Thursday, 25 June 2009

5 plugins that will change your outlook on Outlook

My love affair with Outlook only started when our company upgraded to Microsoft Office 2007. Before the 2007 suite I really disliked Outlook. Heck, I disliked most of the Office suite (I was a big OpenOffice + Thunderbird user for a time). But the cool integration and new layout started to grow on me. I became more and more involved in customising my experience with Outlook.

Now, I've compiled a list of the 5 "must-have" plugins for Outlook 2007. If you're a business user and you work out of Outlook, get these 5 plugins now (they're all FREE). They'll change the way you work.

  1. SpamBayes - Do you work from an Exchange Server? Yeah, me too. Does your network admin have non-cutomisable spam filtering rules? Yeah, mine too. Do you still get spam? ....Yeah, me too! SpamBayes is a semi-intelligent plugin that filters your spam. It moves suspected spam into a Junk Suspects folder and allows you to mark it Spam/Not Spam. Based on your characterisation, the program learns what sort of email you get and adapts its spam-filtering rules accordingly. The downside? This only filters spam once it reaches Outlook, which means anything that you access off of say, a BlackBerry, is still plagued.
  2. RSS Popper - This tool allows for absolute control of RSS feeds. I have more than a dozen RSS feeds that are updated constantly throughout the workday. RSS Popper allows me to receive these posts in custom Outlook folders according to a customised schedule. *note: our network admin has disabled the native Outlook RSS client, so I have no idea how it compares
  3. LinkedIn Toolbar - If you use LinkedIn (and really, who doesn't these days?), the LinkedIn Toolbar for Outlook will cut the time you spend on LinkedIn in half while still providing you with the same results. Before this toolbar, I would have to take a contact's name, open a web browser, hit linkedin.com and do a search. The toolbar allows me to do this directly in Outlook! It also allows for automatic creation of Outlook contacts from your LinkedIn contacts (and vice versa) and displays an icon on every email that you may mouse-over to see the sender's LinkedIn profile.
  4. WebEx Integration - The only tool I use more than Outlook is WebEx (maybe Excel...). WebEx is an online meeting tool that I use daily. It allows me to hold virtual meetings with teleconferencing & screensharing. The problem is, many people use Outlook for their scheduling (myself included). The WebEx Integration plugin allows you to seamlessly add a WebEx meeting to an Outlook Meeting Request. The Meeting Request goes out, WebEx auto-adds the virtual meeting info, and you're good to go! All done from your Outlook Calendar.
  5. Xobni - Xobni is an all-in-one contact manager and email search tool. It gives you detailed stats on every sender in your inbox, and can pull up past conversations, files exchanged, or contact info with the greatest of ease. It even pulls the sender's photo from Facebook/LinkedIn so you can see who's emailing you! BUT, there is a downside with Xobni: all the contact information it gathers does not sync with Outlook contacts. This means that if you use a portable device (like a BlackBerry), you need to also create all of your contacts in Outlook (and add photos, etc.)
There you have it! The 5 plugins that will change your outlook on Outlook.

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