4. Outlook doesn't offer much help with email overload
Outlook's limited searching, filtering and sorting functions can take you only so far if you're looking to better organise your email and improve your productivity. It won't let you view entire message threads, for example, and its search features could use some help.
A lot of Outlook add-ins make big claims about helping with email overload, and I've found one that actually delivers - and in a big way. The free Xobni (that's inbox spelled backwards) makes it extremely easy to find email, information and contacts.
Xobni appears as a sidebar on Outlook's right-hand side. When you read an email message, the sidebar displays information about the person with whom you're communicating, including a list of all 'conversations' you've had with him, a list of all files you've exchanged, the person's phone number and your ‘social network', which is essentially a list of shared contacts with whom the two of you have exchanged emails or been cc'd on.
That means for every email you get, you can see a quick history of all of your previous email exchanges with the sender, a tremendous timesaver when you want to review your communications with someone. Xobni also lets you review all of the emails in the sidebar itself by clicking on any of them, and it shows the emails as threaded conversations so you can trace their history.
There are also convenient icons in the sidebar screen for sending an email to the person and scheduling a meeting via Outlook's calendar.
And at the top of the screen is great information for data addicts, although it's unclear how useful it actually is. You'll be shown the total number of emails you've exchanged with the person, the rank of the person among those you've exchanged emails with, and a graph displaying the hours of the day and how many emails you type.
In fact, statistics lovers can quickly get lost in this program; there's a Xobni Analytics feature that provides a mind-boggling amount of information about your email use, such as the average amount of time it takes you to respond to people by day, month and week. And that's just the beginning. You can, for example, even see the median time it takes you to respond to individuals, to individuals in a domain ... well, you get the picture.
Don't get this program for the analytics, though. Get it to cut through your Outlook email and information overload.