Xobni: Email Made Easier Than Ever

By JR Raphael
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

Fellow Outlook users, prepare to revolutionize your email experience.

Allow me to introduce you to my new best friend and personal assistant, Xobni (pronounced ZOB-nee, and spelled like a backwards inbox). He and I just met this morning, but we’ve really hit it off.

Xobni is a powerful little tool that’ll save you time and effort in your electronic communications. It’s been under development in a limited beta release up until this week, so now’s your first chance to give it a whirl. I’ve just begun to scratch the surface of how it can help me, and I’m already blown away. Let me get you acquainted.

Easy indexing

Perhaps the most useful part of Xobni is how it indexes and threads content. Taking a cue from Gmail, the program lists emails in “conversations,” so you’ll see all the back-and-forth replies to any message together in one window within Outlook (Xobni runs as a sidebar inside the program). Having that info so readily available, without even having to navigate away from your current message, is quite a convenience.

But where Xobni one-ups Gmail is in its attachment handling. Who hasn’t needed to find an old attached file and forgotten where you saved it? When you have an email open, Xobni’s displays a box that shows you every single file you’ve ever exchanged with that person and lets you easily access them. I have no doubt this will save me on many occasions. But it’s only the beginning of what Xobni can do for your inbox.

Quick connections

The neat thing about this utility is how it logically connects everything in Outlook. Open up an email from someone, and everything you could possibly need to know about them appears in the sidebar:

  • You get all their contact info, including — here’s the best part — phone numbers extracted from their past emails. Xobni will pull their digits from their signature and save them for you, without you ever having to do a thing.
  • You get a list of people related to your sender, like coworkers or others with measurable connections. Xobni analyzes emails they’ve sent, looking at things like shared recipients, to deduce and organize this data.
  • You get a bar graph of what times of day they email you, so you can easily figure out when they’re usually at their computer and most reachable.
  • And you get a chart showing the balance of inbound and outbound messages. Think you’re emailing your boss way more than he’s emailing you? Xobni will let you know at a glance.

Xobni also has far more powerful (and far less time-consuming) searching than Outlook, plus another fun Google-esque feature: analytics. Makes you wonder why Microsoft didn’t think of all that.

Xobni is available for free downloading at the developer’s web site. The program supports Outlook 2003 or 2007 running on XP or Vista.

7 Responses to Xobni: Email Made Easier Than Ever

  1. "The program supports Outlook 2003 or 2007 running on XP or Vista."

    er no, it doesn't.

    we trialled this internally, anyone using outlook 2003 or xp and it killed outlook as soon as they recieved an incoming email, hence we ditched it. though i believe one vista running office 2007 colleague still uses it..

    • Hmm John, I'm using on Outlook 2003 / XP and it works perfectly.. Have you installed the latest built?

  2. If you use Gmail, you must install the 'Better Gmail 2' extension for Firefox. Beyond that, it is super easy to find ALL attachments by making a filter and label for…wait for it….'a t t a c h m e n t s'. So, an email comes in with an attachment and the label 'attachment' is added to it, then when you want to find an attachment you can just click the associated label. While I think it is super wizbang to have a sidebar of various statistics and demographics about my contacts, I can't think of many scenarios where that amount of wasted screen space is going to be useful for much. Who cares about the frequency distribution of times of day when a contact sent you emails?? One of those situations where because you can, doesn't make it useful. Statistics are easy to generate, providing meaningful ones at the correct time is an art.

    • Well, on a 22" widescreen monitor, the sidebar doesn't waste any space at all… There's a reason why Microsoft tried to buy the company who made this several times.. it's simply awesome..

      • typical answer, spend more money and get an even bigger, [insert technology here] solution, well I don't have a 22" monitor as my computing solution is a 15" laptop, and not everyone can afford to upgrade hardware every time a new widget is released. And answers like "its awesome" tell us nothing about what *is* actually awesome. I was commenting on the information in the review, so please, share your knowledge with us and illuminate us as to why we need this sidebar beyond what is contained within this article. Just because M$ wants to buy it, doesn't make it revolutionary or groundbreaking, since M$ has done that with hundreds of companies and products that have done little to improve the Windows user experience.

  3. Thanks for the link. I tried Xobni for a few days. The analytics are very cool. They definitely appeal to my inner geek. However, the performance of Xobni isn't great. (Yes, I know it's in Beta.) Outlook startup time is drastically slower, and Outlook runs slower during general use. (My setup is Vista SP1 + Outlook 2007 SP1.) Also, the search feature doesn't integrate with the "Search Inbox" feature in Outlook 2007. This is disappointing given how slow the MS search engine is. It's probably an Outlook limitation, but the lack of integration limits the usefulness of Xobni. I uninstalled it.

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