[qi:030] Email remains one of the most important means of communication and Microsoft Outlook is the client of choice for around 400 million computer users worldwide. Anil Dash considers it a platform in its own right, albeit with its own share of problems and vulnerabilities. Microsoft has made many improvements, but some of the best innovations around Microsoft Outlook are coming from little startups.
You know about my fondness for Xobni, the email analytical tool that can tell you amazing things about your email inbox and your email behavior. Today, I want to bring to attention three interesting add-ons that make Outlook more usable.
Boxbe: The San Francisco-based startup has come up with a Facebook-style, invite-only guest list that allows you to tightly control and manage who gets into your inbox and who gets left behind. In other words, it lets you you easily create an email guest list so that you can make sure you receive email messages from people who matter to you — friends, family, co-workers and even entire domains. It is rules-meets-spam protection-meets-social networking in an Outlook plugin.
While it sounds mundane, it is actually pretty impressive when you start using it. Boxbe also works with Yahoo Mail and Google GMail. In the case of Yahoo Mail, Boxbe uses the Yahoo Mail API and basically creates a Boxbe-folder, which allows you to carefully sift through everything, and classify it as you deem fit. Damn shame they haven’t created a Mac version of their service.
ClearContext: The company, also based in San Francisco, has developed an “inbox management” add-on that has a more project-centric view of your inbox and automatically helps you keep track of specific projects and related items such as emails, to-dos and calendar items in a highly automated manner. There is an interesting feature in this software: colleague spam.
Much of our inbox gets cluttered by inane messages on which we are copied for no logical reason. Of course, there is an increased amount of crap mail that comes from social networking sites, and it is easy to control that with ClearContext and Boxbe. I like what I have seen so far, enough to give this a week-long try. (I run Microsoft Outlook 2007 via VMWare Fusion for such trials.) If you can’t wait for my full review, then download a trial version.
SendShield: This is an interesting little plug-in: it basically eliminates the problem of sending Office files with too much information. Apparently, people send tracked changes and other comments in document attachments (and that can be quite embarrassing.) The plug-in strips out all that extra metadata when sending files like documents and spreadsheets. It is still in beta and available for download here. I have not tried this plug-in just yet, so consider this as an informational alert.
42 thoughts on “Three Cool Add-Ons for Microsoft Outlook”
Your links for ClearContext & sendshield are not working, looking at the url, you forgot the .com after clearcontext and you spelled SendShield wrong it’s “ie” not “ei”. . . .
Hope this helps.
Om, your link to ClearContext is ganked… vic
I wish someone would make this simple plugin:
How many times have you written “attached is the…” only to forget to actually attach the file?
Can someone make a plugin or rule that says if the word “attach” is in the email and there is nothing attached a popup box would come up asking if you’re sure you want to send without attaching a file…nice little reminder, you know?
Kim, there are a bunch of 3rd party add-ins that do this. Here’s one. I know I’ve seen others.
The Plaxo and LinkedIn Outlook plugins are great facilitators too.
Hey guys sorry for the broken links. I totally forgot to do a preview-link test before hitting the publish post. 🙁
Search still sux in Outlook. Lookout and Windows Desktop Search are only “OK”. Google Desktop Search is better but really, this belongs in Outlook.
I agree search still sux in Outlook. You should see how fast our search is in Xobni Insight. We’ll be able to share it with a wider audience soon.
I’m using your product Xobni – and it’s Wonderful!! good job on that one!
Really made my work on outlook more pleasant and easy!!
WOW I dint know about Outlook having tools…I get around 70-150 Emails a day that I need to answer….The inbox management system is really going to help me out a lot :)…
Thanks mate :).
What do you think of an approach like the one I wrote about? Anything useful or just hot air?
Great post, I’ve been pining for a xobni invite but didn’t know about Clearcontext and Sendshield.
And for the Facebook fans, checkout FBLook for an easy access to Facebook requests and statuses right from Outlook – http://www.TechHit.com/FBLook/ .
Yes but Lookout Search works better than the native search in Outlook 2007! That’s one reason why some folks haven’t made the move from Outlook 2003 to Outlook 2007.
I had a chance to try out SendShield. It’s not as multi-functional as ClearContext, but it does a great job of stripping out hidden / secret / unintended meta-data from the attachments. An iPod-like plug-in tool when it comes to neat little email gadgets.
