[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.