In 2000, individual corporate users sent and received about 15 e-mails a day. Today, about 133 messages are zipping back and forth. Yet despite the explosion...

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In 2000, individual corporate users sent and received about 15 e-mails a day. Today, about 133 messages are zipping back and forth.

Yet despite the explosion of e-mail, the most popular corporate e-mail program, Microsoft Outlook, hasn’t changed a whole lot. The more you use it the slower it gets, so it’s hard to search through old messages to quickly find a phone number or attachment.

Enter Xobni

Recently, a company called Xobni (“inbox” spelled backward, pronounced “zob-nee,” released a free downloadable program to help you gain control over your inbox.

Once installed, Xobni runs inside of Outlook and indexes and analyzes all of your messages to give you information about each person you’ve exchanged e-mails with.

When you highlight a message in your inbox, Xobni displays the sender’s profile in a sidebar on the right side of your inbox. Each profile is like a thick file on every person you e-mail. The more you communicate with them, the bigger the file.

Don’t have someone’s phone number? Xobni scours your address book, e-mail signatures at the bottom of messages and the text of e-mail messages to display your contact’s phone number in their profile, even if they aren’t in your address book.

Not sure of the best time to send someone an e-mail? Each profile contains a graph showing the times of day they e-mail you the most.

Need to reach someone’s assistant but can’t remember the name? Each Xobni profile lists people who are often copied on messages to you.

Want to quickly scan the flurry of messages between you and a contact, or find the first message he or she ever sent you? Each profile lists all the previous messages between you and the sender.

Can’t find a spreadsheet, photo or other attachment someone sent you? Each profile lists the files that you and the sender have exchanged. Just click on an item to open it.

Search function

Xobni’s other main feature is its search function, which is also contained in the sidebar. When you start typing in Xobni’s search box, it suggests what you might be looking for and then groups the search results into people and messages.

All of these items are displayed inside of the Xobni sidebar, allowing you to view them without leaving your inbox.

Using Xobni is like having someone whisper in your ear and fill you in when you meet new people, but can’t remember their names, how you know them or what you said to them the last time you met. Its powerful search function is much faster and more comprehensive than Outlook’s, which will save you time.

But it’s not perfect, and it could be a lot more useful. For instance, it’s nice that Xobni gives a ranking to every person you exchange e-mails with, but other than being able to tease a co-worker by yelling, “You’re No. 36,” that knowledge alone doesn’t help you manage your e-mail better.

What would be nice is if Xobni could help you put that knowledge into action, such as by letting you know when you haven’t responded to one of your top contacts in a few days. Or if it could analyze your e-mail and tell people who e-mail you how likely it is that you will get back to them the same day.

The other main flaw is that once you permanently delete a message, Xobni loses track of it. To fill in this gap, I use Google Desktop (, which is a free program that indexes everything on your computer and allows you to search through it all, including your e-mails and files you delete.

Despite these issues, Xobni is worth downloading if you are a heavy e-mailer who spends a lot of time searching for old messages, files and contacts.