Make Outlook Serve You Better


Q: I use Outlook to handle my e-mail, calendar and to-do list. While it serves many of my needs, I wish it could do more. For example, when someone sends me an e-mail, it’s easy to add that person to my Contacts list, but when I want to save other information that may be in that e-mail, like the phone number, business name, etc., I’ve got to type it or copy one piece of information at a time and paste them into the person’s folder. There’s got to be a better way.


A: Yes, there are better ways. But first I’ll describe the process for those who are not aware of what Outlook can do. When you receive an e-mail from a contact you want to save, place your cursor over the sender’s e-mail address, which is at the top of the e-mail page, right below the Subject line, and then right-click to open a menu (see screenshot below) ...


… click on Add to Outlook Contacts.

Or you can bypass those steps by just dragging the sender’s e-mail address directly to the Contacts folder (see screenshot below).

OK, now for the better way. There are pricey third-party applications, and you can locate them with a Google search using the words index Outlook mail. But there is one nifty program that integrates with Outlook, indexes all your e-mail for near-instant search results, extracts the sender’s name, phone number and company name, tracks any additional recipients of the person’s email messages sent to you, plus a host of other handy amenities. And it’s free.


The program, Xobni (that’s inbox spelled backward), adds a new perspective to Outlook by opening a panel to the right of the mail screen (see screenshot below). Although you can slide it out of sight when you don’t need it, I find it so useful that I keep it snuggled right next to my Reading Pane. Xobni runs on Windows XP or Vista, and it integrates with Skype’s VoIP service.


My two favorite functions: Xobni displays threads of conversations and files that you exchanged with the highlighted contact, giving you easy and instant access to the data. It also provides two template options: One creates a blank e-mail to the person highlighted. The other, coordinating with your Outlook calendar, not only creates a meeting request, but it also automatically lists all your open time slots.


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