Xobni: Forget Email As You Knew It

I happened across a YouTube video of Bill Gates talking about this Microsoft Outlook plug-in called Xobni. After registering for the limited beta, I downloaded the software and started running Xobni.

Results: OMG, I'm blown away! This thing is awesome!

If you've read my blog before, you know that's an astonishing thing for me to say about an Outlook plug-in. (I HATE unnecessary plug-ins that crash and give Outlook fits.)

What's Xobni? It's Web 2.0 social networking for your email inbox. Xobni scans your Outlook PST file, and then indexes and mines it for all kinds of information. The indexing took about 10 minutes on my Windows Vista system. Xobni appears as another pane in Outlook, on the right hand side of the window. After mining all that information in your PST file, Xobni can tell you tons of stuff.

Here's what a part of the Xobni interface looks like after clicking on an email from my buddy, Alan Shimel.

Xobni window

Click on an email you've received and Xobni shows you:

  • Graph: Times during the day the sender sends you email
  • Graph: How many emails you've exchanged between each other
  • The senders ranking (I assume based on the number of emails sent/received)
  • Picture of the sender (if you load a picture into Xobni for the sender)
  • Xobni mines the senders phone number from signature blocks. If Skype is loaded you can dial Skype automatically.
  • Network of people: Xobni looks at all the email dialogs you've had and who was copied in those email chains.
  • Conversations (email) you've had with that person. There's also a slider bar to increase or decrease the level of detail show.
  • A list of attachments you've exchanged with that person
  • a super smart email search
  • and a lot more... I've just scratched the surface

It's like the Xobni team came to my house and watched how I use Outlook. My inbox is sorted by received date when going through and reading emails but I'm constantly going back and resorting by sender to find email exchanges, attachments, appointment details, etc. I also use the email search feature in Outlook 2007 a lot. Now when reading an email I just look at Xobni and pull up the email thread or attachment I'm looking for. And the search is 10x better than Outlooks search capabilities. That's cool.

Additionally, Xobni will tell you about people you exchange email with but may not have talked to recently. Maybe it's time to get back in touch? Xobni also gives you stats about the amount of email (did I really need to know that, it's kinda scary), response times, etc.

Xobni stats

So far I only have two gripes so far. Outlook must be closed when you install Xobni. The installer will close Outlook automatically for you but in my case when Outlook came back up it said the PST file had not been closed properly. (An Outlook pet peeve of mine.) Another is that you have to manually load the pictures of each of you senders. Also, the only option is to browse to an image file to load it -- I'd like to be able to paste a picture I clipped using SnagIT, a program I use a lot. Better yet, I'd rather have something like Twitter where you register and then everyone gets the same picture the sender loaded up on their account.

Here's a YouTube video demo of Xobni you should check out.

My hat's off to the Xobni team. You've done a remarkable job with this product.

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