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Xobni Plus Review

If your Outlook inbox gives you nightmares Xobni Plus’ advanced search features could be the solution.

Imagine being away from your Microsoft Outlook account for four months. Sounds peaceful, right? Now imagine coming back to it, only to find more than 8,500 messages. That’s the situation I faced last month after returning to eWEEK after a four-month-plus hiatus.

When I loaded Outlook 2007 on the new laptop IT gave me, more than 2 hours passed while all of the back-loaded e-mail from February through mid-June filtered into my account. I was horrified. How was I going to wade through this e-mail swamp to find important stories to link to or contacts that I needed to connect with for my reporting? I was a prime candidate for Xobni.

Xobni (inbox spelled backwards) is a free plug-in that indexes Outlook e-mail and makes it easier for users to search conversations and threads. It also let users connect with contacts through Facebook and LinkedIn, which I thought was pretty nifty when I first saw a demonstration of it last year. But I wasn’t sold on the value of the tool specifically for me because I had never let my e-mail run wild.

I thought Xobni was just for lazy slackers who couldn’t be bothered to delete their e-mails as they came in but chose to just search through them occasionally. However, two million downloads later and Xobni rolled out a “freemium” offering on 15 July, charging $29.95 (£18) for a perpetual license. Xobni Plus is tailored for individual knowledge workers and small to medium companies that may buy licenses in bulk.

When I went to install the tool for the first time, I panicked because I thought it would take forever for Xobni to index my e-mail glut. In reality it took 5 minutes of finger-tapping, none too shabby.

Once installed, Xobni Plus appeared as a collapsible sidebar to the right of my Outlook inbox, showing me profiles of the people I work with along with associated conversations I’ve had with them via Outlook.

Advanced Search

The first new feature I looked at was Xobni’s advanced search. Xobni always let users do a word query search for people or keywords in e-mail. But finding e-mails that contain a single word or name leaves users with a lot of e-mail to sift through.

The Advanced button in Xobni Plus appears under the search bar when users begin typing in a query. Clicking Advanced immediately gave me the options to search From, To and Has Attachments. Clicking the + button next to the “Has Attachments” option, added search filters for CC’d, All, With, Date, Body, Subject, Type and Folder fields. It was a big leap in efficiency, to narrow the search to find e-mails containing a particular word using these filters, which is what the tool is all about.

For this test, I searched for the term “Google,” and typed my colleague “Scott” in the “From” header. Without hitting Enter, the 54 e-mails from Scott that reference Google appeared, narrowing down the search experience. Then, I wanted to find an e-mail with a Google-related document that I’d sent to Scott awhile back. So, I adjusted the search, taking Scott’s name out of the “From” box and moving it to the “To” filter, and clicked “yes” for Has Attachments. Voila! The e-mail popped up.