Even though Inbox Zero has helped me gain some control over my e-mail, I still need all the help I can get. Last week, Simon Coles sent me an invitation for Xobni – a plugin for Microsoft Outlook that offers fast search, conversation threading, a social networking platform, and many other features designed to make email better – or as Xobni (inbox spelt backwards) like to put it:
“Xobni is the Outlook plug-in that helps you organize your flooded inbox.”
It’s already becoming very useful – earlier today I couldn’t find a document that I was sure I’d been sent (and the Outlook 2007 search functionality didn’t seem to find it either). I used Xobni to highlight another e-mail from the same correspondent and there was the missing document – one of the listed files that we had exchanged – from where I could open the original e-mail, or the attachment that I was after. Xobni will pull contact information out of e-mail messages (even if I don’t have an address book entry for a particular contact) and tells me who my contacts correspond with that I do too. There’s also an analytics feature that lets me track the volume of e-mail I receive (and how long it takes me to process), ranking my correspondents and telling me what time of day they tend to send me e-mail. It can also read my calendar and automatically highlight the times that I am available over the next few days, placing the details in an message, all ready to send. There’s VOIP integration too – although clicking on the Skype logo launched Office Communicator on my system (I don’t have Skype installed but I do have OCS). Finally, Xobni has its own built in search capabilities, which I’ve used a few times this evening to track down long lost e-mails based on the snippets of information that I could recall from the recesses of my mind. In fact, the only niggle I found was in my work e-mail, where it struggles to differentiate between first and last names (our display names are formatted with the lastname in front – e.g. “Wilson Mark” – and, even though the e-mail address is something like firstname.lastname@example.org, Xobni thinks my name is “Wilson” but has no such problem for contacts with sensible display names – like “Mark Wilson” – or with punctuation in the display name – such as “Wilson, Mark”).
Xobni’s invitation-only period is over (although they are still banding around the beta tag in true web 2.0 style) and the product is available for all to download. I’ve only been using it for a few days but I’m very impressed with the information that it gives me – even so, I’ll leave the product review to those who know it best – check out the video below:
What I can say is that I reckon Xobni is pretty cool. It seems I’m not alone as Bill Gates demoed the product in his keynote at the 2008 Office Developers Conference and Xobni was selected for Microsoft’s Startup Accelerator Program but the founders are reported to have walked away from an outright takeover. If you use Microsoft Outlook for your mail, then Xobni is worth checking out and could save you a lot of time.