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Supercharge Outlook with Xobni
Recently a friend in the business sent me an email suggesting I try out Xobni, a ‘must have’ plug-in for Microsoft Outlook. I always get a little skeptical about Outlook plug-ins, usually because they always end up causing my Outlook to “go funny.” Maybe there's some code Microsoft puts in the program that says, “If anyone tries to add on a piece of software that REALLY makes Outlook work well, then sabotage it!” But in this case it looks like the only quirks come during shut down, and even then I can’t be sure it’s Xobni’s fault.
I can say this: Xobni is something every busy Outlook user needs to check out!
What is Xobni? Essentially it’s an email indexer. What that means is that Xobni creates a more useful search that Microsoft’s various "Find” and “Advanced Find” functions (which are more like, “Beg” and “Really Please find it!” to most users). Xobni adds a new pane to your Outlook, so it sits in between your displayed messages and the calendar/task bar on the right side. Unlike other search tools, however, Xobni is real time. Every email that comes in is instantly added to the search index. Click on any email and Xobni immediately tells you everything relevant about the email - everything you might have needed to search for after receiving the message.
For example, if you receive an email from Amy Chorew about a seminar she is teaching with the Savannah Board of REALTORS where the host is Sally Smith, Xobni instantly pulls those connections together. In effect, it’s more than just search - it’s an instant network search for every email. When I click the email for Amy it shows her latest messages to/from me, the latest contacts that are related to her (people we have both recently corresponded to) and lists all of the recent files that have been sent/received or collaborated with from Amy. This “mesh,” or social network of data, is based upon the email sender; if I click on an email from someone else a different set of recent emails, common contacts and related files are displayed.
All at light speed, too, which is REALLY cool.
Xobni has some fun features too, such as instantly ranking each person you click on based upon most number/recent number of emails corresponded. Plus it instantly pulls out their phone number from their email signature file and makes it clickable; Skype users will love this because you can click right from the Xobni pane and Skype your contact. For those of us always offering meeting times with clients, and then other times, and then other other times because nobody’s calendars can mesh, Xobni has a nice “Schedule time with Person” function that creates a new email, looks at your Outlook for the next 5 days and instantly puts a selection of open dates and times into a message for you to finish up and send.
For geeks without customers to work with today Xobni also has a lot of tech stuff built in. You can click for reports on how many emails you get by person, hour, month, day, etc. All that kind of stuff to satiate the graph-crazed amongst us…
Back in the real world, the last item of mention is really the best: Xobni Search. When you use the search box in the Xobni pane it’s fast, accurate and multi-format. Searching for a few letters, such as “Pru,” finds emails with “pru” in them as I type, plus any contacts with those letters in it at the same time and any email subject lines with the search term. No extra windows are needed (no pop-ups) and the search happens as you type each letter - so you can add/remove letters to narrow/broaden the search as you go.
So far Xobni has been a very worthwhile plug in for Microsoft Outlook 2007. I have already saved lots of time and effort managing communications; especially finding recent email correspondence. It’s currently free although I think they should probably charge a small fee for it. For now, though, I don’t even see any ads or integrated marketing so perhaps they’re planning to charge later. In the meantime I think it’s a potential winner (hey, Microsoft, just buy these guys for a couple-a-million now and they’ll be happy and so will your users!). Check it out.