Xobni may be the most useful Outlook plug-in yet

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Xobni Outlook plug-in

Lifehacker posted yesterday about Xobni, a new Outlook productivity plug-in. Xobni runs as a sort of sidebar, and displays information about the people who e-mail you. Among other things, it shows related contacts, e-mails, and files. I downloaded the beta version and started using it this morning, and there are two features in particular that are just plain awesome.

First, Xobni grabs phone numbers from e-mails and displays them as a Skype link in the Xobni sidebar. I am switching my business phone to Skype, so this is incredibly useful. But even if you do not use Skype, it is pretty nice not to have to go digging for the phone number. Fair warning: it only seems to grab one phone number, which may not be the one you want.

Second, Xobni has an awesome “schedule time with” link. If you click it, it automatically generates an e-mail to the contact with your availability–pulled from your calandar–already filled in. I would hope to see some configuration options for this in the future. For example, it would be helpful to be able to select the days and define a workday vs. a non-workday scheduling activity. But still, this is pretty cool, and saves a step over TimeBridge, which I posted about yesterday.

There are other cool features, as well. I love that Xobni tells me what time of day the contact e-mails me. It feels like I am spying on my contacts’ work habits. (And sleep habits.)

The to-do list on the organizer is not very useful, since I organize by category. The stay-in-touch list is a nice idea, but not all that useful, since I don’t really want to stay in touch with most of my contacts. If I could select a few contacts with whom I actually do want to stay in touch, this would be pretty sweet.

I also do not have much use for the feature that shows what files I have exchanged, since I remove attachments as a matter of course to keep my IMAP folders slimmed down. This would probably be useful for others, however.

All in all, I am loving Xobni.

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