, in essence, an improved and more flexible version of the Contacts app, but one that works with the Contacts database. You don’t have to create anything new to start working with Interact, and you can go back to Contacts at any time without losing any of the entries you created while working in Interact. And because it uses the Contacts database, it syncs with iCloud, so the changes you make with Interact will propagate to Contacts on your Mac.

This compatibility with the native app makes Interact very much like the many calendar apps on iOS, especially, as David pointed out in his article, Fantastical. We’ll see why in a bit.

One of the marquee features of Interact is group management. If you like to use contact groups in Contacts on the Mac but have been frustrated by the poor support for groups on iOS, Interact will seem like a breath of fresh air. In the pre-iPhone days, I used groups a fair amount because all of my emailing was done from my Mac. But as I began using my iPhone for more of my email, I fell out of the habit of using groups—it just wasn’t worth the effort to maintain groups on the Mac when their use was crippled on the iPhone. Now I can go back to using them.

Creating groups and moving people in and out of them is a breeze in Interact. But I’ll leave the explanation of how that works to David and Jake, who both describe it well. I want to talk more about what I consider Interact’s killer feature: parsing plain text into a fully formed contact entry.

Let’s say you got an email from a new client whose contact info is in a signature block but who, unfortunately, doesn’t include a link to a vCard. Instead of laboriously typing the bits of information one at a time into their respective fields, with Interact you can swipe through the entire signature block, copy it, and paste it into Interact’s Contact Scratchpad. Interact will parse the text and create a new contact entry for you with little or no extra effort on your part.

Here’s an anonymized example of a contact I added a couple of days ago. The signature block looked like this:

Robert C. Maxwell
Stevens Engineers, Inc.
1800 Old Plank Rd.
Suite 212
Palmetto Bay, FL 33157

After pasting into the Contact Scratchpad, it looked like this:

Interact default parsing

The bold parts are those that Interact understands, so you get, as with Fantastical, instant feedback on the parsing. You’ll notice that it didn’t understand the company name. This, I’ve noticed, is a deficiency in Interact. Despite clues like “Inc.” and “LLC” in the company names, it doesn’t currently do a good job of figuring out what they are.

Fortunately, it doesn’t misidentify them as something else, and it does give you, here on the scratchpad, the opportunity to identify them yourself. Swipe through to select the company name and then tap the company button under the text field. Interact will put an identifier in front of the name.

Interact with assigned company

Now you’re ready to create the contact. Tap the Next button at the top right to move to this screen.

Interact contact completion

Except for the color, this looks like the familiar layout of Contacts. You can see even more explicitly how it’s parsed the various pieces of text. Especially helpful to me is that it recognized the two-line street address. Many of my clients have two-line street addresses, so this will save me a lot of time.

Tap Create New Contact and the new entry will be added to the database and synced. It’ll be in Contacts on your Mac the next time you use it.

Update 1/16/16 9:45 PM
As pointed out by hiilppp on Twitter, a step or two can be saved by selecting the freeform contact text using Interact’s Create Contact action in the Share Sheet instead of copying, switching apps, and pasting into the Contact Scratchpad. I confess that although I read that Interact had a sharing action for this, I had forgotten to activate it.

If you want to be able to create new contacts from the Share Sheet—and you do—make sure you activate the (grayscale) action, not just the (color) extension. It’s the action that does what you want, taking you directly into the Contact Scratchpad.

Interact sharing

Thanks to hiilppp for the reminder.

So far, I haven’t found anything that I do with Contacts that I can’t do with Interact. I’ve moved Contacts off my home screen and put Interact there.