Xobni: transform your Outlook experience

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Xobni is a free program that adds a sidebar with a slew of organizational functions to your Outlook.

Principally built around organizing your Outlook data around people (similar in many ways to the Gmail model), Xobni provides a quick way to view threaded conversations with other people, view exchanged attachment history, view contacts you might have in common with another person, perform “lightning fast” searches, view email analytics data, and other functions.

Xobni (“inbox” spelled backwards, pronounced zob-nee) is an add on that aims to provide an alternative way to access your emails and data. Although currently it is only available for Outlook (apparently the world’s most used email client), there are plans to release this for other clients in the future.

I’ve been using this for a while now, waiting for it to move beyond the “invite only” beta in order to post it on Freewaregenius, which just recently happened. You might have had a glimpse of some degree of publicity surrounding Xobni, being featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, etc., and if you were wondering whether it lives up to the hype the answer is a definite yes. Xobni to Outlook is just what the doctor prescribed; it takes a somewhat dysfunctional, top-heavy and unexciting piece of software and adds a set of functions that are innovative and exciting, but – most importantly – it is fast and it works.

Here are the top five things I like about this program:

1- People-centric organization: search for someone by name and Xobni will construct and display a “profile” for that person that includes contact info, statistics, network of contacts, and other info. It will also display the email history with that person with the most recent messages displayed on top. You will like this person-centric approach if you like and/or used to Gmail (although it doesn’t quite replicate Gmail’s “conversations”, it’s a good approximation).

2- Quick attachment discovery: search for someone and Xobni will display a history of exchanged attachments with that person (to and from) for easy access. This surprisingly useful in practice, probably more useful than you would expect at first.

3- Extremely fast search: forget about Outlook’s search; Xobni does its own indexing of your Outlook data when it is first installed and will keep all subsequently data indexed as well. The result: extremely fast searches without having to install the bloated and top heavy MS desktop search.

4- Threaded conversations: search by any topic or keyword “e.g. Project A” and Xobni will display threaded conversations that are related to your search term.

5- The user interface: the sidebar not only looks cool, but handles information in a very nice and efficient way. You cas drill down (and up) the various panes to get more information. But more importantly the sidebar provides refuge from Outlook’s overcrowded and somewhat slow information filtering and retrieval, giving the impression that you’re zipping through your data and email efficiently (which you actually are).

Other functions that should be mentioned:

  • Stats: very interesting function although of questionable practical value, Xobni gives you visual charts detailing time of day when email interchanges take place with each of your contact, the ratio of emails sent vs. received, etc.
  • Appointment scheduler: a function whereby Xobni will check your calendar for time slots when you are available and auto generate an email to the person you want to schedule and appointment with with these times listed. Marginally useful.
  • Phone numbers extracted from email: you can semi-automatically scrape off contact’s phone numbers from their emails and store them in the contact information.

Freewaregenius 5-Star Pick

The verdict: very nice add-on that significantly enhances the Outlook user experience and works extremely well. If you use Outlook you will like this one very much. Microsoft should buy this company and make Xobni an integral part of Outlook.

A video of Xobni in action:

Version Tested: 1.2.3 (build 3640) beta

Compatibility: Windows XP, Vista. Outlook 2003 or 2007 required.

Go to the Xobni home page to download the latest version (approx 2.8 megs).


 
 
 
  • zkam

    “Microsoft should buy this company and make Xobni an integral part of Outlook.”

    Actually, Microsoft DID try to buy Xobni, and was rejected:
    http://www.profy.com/2008/04/30/xobni-hubris/

    I’ve seen reports that Xobni is planning to (eventually) bring this functionality to other platforms (like GMail, Salesforce.com) as well.

  • Outstanding find. Been using this for a little while, and I am completely impressed by it.

    Gracias.

  • Jason

    Can someone who has installed this please advise the footprint it leaves? (ie, memory/CPU)

  • Jay

    Just wanted to say thanks for holding off on writing about something until it is actually available, and not just in the “private beta” period.

    Can’t tell you how many times I’ve read about something on one of the “we cover all the cool, new stuff” blogs, only to find out I can’t even get it.

    Even more infuriating is if you sign up with the company for an invitation, they view this as permission to send you junk mail about every little thing their company is doing. I didn’t agree to that. And who knows who my email address will be sold to when half these companies go bankrupt. I no longer do private betas.

    So just wanted to say that I like your site for the fact that it only writes about stuff that everyone can get. Kudos for that.

  • Samer

    @Jason: it takes up 14 megs, and is definitely worth it.

    @Jay: you’re welcome 😉

  • Craig

    Does Xobni send any information back to Xobni Corp’s servers?

  • I think it still takes a bit too much resources, but it’s been getting better with the updates

  • John

    This app is great for heavy users of Outlook. I challenge anyone to use it. Thanks Freeware Genius!!

  • taroak

    I have a request for the site. Is it possible to have a link to all the 5 star freewaregenius picks? Thanks very much I will hang up and listen to your reply on the radio.

  • Hiram Q. Pustule

    If you only download one freeware program this year, Xobni should be the one. Right from the moment of first launch, this program just blew me away with it’s just-plain downright usefulness.

    I absolutely love the Files Exchanged portion of the sidebar! How many times have I wanted to find that file that Patti Kao sent me a while back, and had to resort my Inbox by Sender, then look in both “Patti Kao” and “Kao, Patti” (because we switched from GroupWise to Exchange last year) and then poke through the lists to find every time there’s been an attachment to see if that was the right one? With Xobni, I click on any old recent e-mail from Patti, and in an instant, my Files Exchanged panel updates, and I scroll through that to find the file I wanted. Click on it, and the e-mail opens. How incredibly useful is that!

  • Dave

    meh

    I was on beta, and find that there is a lot of flash with just a little substance here. What we really need is a lightning fast search, like X1 or lookout. Features like the graph that says what time people send you mail wear out quickly, but needing to do a comprehensive boolean search for an email is much more valuable. I am waiting to see if this matures.

  • Perry1860

    Just downloaded and playing with Xobni now. A definite 10! I use Outlook constantly (real estate agent) and I would recommend it to all real estate agents who use outlook. Real time saver .

  • Colin

    I used Xobni beta and found it unusable in my circumstance. I forward emails from office to home and so under Xobni my office email address became the main contact on the front panel, statistics were skewed and Xobni didn’t capture the correct contact info.
    So, while it may be useful for some, I’ve ended up uninstalling it. Even for free, it became more trouble than help.

  • I use GetMail from http://www.searchterrain.com. It searchs for Outlook emails very fast. Uncomplicated to use.