Email and Contact Management: Mailbox, Rapportive, Smartr, Xobni and Yesware

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Sniff: Update… Xobni is no longer. Yahoo! bought it in 2013. Existing users can keep their software, but the rest of us are out of luck.

 

If I have to name the PC-only feature that I was most sad to leave when I switched to Mac, I’d have to say it’s Xobni.

Xobni, which is “inbox” spelled backward, is a plug-in for Microsoft Outlook that completely transformed how I worked with my email. Once you install Xobni, your Xobni dashboard appears in your inbox. When you get an email, you see all kinds of critical information about your contact, including every single email you’ve exchanged, every person who has been included in your email threads, every attachment you’ve shared. Amazing stuff. You can also see statistics that can help improve your communication techniques, such as the times of the day that your contact usually sends emails.

Another level of awesomeness is its integration into LinkedIn. You can see if your contacts are connected to LinkedIn; and if you’re not connected yet, Xobni offers a button to let you write a personal note with an invitation to connect. Xobni also has integrations with Evernote, Facebook and Salesforce.

There are plenty of other little tricks, but my favorite feature is a simple one. How many times have you gotten an email about a meeting and had to switch to your calendar to check availability? You have to switch back and forth between the inbox and the calendar, cutting and pasting phone numbers, figuring out meeting times. But when you have Xobni, the program shows the last email you viewed in the dashboard. No more flipping back and forth.

The Xobni product itself is only available for Microsoft Outlook for Windows, which is why I had to give it up. Sniff. But the company also produces a contact manager called Smartr (which is similar to another tool, Rapportive), available for Gmail as well as Android, iOS and BlackBerry devices.

If you use Gmail for business, you will love Yesware. It’s a simple add-on to your web-based Gmail inbox (Chrome and Firefox browsers) that allows you to track when people open your email. It may sound a little cyber-stalker-ish, but in practice it’s handy to make sure your proposal was received or your email server didn’t get flagged for spam again. I also appreciate the capability to create quick templates for common responses so you don’t have to retype the same “Thank you for writing” email a dozen times a month.

A study by Experian in May of 2013 revealed that we spend about an hour on our smartphones every day, with email being the most-used feature besides texting and talking; and the Mailbox app can make that time more efficient. Mailbox loads your email messages into list format then helps you sort with a swipe into piles, such as delete, save or remind me later. My biggest pet peeve is that it’s easy to misswipe, and shaking to undo that action requires one heck of a shake.

Both Mailbox and Xobni made Beth’s Top Efficiency Tools list!

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