September 5, 2008

Highrise – Track Your People


When did you say you’d call Jim back? What did the insurance agent tell you about the number of days to file a claim, and when were you going to send that report? It can be hard to remember the details of the conversations in our lives, especially with all the emails, phone calls, meetings, and conversations we may have in a day. Workers in sales have known for decades the importance of remembering the details of a past conversation to keep track of a client’s order or what happened when Bob called last Thursday. Even in other industries, though, it can be increasingly difficult but important to keep track of employees, clients, colleagues, students, and anyone else who matters to your work. There are lots of address books and downloadable sales software programs that can help keep track of the people in our lives. Those that help you track not only phone numbers and addresses but latest conversations are called customer relationship management (CRM) tools. Still, many of these programs are either limited to one computer or designed for large companies with large budgets to match. Thankfully, a new CRM tool is on the scene: a simple but robust online application called Highrise. Highrise can help small businesses, startups, families, and people with hopping social lives keep all their people and notes in one easily-accessible place. Highrise also lets you share this database with others in your company or family without worrying about synchronization or accessibility.

Highrise is simple to use. The application sets up a webpage for everyone in your contact list with contact information and records of past conversations and updates. You can view contacts according to tags, according to company, or by viewing “cases,” groups of related contacts and notes that you gather together on a single page. You can view your last conversation with a client, the latest update on that insurance claim, or details from the last email you got from your Aunt Marie. Records can include typed notes from phone conversations, emails forwarded to Highrise, and attached files or photos. You can also create tasks for a contact and receive email or text messages as reminders. Highrise’s dashboard brings all these features and your latest updates together on one page when you log in, making it easy to track and take care of your people.

Practical Uses:

  • Keep an online sales database for your small business that’s always available and up-to-date
  • Organize student and alumni information for schools and departments, including enrollment and updated contact info
  • Track conversations with insurance agents, customer service reps, the cable guy, and the holiday card list
  • Tie your to-do list with the people you’re working for or with, to have your contacts and tasks all in one place

Insider Tips:

  • Be sure to write down your Highrise “Dropbox” — an email address where you can forward messages to and from your contacts. Then, you can keep records of each conversation right within Highrise to remind you of past conversations. Also, read Highrise’s directions on how to use this address to insure that your emails reach your database safely.
  • You can cancel your subscription any time, but you might want to try the free version or one of the 30-day trial before committing to a paid plan
  • Start by importing contacts from Outlook, ACT!, or other address books, rather than manually entering each new contact
  • Use the RSS (real simple syndication) feed feature to keep an eye on dashboard updates from your colleagues in your feed reader

What we liked:

  • Highrise’s interface is so simple and intuitively designed that the learning curve is less than a bump in the road
  • Highrise’s email dropbox feature is killer—and makes it easy to keep track of important emails for a particular contact
  • You can also email a task to your Highrise account
  • With so many web 2.0 applications in beta, users have become used to period glitches in systems. Highrise stands out in its stability. As long as your internet connection is stable, Highrise is stable too
  • Accounts are password protected. Plus, Premium, and Max accounts also include SSL security (which is what online banks use)

What we didn’t like:

  • The free plan is limited to 250 contacts, two users, and just one case. Paid plans may be too steep for individuals and families.
  • You can import contacts from Mac address book, Outlook, and the sales software ACT!, but there is no way to easily import from an excel file and other non-address book formats
  • Printing contacts can be tricky (and uses lots of paper!). It would be nice to have a compactly printed option to take contact info on the go


Company Info:

  • Launched: March 2007
  • Privately Held by 37Signals
  • Headquarters: Chicago, IL
  • Founded By: Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson, Sarah Hatter, Ryan Singer, Sam Stephenson, and Jamie Dihiansan, Matt Linderman, Mark Imbriaco, Jeremy Kemper, Jeffrey Hardy, and Jamis Buck
  • Web site:


  • Multiple options are available at different price ranges, from the free (but limited) plan that allows users store up to 250 contacts to the $149/month “Max” plan designed for companies needing to track conversations and files for up to 50,000 contacts. In the middle are plans for individuals and small businesses.


  1. Didn’t know the forum rules alolwed such brilliant posts.

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