When my friend Josh Tabin President of Mosaic CFO and co-Author at StartUp Houston asked me to write a blog post about my favorite Outlook Add-ins I was only too happy to oblige. The only problem is that I really don’t use that many Outlook Add-ins so I recruited a couple of people to add their input to this post including my old friend intellectual property attorney and author N. Stephan Kinsella and my new twitter pal Henk-Jan van der Klis. There were several other folks who wanted to contribute, but were pressed for time so if you are one of them (or even if you are not) please feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts!
I’ve arranged the plugs into four categories: those I have used and can’t live without, those I have used and like, but are not must-haves, those I have used, but do not find vital and finally, those I have not used, but I know other people really like.
Outlook – Can’t live with it, can’t shoot it…
One quick note before we discuss Outlook plug ins and please don’t be shocked by this statement – Outlook is not perfect. I know it is hard to believe, but Outlook does in fact have its limitations and plug ins can some times exacerbate the situation. Here are some common issues to be on the look out for if you use Outlook plug ins:
Can’t Live Without It Plug Ins
HuntressPro – Yes, I actually use my own software. I won’t pontificate here about how much I love my own application, but I really would be lost without my Huntress Referred By button and New Appointment auto-population of company and contact names and location. For more information on HuntressPro – check out our product web site.
LinkedIn – I love my LinkedIn plug in for one main reason – the Grab button! The Grab button allows the user to highlight information in an email signature and automatically create a contact record populated with all the signature information (coming soon: How To Use the LinkedIn Grab Button). I do a lot of networking and receive a lot of introductions via email so this tool is a big time saver for me plus it helps prevent typos in entering information.
Other than the Grab button, I really don’t use any of the other LinkedIn features. I find that the browser button which launches the LinkedIn website in my Outlook Explorer window can sometimes crash Outlook so it is just as easy to launch LinkedIn inside a regular internet browser. The Dashboard is interesting, but I find that my HuntressPro call back lists are much more effective for staying in touch with people. And finally, I find some of the update features to be flawed – for example I’ve found that the tool sometimes replaces new email addresses with older ones that it found in old emails.
SimplyFile – This is one of my favorite new Outlook plug ins which I like so much that I have begun installing it for clients. SimplyFile allows the user to file emails in sub folders with one click and to automatically file sent items as you are sending them. I was actually very surprised how much time clicking saved me over dragging and dropping or using the Outlook Move to Folder function. For my clients who handle large volumes of email, this tool has given them additional hours per week from increased productivity – one client actually hugged me the day after I installed it for her because she liked it so much!
One potential issue with SimplyFile arises during mail merges which will be slowed down due to the file approval message for each sent email. Since I tend to use Constant Contact for mass emails (see Arrow-Tip #7 Mass Emailing Campaigns), this issue has only arisen once for me and it was well worth the trade off.
I Like It
OutTwit – One of my favorite social media sites is Twitter which is a micro blog site that allows users to post in 140 characters or less what they are doing at the current time (see How Can Twitter & Plaxo Help Increase Your Sales). OutTwit is an Outlook plug in that allows you to update Twitter from your Outlook Explorer tool bar as well as receive posts from other twitter users directly into your Outlook Inbox or whatever folder you designate (see Track Your OutTwit in a Separate .pst file).
I like OutTwit because it gives me a lot more flexibility in how I review tweets as well as allows me to link them to Outlook items including Contacts and Tasks. There are some other great benefits like auto-population of the Twitter update window with the user name of a selected tweet sender which helps prevent misspelling and saves time. Another benefit is the ability to use the Tiny URL function to minimize the size of URLs as you are composing a tweet instead of after it is posted (see screen print below).
The only reason I would say OutTwit isn’t a must have is that there are several other options for updating Twitter including Google Talk and the web site itself, but it is still an awfully nice convenience.
I Could Live Without It
FBLook – FBLook gives the user a quick look at what is going on with their Facebook account from the Outlook tool bar. I admit that it is kind of nice to be able to glance up and see if I have new notifications in Facebook since I don’t have Facebook set to email notifications to my Outlook email account. However, I tend to keep an internet browser up and check for updates to Facebook on a regular basis anyway so I haven’t gotten as much use out of this plug in.
Plaxo – I often longingly look at the enticing “De-Duper” button on my Plaxo tool bar and wish that it actually worked! After months of having the Plaxo tool bar installed I have yet to get it to synchronize my Outlook contacts with my Plaxo profile as I did with the original version of Plaxo years ago. So far the only feedback I’ve gotten from Plaxo support is that I need to disable my firewall which is not going to happen. Still, I hear other users talk about how much they like the Plaxo tool bar so here is my plea to the Plaxo folks – please help me!
Xobni – One thing I will say about Xobni Corporation is that they are phenomenal marketers. When I started hearing people talk about receiving their Xobni beta invitation – I wanted mine as well (see Check Out Xobni). I’ve had Xobni for several weeks now and although it has some cool functionality, I can’t really say it has done all that much for my productivity. Features that I do like include statistics regarding who I email the most – it was very interesting to see that many of my clients ranked above my beloved husband in emails sent to and received from me. But really, my Inbox is so well organized that I usually don’t have much difficulty finding emails so the advanced search functionality is somewhat lost on me.
On the other hand, I see a lot of Twitter traffic praising Xobni so I interviewed Henk-Jan van der Klis to learn more about the reasons he likes Xobni as listed below:
I Don’t Use It – But Others Swear By It
Getting Things Done (GTD) – Even though I’m not a user of the GTD plug in (I’m a FranklinCovey girl myself and have spent a lot of time customizing my Outlook Task Folder for that purpose) I’ve heard nothing buy rave reviews from those that are so I asked my good friend and avid GTD user Stephan Kinsella to list some reasons he loves the GTD plug in as quoted below.
“What I like about the Getting Things Done Outlook Add-In is that it has helped to teach me, and allowed me to implement, the GTD methodology in my professional life. Since all of my work life now centers around email and the computer, and since I’m largely paperless, I could never do the paper-based “43 Folders” version of GTD. The GTD Add-In allows me to use Outlook and email as my “trusted system” to implement the GTD approach. The Add-In is simple and seamlessly integrates with Outlook, greatly increasing its functionality. Before this Add-In, I would use my In-Box as a giant to-do list, which is unorganized and unworkable as the number of tasks multiply. Now, I use Outlook to schedule tasks in a more organized and coherent fashion. This Add-On is one of the main reasons I am still using Outlook instead of Gmail for work purposes (Gmail has its own GTD hack, but it is terrible).”
Yes, I know there are several other Outlook plug ins, but these are the ones that I have the most experience with. If you have another plug in that you love, hate or anything in between, please leave me a comment and let us all know about it. Also, please feel free to provide your take on any of the plug ins listed in this post.