Friday, April 18, 2008

Xobni: The Smarter Inbox

Xobni is a Microsoft Outlook plug-in that makes Outlook, well, smart. For now it only works in Outlook and the Pine email client. But having used it for a couple of months now, I can't imagine going back to basic Outlook without it. And I can't wait until they roll out the plug ins for the popular web-based email service. The first time you run Xobni after installation, it takes a while to configure itself, and then ta-dah, you just get bowled over. It shows up as a third window in your inbox, to the farthest right of your screen (the version I downloaded actually had an organize tab which I really like, but the developers decided to take that away with the later versions). The Xobni box is divided into sender's info, sender's network, conversations and files exchanged. In the sender's info, you get a quick snap shot of the sender's rank in relation to your other senders, number of emails received, phone number and links to schedule time or email to sender. If you have ever exchanged email with somebody that also had the Secretary's email address, her email info would show up in the sender's network. No more hunting for that specific email that contained so and so's email address. The Conversations section tracks email similar to threading and includes people and files exchanged in the conversation. You navigate with forward and backward arrows but need not have to exit the page. The Files Exchange section tracks all the documents and files you swapped with email senders. The Xobni plug-in includes lightning fast email search (better than the native Outlook search), email analytics, ability to navigate inbox by people, quick attachment discovery, threaded conversations and extraction of phone numbers from emails. All true and works great, except for the phone extraction that still needs refining, I think. I see this as an effective productivity tool for FS employees especially as they keep up with contacts at home and abroad and keep track of numerous files exchanged within the organization. Imagine the work hours saved digging up your inbox trying to find that specific email from the Front Office; I'm not joking. But as you already know, we just cannot download plug-ins into work computers no matter how useful or intelligent they might be. So until IRM discovers this for organization-wide use, you just have to make do with this in your home computer for now. (Note: if you have not tried the home purchase program, now is the time to do it. The Microsoft Enterprise package cost only $19.95 under this program and it includes the main Office applications (check with your IPC folks on how to order). For FS bloggers: Word 2007 (included in the Enterprise pack) has a nifty option for composing your post in Word and publishing it directly to your blog account). Xobni is a San Francisco based startup that is revolutionizing the way we manage our email relationships (or that's what they say:-). According to its website, the name Xobni, which is the word "inbox" spelled backwards, is an affirmation of their mission: to "take back" the email inbox for their users. I'd say they're succeeding from my perspective, they just have not reached the "sticky" stage yet. The company is still in private beta but Bill Gates is apparently a fan and the company is rumored to be in talks with Microsoft. So better get your copy before it gets re-invented in Redmond. To get a beta invitation you can sign up directly here or get a priority invite here. Once you have Xobni, you also get 5 extra invites to spread email happiness around. Have fun!

Update: As of May 5th, Xobni has concluded its private beta and has now opened its doors to the general public. Click here to download your copy. Enjoy!

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