Posts from July 2006.

ClearContext v3 Preview: Made for Outlook 2007

Expect an update on the product plan from me next week, but in the meantime we’ve posted a preview of some of our new features for 2007, complete with screen prints.  The big news is that we’ve started the testing phase of the next major release, v3, and it’s looking really, really good (if I do say so myself!).  More details to follow…

Windows Vista and Office 2007 Adoption

One more tidbit from our 2006 Email Usage Survey we thought might interest our readers, especially those folks at Microsoft working on the Windows Vista and Office 2007 teams.  This year, 90% of respondents are running Windows XP and 74% are running Outlook in some flavor (54% of the total respondents are on Outlook 2003).  38% said they plan to use Windows Vista and 42% said they plan to use Outlook 2007 within the next year.  It will be interesting to see how responses change in next year’s survey as we all adapt to these new tools.

2006 Email Usage Survey Wrap Up

Last week we posted our analysis of the results from the 2006 Email Usage Survey, concluding that people are spending more time than ever in email and taking advantage of alternate modes of access to get to their Inbox when they need to.  Here’s a link to the posts again for your reference:

2006 Email Usage Survey Overview
On the Bright Side, We’re Getting Less Spam
Email Everywhere

We also asked a series of questions proposed by Microsoft Research for assessing our respondent’s feelings of email overload.   Our CEO and founder, Deva Hazarika, has posted his analysis of these results on his new weblog, Email Dashboard.

We have posted the raw results of all of our questions here on our site.  The graphs contain some additional data not referenced in our  previous posts (41% of you report checking email “Constantly.”  Yikes!)  A permanent home for the 2006 survey results and analysis can be found here.

On the more personal side, I think these quotes best sum up our respondents’ relationship with email:

“[Email] causes ‘overload paralysis’, where the insanity of the task prevents me from even beginning it, and so it gets worse, day by day.”

“Email takes up a great deal of my time but it is important to my job.”

Our conclusions for coping are largely the same as last year.  As email becomes increasingly important and we begin to spend more time managing messages, you’re not being fair to you, your co-workers, or your customers if you don’t have a strategy for dealing with email.  If you are looking for a way to deal with the flood of messages, I urge you to follow some of the links below:

Don’t Become a Slave To Email
Total Workday Control Using Microsoft Outlook
Vacation Email Triage
See the bottom of last year’s post for additional information on coping with email.

Getting Started With ClearContext and the Total Workday Control System

Two Total Workday Control related notes:

  1. Michael Linenberger has posted detailed step by step instructions on getting started using ClearContext with the Total Workday Control System.  This is a great place to start if you are using the TWC-enabled version of ClearContext.
  2. We have added two more TWC custom email views to the product – TWC Inbox by Category and TWC Inbox by Topic.  Go to our TWC partner page for more detail.

Email Everywhere

This is continuation of our analysis of the 2006 ClearContext Email Usage Survey Results.

As email continues to increase in importance and take up more of our time, it’s no surprise that many of us are looking to additional tools for help to increase our productivity.   It’s clear from our 2006 Email Usage Survey that users are becoming constantly connected to email  – turning to webmail and mobile access in greater numbers.

Both last year and this year, we asked how people access their business and personal email – via POP, Exchange, Webmail, etc..  The business mail numbers were virtually unchanged, with the bulk of our respondents getting their business email via Exchange (54%).  Of note, however, is that personal webmail use increased more than 25% over last year:


It comes as no surprise, then, that usage of the three major  webmail providers up across the board:


Both Yahoo and Google almost doubled in the number of users – though at the time of our 2005 survey, Gmail was a relatively new product.

Another sign that email is taking a more important role in our lives – the number of respondents reporting that they use a mobile device to access email increasing from under 30% to over 40%.  It’s interesting to note that the types of mobile devices used to access email are fairly evenly spread out across various platforms, with Blackberry taking the lead.


Besides email access and clients, we wanted to get a better idea of what tools are being utilized alongside email to help productivity.  60% of respondents said they use an anti-spam product.  Much like last year, there is no clear winner in the anti-spam wars.  Though we gave 14 choices of anti-spam products in the survey, more than 50% of respondents selected “Other” and specified yet another anti-spam solution.  For what it’s worth, Norton and McAfee’s products had the biggest share of users, at 19% and 12% respectively.

59% of users said they were using a search product with email.  Google is the clear winner for the second time in our survey, capturing 47% of the email search market – presumably via a combination of Google Desktop Search and use of the native search function in GMail.  LookOut, Yahoo!, MSN, and Copernic individually captured between 10 and 15% of the market.

Finally, almost a third of respondents said they use other tools to help manage their email.  Popular Outlook add-ins include Plaxo, ClearContext, Getting Things Done, LinkedIn, Anagram, and ActiveWords.