Thanks for the link. I wish it didn’t cost $19.95 but what the heck I’ll give it a try.
I’ve been using the Getting Things Done plugin for about a year and a half, http://www.GettingThingsDone.com . Allows me to defer, delegate, file, snooze, add tasks, projects. It’s better than not.
Ohhh brother …
Did you get paid to write about this?
The Dutch Uncle
On your suggestion I tried out Boxbe. Very simple to configure and painless (against Yahoo at least), thanks.
I would like to think that the pay for access by company model could help reduce spam.
A friend of mine has highlighted what Seriosity are up to with the spam reduction approach.
Depends on which email app you use.
Thunderbird can do this, there are tools available from Greasemonkey to check if you use Gmail and there is some VB script available for Outlook –> http://pubs.logicalexpressions.com/Pub0009/LPMArticle.asp?ID=341
These are some cool utilities. There is another list available here.
The Calendar on Desktop is particularly cool. It allows you to have the Calendar available on your desktop with a lot of built in functionality.
OK, I’ve been using ClearContext for about a year or so and paid for upgrades from v2 to the current v4. It’s pretty good, it’s second nature now to assign topics and file email accordingly.
I tried Boxbe but stopped using it after a while.
Lookout is great for searching Outlook.
Plaxo is brilliant for syncing between my Mac/iCal/Address book/iPhone at home and Outlook on my work PC. I’ve only been using it for a week or so but it’s excellent.
But Lookout doesn’t work with Outlook 2007 or Vista properly…I tried and new tool called Lookeen and like it very much. I think it’s very similar to Lookout – but works with Vista, XP and Office 2007, 2003:
Stumbled on this blog as I was looking for a solution to an Outlook problem about Tasks. Thanks for the SendShield link! I always forget to clear Doc Properties when I send attachments so this is a very nifty tool!
One of the most recently announced plugins for Outlook is SplitEmail. It adds personalization to every day email communication. The entire concept is new and has never been done before. I am looking for some feedback from some forward thinking Outlook users. Software can be downloaded from http://www.SplitEmail.com
I have installed a dozen great plugins of which Xobni is one of them. I also built my own when the David Allen Getting Things Done Addin didn’t do the job. It’s a very simple improvement to Outlooks follow-up and reminders called Outlook Trackit.
Yeah – agreed. http://www.outlooktrackit.com/ is my savior right now. it expanded everything, and in general, made outlook more appealing to me. Now I don’t have to go to different sources, everything is kinda just there now!
Thanks bruce klein
i also tried lookeen now, because i also have vista and as you said lookout doesn´t work with vista…i´m very satisfied with lookeen and just can advise it to everybody who has problems with the lookoutsearch…just try it: http://www.lookeen.com
I tried all 3 and let me confess – all of them are massively impressive. Well, I didn’t like Sendshield too much but it still is quite useful for a few. I am impressed with the ClearContext – Boxbe combo and I am thinking of implementing it for one of the perennial problems in my org – inbox management and tracking of activities distributed to various colleages. Actually I want a system wherein all mails sent to a central email id are captured by the system and the administrator then assigns part of work to various collegues – then the admin collates the responses sent by each of these and finally sends the consolidated response to the original sender. Can someone help me build this type of system?
Anyone know of a simple way to add additional choices to the Snooze drop-down list. Like it goes from 1,2,3,4 days to 1,2 weeks. I would like to add 5,6 days (in addition to other hours, etc.). Thanks in advance!
Another good add-on is NXS-7’s Task Analytics http://task-analytics.com
You can do more with your to-do lists.
I just wanted to give the author a heads up – apparently Boxbe has taken up spamming in order to promote their anti-spam product. I and several people I know have received unsolicited emails advertising their product. When you sign up for Boxbe, they’re going to be spamming all of your contacts. You can read more about it (this is not my blog) here: http://saunderslog.com/2008/04/22/boxbes-spam-a-fatal-mistake-for-them-and-me/
I’m looking for a way to preset information and insert that into shared calendars. Something where I could check boxes for standard stuff so we don’t have to write out a bunch of basic info.
Xobni is definitely a powerful Outlook-searching tool. The Plaxo plugins are useful if you’re a contact-centric person and want to sync your data. I just found Pandali Folder Master which lets me select several Outlook folders at once to move them around.