Archive for the ‘X1’ Category

Xobni feedback: Almost no options at all

January 16, 2008

It looks like Xobni is following Google in many ways. The recent Gmail-like invitation is an obvious example.

The problem is that they also follow Google line of “we know better than you how our software should behave, so we won’t let you configure anything” (I already ranted about it here and there).

So currently, Xobni doesn’t let you control what PST or folders will be indexed, and what times index should not work as you want your Outlook to be more responsive, etc.

It also doesn’t show you the current index status, so you don’t know if it finished going over all your mail, and I’m still not fully convinced about it’s search capabilities, and when I want to find something in my e-mail for sure, I still turn to X1. X1 also enables me to have advanced search such as all the e-mails sent by me which have “Xobni” in their subject. This can many times come handy, where just searching for “Xobni” isn’t good enough, as it brings too many results.

Xobni can really use an Advanced Search option

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A solution to quickly moving mail items from Outlook inbox

June 12, 2007

My usual way of handling e-mails is reading them in the inbox which collects both work-related e-mails from the Exchange server and private e-mails from my Gmail inbox using SMTP and POP3., and then dragging them to the the appropriate folder in one of the PST I have.

I know that since I index my mails and it is lightning fast to find any e-mail filing each e-mail in a specific related folder is less important, but kind of used to it, and I still find it useful to be able to go to a folder and see all the mails that I decided that belong to that folder, and not all the files that match some search. This has prove itself useful mainly in customer related data, where searching the customer name would have bring way too many mails, but looking at the customer folder quickly revealed the old case I was looking for. By the way, these is one of the reason I prefer Outlook to Gmail. Outlook can easily help me categorize my mails in hundreds of hierarchical folders, where Gmail provides a flat list of labels, which might not be useful for more than a few dozens.

My problem was that whenever I wanted to move a mail to a folder, I would have to find the folder in the folders tree, in order to drag the mail into it. This might be annoying for commonly used  folders like the folder that keeps mails from CodeProject (I’m subscribed to it although I rarely develop in Microsoft technologies. I enjoy skimming through it looking at what’s new in that area. Occasionally I even find an interesting article).

When a mail is opened in Outlook editor, which has the new ribbon, the ribbon has a clever Move to Folder item which opens a list of recently used folders. However, if I don’t want to open the mail, and only want to move it to a folder from the index, I have to find the folder in the tree and drag it to it.

One solution is to use the Favorite Folders to put shortcut to commonly used folders in a fixed place, and then drag mails to that folder shortcut, and not to its location in the tree. This has two drawbacks:

  1. The list tends to grow all the time, and I end up with a big list of “Favorite Folders” which I rarely ever navigate to – I only use them as drag targets.
  2. Sometimes Outlook crashes and the list of Favorites folder is reset, and I have to start building it from scratch.

Today I came up with a new solution – use macros.

I wrote the following VBA procedure:

Private Sub MoveItemsToFolder(folderID As String)
    Dim item As MailItem
    Dim targetFolder As Folder
    ' Folder ID can be obtained by selecting the folder
    ' in Outlook and then typing in the immediate window:
    '   ?ActiveExplorer.CurrentFolder.EntryID
    Set targetFolder = GetNamespace("MAPI").GetFolderFromID(folderID)
    If ActiveExplorer.CurrentFolder = targetFolder Then
        MsgBox "You are already in '" & targetFolder.Name & "'.", vbCritical
        Exit Sub
    End If

    For Each item In ActiveExplorer.Selection
        item.Move targetFolder
    Next item
End Sub

and then I wrote small procedures like the following:

Sub MoveToPrivate()
    MoveItemsToFolder "0000000045DC3C0FFF1EA54CBAD9147BB26AF269A2800000"
End Sub

Sub MoveToCodeProject()
    MoveItemsToFolder "00000000A7E4D138E838B7489BA3F839949B055122860000"
End Sub

Then I created a new menu in Outlook toolbar, and added these procedures as items to this toolbar menu. So now, when I want to move a mail to a folder, I simply select it and click the appropriate button.

As the comment says, if a new folder is needed, I select it and open the VBA editor, and type

ActiveExplorer.CurrentFolder.EntryID

in the immediate window. I didn’t have an Outlook crash yet, so I don’t yet know if crashes that reset the favorite folders also reset toolbar customization, but at least the first problem is solved – my favorite folders only contains folder I navigate to regularly, and not all the folder I periodically get mails that should be filed under them.

Email Indexing – Moving Back to X1

April 18, 2007

Ever since I found e-mail indexing, I cannot really live without it. I store almost all my e-mails, and I need to have immediate access to it. If I can’t search my entire corpus of history e-mail and get the results, I feel somewhat crippled.

I guess my first attempt was Google Desktop Search (GDS), and then I found something that annoyed me later in other Google applications (e.g. Picasa), but was best demonstrated in GDS – Google seems to think they know what’s best for you, and let you have very little control of the process. I really didn’t like it. I think, and this is a general note about application design, that you should have an interface that on one hand is as simple as possible so dumb users can use it without much questions, but on the other hand, you should provide as much as possible choice for advanced users to change things to their liking. GDS, for example, didn’t really let me decide what mail folders or files folders I want it to index.

I also didn’t like it that GDS shows results in the browser. I’m only interested in finding e-mails, but when I do find an e-mail, I want it to open in Outlook so I can have all the Outlook behavior I’m used to.

Then I switched to Microsoft’s Windows Desktop Search (WDS), which was nice, but I couldn’t really understand when it is indexing and what. It said it has finished, but still couldn’t find a message that I was looking for. I think GDS had the same problem. I just couldn’t trust it when it said no messages met my search criteria.

And then I found X1 Enterprise Client (XEC) and really liked it – it was fast, reliable and had a nice UI. It also let me fully integrate with Outlook, e.g. open the folder in which a message reside. I’d continue using it but then I installed Office 2007 beta, and XEC didn’t work well with that version of Outlook, so I had to revert to WDS.

Today, doing a regular search (about once in a month or two) to see if XEC already supports Outlook 2007, I found out it probably does support it, so I downloaded and installed it, and once it finishes building its index, I’ll start enjoying it and getting used to be spoiled.

The problem I found in both WDS and XEC is that in doesn’t store search history (at least not that I found) so if you search for a ticket number, and then for something else, and you would like to get that number you just searched for, it won’t let you. I hope it will be added some time soon. in XEC it is a little more problematic, since because it is so fast, it can allow itself to do “find as you type”, but that means you don’t have a specific event of submitting a search in which the term you searched for should enter the history list. Nevertheless, I’m sure its developer can find a way to solve it if they really want to.