Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Outlook on Steroids - Xobni & ClearContext

The first part in this series I reflected upon on well I leverage Outlook and that I have just started using Xobni & ClearContext to make life easier handling email. Outlook supports "Profiles" - and I use that feature to keep my personal email inbox and mail separate from my work email. On startup I have setup Outlook to prompt me for profiles.

I have been successful to run both Xobni & ClearContext plug-ins simultaneously and so far they are behaving well. Although now Outlook is slower when starting up...

ClearContext is a big help in order to control the size of mailbox with the "Topic" and filing feature. As mail comes in I can assign topics, and once a Topic is assigned any future email on that thread is very easy to file. I can click on File Message or File Thread and the messages are moved to the appropriate folders that you had set up. What is really special is that I can setup the folders to be my PST files - and hence allowing me to archive emails based on the threads that I want to preserve.

The major downside I have with ClearContext is that it does not support multiple profiles. I avoid using the ClearContext features when I am running it in Personal profile and I have to undo the auto-topic assign feature that I use extensively on the work profile.

Overall the free version of ClearContext, which is free, adds tremendous value to manage my emails.

The Xobni plug-in supports multiple profiles. Xobni has a really cool feature not available in ClearContext - in its sidebar shows how is the sender of the email connected to you on social networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook. I am not on Facebook (so far), but I have connected with several of colleagues and professional contacts on LinkedIn because of Xobni. When I receive an email it will show if the sender is on LinkedIn or not, and if on LinkedIn how is she connected to me. Within the sidebar they have a "Add" button which when clicked will launch to open LinkedIn in your web browser and allow you send an invite to connect with the sender.

Net-net it has made my Outlook experience richer and I would recommend the free versions of the plug-ins to achieve the following:

1. Keep the Inbox uncluttered and organized using "Topic" functionality in ClearContext
2. Keep track of two of the most popular Social Networks - LinkedIn & Facebook using the functionality in Xobni.

PS: One annoying thing that I have discovered about Xobni is that it keeps "modifying" the Contacts in my address book - not the content but it appears that it is 'touching' the contacts so if you sort them in using the "Modified" field you will see that the last email from any contact appears to be modified ...

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