I am neither a Xobni user nor a BlackBerry user (I know, heresy this close to Research in Motion’s HQ) but if you are, you should be adding the new Xobni app to your BlackBerry. Microsoft Outlook users probably already know about Xobni (inbox backwards), either their free version or Xobni Plus. It meshes with the concept I discuss in the text, which is that add-ons are going to change e-mail clients the same way they have impacted Web browsers. Xobni looks at your e-mail information – contacts, message content, attachments – and aggregates it and gives you information about it.
Now you can have that power on your BlackBerry. The Web Worker Daily blog has a great overview of what the app will do. For BlackBerry users who might not be feeling much love since Mozilla isn’t developing a version of Firefox for you, this is a nice improvement for e-mail management on the go.
Mashable’s recent post on an inbox cleanse is a great reminder that your interaction with your e-mail client is an ongoing one. They focus on your inbox and that is a great place to start. Managing your inbox is one of the biggest challenges some lawyers face in their practice communications. When you see how many lawyers are disciplined for poor client communication, you can understand why this should be a priority.
E-mail is like a garden. You subscribe to discussion lists and current awareness tools, interact with current clients and other lawyers and the court. Then someone you e-mailed copies you in on a new discussion, or sends you a joke or something else. You make an online purchase for office supplies or some new tunes, and you get the purchase acknowledgement, and perhaps follow up messages giving you the status and precise location of your purchase as it wends its way to you through meatspace.
This accretion of e-mail starts to fill out your inbox like weeds growing between the flowers you originally planted. Even when you go through an inbox cleanse, you need to be prepared to repeat the process on a periodic basis as your inbox gets overgrown.
At the same time, you may want to go through your other folders and clear out some of the detritus that has accumulated there. Identify current awareness discussions you’ve stashed away and unsubscribe from them, look for where you have filtered content out of your inbox, and clean it out of these other folders. Unsubscribe from lists that are no longer providing you with good information or discussions, and archive out your old online purchase information.
I talk in the text about search folders, and this is a great way to spontaneously get your Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird e-mail client to round up messages that may be ideal candidates for deletion. The search folder can aggregate them from across all your folders.
A constant time challenge when you are managing electronic files is how to move information quickly between two locations. Say you have your e-mail folders structured in a certain way and you also have your computer file folders organized in the same fashion, how do you quickly get content from one place to another.
Lawyer Lawrence King of Colorado posted a great tip to Technolawyer about how Microsoft Outlook users can use two utilities (one free, one US$40) from Techhit to make taking e-mail content and saving it electronically in your file system much easier. You can read his full post here (requires subscription to Technolawyer). In essence, he uses MessageSave to get the e-mail out of Outlook and QuickJump to locate the file folder into which it should be placed. Unlike normal browsing through folders, clicking down into each new one until you find the right folder, QuickJump allows you to start typing the folder name and it offers suggested folders. If you have organized your file system on your computer by client name and matter, this can be an easy way to get right to the appropriate folder.
You may already know about Techhit’s SimplyFile e-mail utility, which is mentioned in Finding and Managing Legal Information Online.
For those long-suffering Lotus Notes e-mail users who had a jones for the same functionality as Microsoft Outlook users, TechCrunch noted the arrival of a new plug-in from Gist that provides information about your e-mail contacts. As their post says, the Gist plug-in for Notes and Outlook brings the same type of contact information that can be found in Xobni.
Gist has had a Web-based service (in beta) that enables connections to your online contacts. Once you connect directly to Google Mail and social media sites, or upload contacts from your LinkedIn or SalesForce accounts, it will start to aggregate information about your contacts.
This can be a great way to mine e-mail conversations that you have had with someone. Clicking on their name, you see a list of shared contacts, correspondence with that person, and you can see just the attachments that you have shared as part of those e-mails. Because it can look beyond a single application, you can see more about your communications as well as have a richer understanding of contacts about whom you know little. It suggests network connections between you and others, suggests photographs to add to the contact record for an individual, and let’s you look at a quick “profile” of any of your contacts.
One feature I find particularly useful is the “merge” function. If you have multiple contacts from a single company and the automatic categorization has put them in two or more companies (Smith & Jones, Smithjones.com, S&J), you can select all of the companies (or if you have multiple records for an individual) and merge them into a single organization record.
There are some other features that I’m not sure quite how I’d use right now – like the “importance slider” that indicates how important someone is to you, which is great for customer relationship management (CRM) but not something I need – but just the ability to call up a person and get all of the information (and be able to deal with attachments separately!) is a great asset.
The plug-in connects your e-mail software (and data in your e-mail server) to Gist, which should make it more powerful. I will look forward to trying the Notes plug-in and seeing how it fares. It can’t make Lotus Notes any worse, at least!!