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A local (Good!) politician in my city handles nearly 200 citizens' emails each day. She has two paid assistants, but they can't handle the pressure altogether, so they've recruited volunteers to sort and summarize the emails for them.

I don't have time for that kind of voluntary work, so I asked one of the assistants if I can help improving the computer systems. She told me that their hardest problem is searching for correspondence history: They need to know if the person has already contacted them, and on which subjects.

They're using outlook for handling emails, which makes searching virtually impossible. They're probably willing to auto-forward to a gmail (or Google Apps) account if necessary, so I can have IMAP and other Google goodies.

How do I solve her problem? I thought of two approaches:

  1. Write a small python script that would retrieve all message headers using IMAP, and store it in a local sqlite table. Another module would group the contacts by sender name, and display a searchable table like this one.

  2. Find some software package that would do the job.

Any ideas?

Adam Matan

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I don't understand. Outlook works well for me for finding history. – Xavierjazz Jul 4 '10 at 22:39
Not when you have more than 40,000 messages in your inbox. – Adam Matan Jul 15 '10 at 7:34
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Why not just use Gmail? Its search capabilities are, well, it's Google, and it's web-based, so multiple people can use it simultaneously from multiple locations.

If you pay for Google Apps, you can sign up for Postini archiving, in case you're worried that people will delete (accidentally or on purpose) some correspondence.

Messages could be tagged with staffers' names to identify which people should be looking at certain messages for followup, etc.

Or, they may want/need to move to some sort of organized CRM system like Salesforce or SugarCRM to keep information about constituents, contact history, issues & resolutions, etc.

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See if this article from 2008 helps:

LookOut – Microsoft Outlook Search tool, still works

It discusses a few solutions for speeding-up Outlook searches and recommends LookOut.
The comments following the article may also be useful.

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