Xobni (‘inbox’ backwards) is an extension for Outlook that looks good and offers a lot of real conveniences that can make the e-mail jungle a little more manageable. Along with the ‘makes Outlook/e-mail better’ features, it also offers some statistics and an interesting analysis on e-mail habits.
Xobni, as a sidebar in Outlook, brings a wide-variety of services with it and bridges into a few other popular systems like Skype and Facebook. Outlook is improved the most through Xobni when it comes to dealing with contacts. It indexes your recent messages and pulls out relevant information that might be helpful to know on the fly. Xobni can also be integrated with Yahoo! Mail to search for information. You can search for people in the sidebar or relevant information is pulled up whenever you select a message. For an example of that information, it scrapes e-mail messages for phone numbers, addresses, and combines different e-mail addresses that an individual of the same name might send from. Xobni then bridges into other systems to get even more information about an individual such as pulling a picture and career information from LinkedIn and photos and status from Facebook. It can also tell you about the company they work for based on information from Hoover’s. All of the information this is based on is readily available across different e-mails, whether it stem from the e-mail address itself or a signature or the body of an e-mail. To prevent bots from making use of this to spam the other systems, a CAPTCHA must be filled out when you first start up Xobni.
While the stories are true, names and e-mail addresses have been changed to protect the innocent.
Xobni can be compressed out of the way if you need the real estate. Just hit the double-arrow at the bottom of the Xobni pane and it will scrunch out of your way. If you have Skype installed, you can initiate phone calls or chats with individuals if Xobni has been able to find out the relevant information. If it doesn’t have a person’s phone number, you can simply click the link under the account information in Actions that says ‘Request phone number.’ Clicking this link will open up a new e-mail to this individual filled in with a simple e-mail template asking for their phone number. Another action includes ‘Email John’ (or whatever their name is), which just opens a new window with their e-mail address in the To: box. The final action (which can always expand later with updates) is ‘Schedule a time with John’. This will look at your calendar and fill out an e-mail template that lists your availability within the next week. You can customize the range (e.g. 9AM-5PM) and which days to include. This is very useful for scheduling meetings with individuals not on your calendar system.
The other sections of the sidebar include a Networks group, conversation view, and files exchanged. The networks group is determined based on CC’d e-mails between people and those more frequently e-mailed are at the top. The conversation view provides quick access to e-mails between you and the selected person. Finally, the files exchanged just provides a quick summary and quicker access to files that have been attached to e-mails between you and this individual. Some of these features are similar to those found in Postbox, a different take on Thunderbird.
After a 4.8 MB download and a quick install, Outlook needs to be restarted (if it was running) and then Xobni will start up with Outlook. It has about an 18MB process that runs when Outlook runs to index messages as they come and go. If necessary, under Xobni’s Options you can throttle the service. The default is full steam ahead, but there are two lower levels that you can restrict indexing to Slow Computers (only index when idle) or Bare Bones (no indexing; manually) if system performance is taking a hit. From my experience, Xobni has had no negative impact on my machine and initial indexing went by very quickly.
The last cool feature of Xobni is its statistics and analytics. One of the tabs in the sidebar (seen in the screenshot above) can show you by hour when you tend to receive the most e-mails from a person. I have some people that tend to send e-mails when they get in the office and before they leave, so they have an interesting graph. It can also show you a running total of how many e-mails have been received and sent between you and that person.
Xobni Analytics, which you can access under the gear icon menu at the bottom of the sidebar, opens a new window and allows you to crunch some serious numbers. You can see e-mail statistics by hour, day, or on up to by year along with hourly, daily, and monthly averages. You can also look at response time statistics or unique contacts. There is plenty of information to go around. It might not be very practical, but it could help if one of your goals were to get your response time down. Other than that, it’s mostly impressive. You can also pull out Fun facts which will tell you who the people are you exchanges messages with the most or who gets the fastest response from you. These fun facts are more focused on spreading the word about Xobni and provides a details to send messages to the individual their fun fact and provide a link to Xobni.
Check out Xobni to make e-mail inside of Outlook that much more usable and interesting.
For completion sake, another similar product that is NOT free is NEO.