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I am using Exchange Online and Outlook 2010 with a very high email volume and a big Inbox. I am already using colored categories and filtering of distribution lists into special folders. I am also assigning different lifetimes to folders etc. Still my productivity (emails worked on / time interval) and reliability (not overlooking stuf) could be better.

I have identified three problems with my current setup:

  1. I am missing the "sorted Inbox" offered by Gmail. In short, the function tried to highlight individual emails (as opposed to bulk email) or emails by people who I often respond to. By looking at email classified as important by this logic, I could often find Email that I simply overlooked.

  2. The Inbox is already very large. It would be a waste of time to try to sort it completely, but it would help a lot if I could sort it not only by sender, but also by the number of emails by this sender. This would allow me to quickly reduce the total number of emails in my Inbox and delete a lot of outdated stuff.

  3. When answering emails it is often useful to immediately see all the conversation with this person. For important stuff, I have my CRM connected to Outlook, but for the day-to-day stuff I used to use Xobni for this. But Xobni became more and more ressource intensive, did not properly support my language and was in my view focussed on connecting with social networks (which I do not want to use). Is there a lightweight-alternative to Xobni, that does not build a full-text index of all email?

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2 Answers 2

I'm a bit of an inbox purist, in that I use my "Inbox" in the traditional sense--only open work requiring my immediate attention remain in the inbox, always sorted by "Received" with most recent on top of list. EVERYTHING ELSE gets deleted (touch-it-once strategy), or occassionally I will squirril away a message into a topical folder. If there is a TODO item for the future I usually drag the message to my calendar. I strive to have an empty inbox by the end of the day. I consider it a success when it can be empty hourly.

Whenever I need to review history I (usually) go to my deleted folder and sort by "From" or "Subject" to quickly bring myself back up to speed. Note that once you sort a column, you can begin typinig to quickly find the user or subject you're looking for.

I despise the "Group By" and have never seen it used well, though I have seen many people use it. If I ever see this feature used by a power user who does not suffer reliability and productivity problems directly related to this feature I will update my post.

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Thank you for the hints regarding sorting, never noticed. The empty inbox would be nice goal, but to somehow get closer to it, I need something to help me to at least roughly extract some of the more important stuff, before filing the rest into some kind of archive folder. (nubli.com seemed to do what I needed, unfortunately its dead; "live inbox" seems to have a plugin, but it is not publically downloadable and I am looking at savvybox right now. –  Martin Aug 10 '12 at 10:56

I have a few suggestions to help you with your inbox problem.

First off, I did not see any mention of personal folders files? Are you using PSTs? At my current job I have over 10,000 emails in PSTs over the past 8 months.

One thing in Outlook I have found to be useful is Search Folders (but only within a PST file). For some reason, none of my coworkers have search folders setup in Outlook. Search Folders are highly customizable, and will automatically filter email by sender, importance, emails with attachments.

In addition to search folders, I use a highly structured folder layout and some rules setup to automatically copy every email I send or receive to a PST. The folder organization i use is as follows:

2012

  • Inbox Archive
    • 01-Jan
    • 02-Feb
    • 03-Mar
    • 04-Apr
    • 05-May
    • ..
    • 12-Dec
  • Sent Archive
    • 01-Jan
    • 02-Feb
    • 03-Mar
    • 04-Apr
    • 05-May
    • ..
    • 12-Dec

Then I create rules for my inbox and sent items so that every single email that I send or receive is copied to the appropriate folder depending on what month it is. This way you can delete items from your inbox and not have to worry about not being able to find some old email, as long as you set a reminder to update your rules so the inbox/sent items are going to the correct folders, you will have a copy of everything.

In addition to my inbox/sent items PST, I have another PST called Deleted Items. When I delete any email, I move it to my deleted items PST. Keeping your inbox/sent items copy separate from your deleted items PST is recommended if you run into a situation where your primary PST gets corrupted - at least you have some form of a backup of all email.

Since you now have a PST containing all email correspondence, setup your search folders inside the inbox/sent items PST. If you configure Search Folders on your exchange inbox, all you will see is correspondence contained within your exchange inbox, sent items and conversation history (which is essentially worthless unless you archive everything inside of your exchange email inbox, which will make you unpopular with your exchange admin). Configuring your search folders is much easier than configuring mail rules for every person/group you want to have folder for.

Hope that helps!

Richie

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