Hate Microsoft Outlook? How to fix top annoyances

Microsoft Outlook is big, slow and quirky. Here's how to make it work better for you.

How to fix it: Outlook 2007 generally stores its .pst files in different locations depending on whether you're using XP or Vista. In Vista, you'll find it in C: \Users\YourName\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook, where YourName is your Windows user name. In XP, it's usually in C: \Users\YourName\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook.

Of course, there's also a chance that Outlook has stored them in a different location, but at least it's easy to find their location: In Outlook, choose File -- Data File Management. You'll see a screen like the one below. Look for the Personal Folders listing for your Outlook .pst file. Next to it, you'll see its location listed.

As for all the other Outlook files, in Vista, you'll find them in C:\Users\YourName\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Outlook, and in XP they're in C:\Users\YourName\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook.

Annoyance No. 4

Outlook doesn't offer much help with e-mail overload. Outlook's limited searching, filtering and sorting functions can take you only so far if you're looking to better organize your e-mail and improve your productivity. It won't let you view entire message threads, for example, and its search features could use some help.

How to fix it: A lot of Outlook add-ins make big claims about helping with e-mail overload, and I've found one that actually delivers -- and in a big way. The free Xobni (that's inbox spelled backwards) makes it extremely easy to find e-mail, information and contacts. It may be the best Outlook add-in I've ever used.

Xobni appears as a sidebar on Outlook's right-hand side. When you read an e-mail message, the sidebar displays information about the person with whom you're communicating, including a list of all "conversations" you've had with him, a list of all files you've exchanged, the person's phone number and your "social network," which is essentially a list of shared contacts with whom the two of you have exchanged e-mails or been cc'd on.

That means for every e-mail you get, you can see a quick history of all of your previous e-mail exchanges with the sender, a tremendous timesaver when you want to review your communications with someone. Xobni also lets you review all of the e-mails in the sidebar itself by clicking on any of them, and it shows the e-mails as threaded conversations so you can trace their history.

There are also convenient icons in the sidebar screen for sending an e-mail to the person and scheduling a meeting via Outlook's calendar.

And at the top of the screen is great information for data addicts, although it's unclear how useful it actually is. You'll be shown the total number of e-mails you've exchanged with the person, the rank of the person among those you've exchanged e-mails with, and a graph displaying the hours of the day and how many e-mails you typically receive from that person during each of the hours.

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Preston Gralla

Computerworld
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