Outlook 2007 with Xobni sidebar on the right
The University is currently in the process of moving to a replacement service for staff email and calendars, which are currently provided via two separate, locally-hosted applications, including Meeting Maker.
The new service, dubbed Unimail, will be provided by Brightsolid in Dundee and is built on Microsoft Exchange 2010. It will be nice to have everything in one place, and as most of the Web team have been using Microsoft Outlook since we started there won’t be too much of a learning curve.
One add-on that I’ve been using off-and-on for a year or two is Xobni, which is described as an “Outlook plugin to search people, email, and attachments instantly.“. The name, you’ll notice, is simply the word ‘inbox’ spelt backwards.
Once installed Xobni takes a few minutes indexing your email and builds up some interesting statistics about each email recipient, such as
- who you most frequently email
- what times of day you most often exchange emails
- how many emails you’ve sent and received
- how long it takes you to respond
This is the mini-stat for my boss:
What I’ve found it most useful for is quickly searching through my email. It is significantly faster than using Outlook’s built-in search.
The threaded email conversations are also really helpful. Last week I received an email from someone at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. I knew that he’d sent me emails a few days before but I couldn’t find them.
With Xobni it was simple. I selected his most recent email and Xobni showed me the entire conversation, including the messages that I couldn’t find (I’d accidentally dropped them into the wrong folder). It would have taken me ages to find those messages without Xobni.
Xobni threaded conversations, attachments, links, etc.
As you can see from the screenshot above Xobni doesn’t just group conversations. It also remembers which files and links you’ve been sent, it extracts contact information from people’s signatures, it analyses emails to see who else is copied into emails and it builds up a picture of your contacts’ actual work or social networks.
And if that’s not enough you can explicitly enter your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Hoover’s and Xing login details and Xobni will also pull in your contacts’ profile photos and latest updates so you can see who you’re emailing.
Scheduling time with my contacts is something I do all the time. Xobni helps with that too, checking my calendar to see when I’m next available. With one click Xobni gives me this to send to colleagues:
Here is my availability for the next few days. (All times are GMT Daylight Time, GMT+01:00.) Auto-generated Xobni Schedule:
Mon September 27, now to 14:30
Tue September 28, 09:15 to 10:00, 11:00 to 11:30, 12:00 to 12:30, 13:30 to 14:00, 16:00 to 17:00
Wed September 29, 09:00 to 10:00, 13:30 to 15:00
Thu September 30, 09:00 to 10:00, 10:15 to 12:15, 12:45 to 15:00, 15:30 to 17:00
Fri October 01, 09:00 to 09:30, 11:00 to 17:00
Once we’re all using the Exchange calendar Xobni will also be able to tell me when I’m already scheduled to meet with my contacts.
Outlook 2010 Social Connector
Outlook 2010, which we’ll be upgrading to at some point, has a built-in social connector which does some of the same things, but having been using the two together on my PC at home I much prefer how Xobni does it, and it’s much faster too.
Free and plus
Xobni comes in two versions: Xobni (free) and Xobni Plus (US $29.95). The paid-for version comes with more features such as a really impressive auto-suggest option when adding recipients to an email and it can search unlimited PST files (e.g. email archives).