We’ll wrap things up on Monday with a summary and a handful of other tidbits from the survey.

On the Bright Side, We’re Getting Less Spam!

As mentioned in our last post, 250 people completed responses to our email survey.  The bulk of these respondents were sourced through our weblog and sponsors.  For the most part, respondents should be considered Windows and Outlook-centric email power users. 

While we all hear a lot about things like spam, distribution lists, excessive cc:’s, and many other Inbox-clogging sources of email, our survey results point to an interesting fact.  It seems that people are spending more and more time processing each individual email they receive, indicating that emails are becoming even more important and generating additional work and effort for people.  Let’s take a look at some of the numbers…

It’s no surprise to see that we all still receive a lot of email:


61% of us receive over 50 emails/day (about the same as last year), with approximately 9% receiving 250 emails/day or more (down from almost 15% in 2005).   So, the numbers at the higher end of the scale are actually decreasing.  Surprisingly, though email volumes are not increasing from last year, the amount of time spent working in email is.  Last year 14% of respondents said they spent four hours or more working in email, this year 22% of us are spending that.


What’s the explanation for this?  Though email volumes are the same, the makeup of that email has changed.  Respondents said that the amount of spam they receive is down from last year, largely due to the success of of anti-spam meaures.  Here are 2006 estimates of email receipt by content:


Last year, 38% of respondents estimated that 50% or more of their email
was non-critical, non-spam email.  This year that number dropped to
13%. Clearly the email that is getting to the Inbox is more important and
consequently people are spending more time consuming and replying to
it.  Some email users are becoming more cognizant of the time demands an email makes.  As one respondent said:

"I try to be mindful that when I send someone an email, i’m usually creating work or demanding their time. I try to be judicious."

However, it seems like most people are increasingly using email in ways that demands additional time from others.  It’s good that technologies like anti-spam tools appear to be helping in keeping people’s email under control.  However, that annoying yet easy to process (delete) email appears to be replaced by more and more messages that generate real work – causing email overload to be an even bigger problem than before for many users. 

As we’ve mentioned before, email is becoming a task and workflow system for many people; more like a lightweight project management tool than a simple way to communicate.  As this becomes the case for more and more people, it will be critical for users and vendors to fundamentally change the way they think about email and how to make it really work.

A final note on volume – despite the proliferation of productivity methodologies that emphasize Inbox clearing, people are leaving more email in their Inbox than before.  51% last year said they kept 50 or less messages in the Inbox.  That’s down to 39% this year.  Meanwhile, the number keeping 1000 – 3000 messages almost doubled: 5.7% to 10%! 


This appears to be based on two factors – the previously mentioned increase in email importance and the increased use of webmail clients like Gmail with large storage capacity and an emphasis on tagging and searching email.  We’ll talk more about the latter in our next post.

Next Up: Email Tools & Technology

2006 Email Usage Survey Overview

We completed our annual email usage survey last month and
have been busy compiling the data. We received
250 responses from a variety of sources, including readers of The Office Letter, Office Evolution, The Unofficial Microsoft Weblog, Yahoo!
, Down the Avenue, and Paul Hammond. We gave out ClearContext discount coupons to
all respondents who left their email addresses and a lucky 21 of those received
a free license for IMS
. THANKS to all for help with the

Questions on the 2006 survey were largely the same as our
2005 survey;
focusing on  email usage habits, the
tools used to access email, and the methods used to stay on top of
it.   This year we also added an email overload questionnaire
developed by Microsoft research to measure user’s feelings of email overload.

I’m going to post more detail over the week, but thought you
might be interested in these facts that leapt out at me:

  1. More of our respondents (largely
    email power users) are looking for ubiquitous access to their email.  Personal
    webmail usage increased from 34% to 61% and 42% reported accessing email from a
    mobile device (up from 29% last year).
  2. The importance of email to the
    recipient appears to be increasing:
  • Though we’re receiving the same
    email volume as we did last year, email users are spending more time than ever
    managing that email.  25% of our respondents say they spend 4 hours or
    more per day in email, up from 14% last year.
  • Even though we’re spending more
    time managing the same email volume, our Inboxes  and mail files are
    growing in size.  Last year 51% said they keep 50 emails or less in the
    Inbox, this year that number is 39% while the percentage of people keeping 1000
    or more messages in the Inbox almost doubled to 10%.

Watch for Part II, Email Volume…

How Researchers are Reinventing the Mail Client

Gabor Cselle has posted an overview of several different approaches researchers have taken to re-designing email, breaking it down into three categories: task driven email, smart email organization structures, and cool features.  It’s always interesting to see how other folks are trying to re-envision the way email works.

Along those lines, we have posted a whitepaper that details the design decisions behind our patent pending Outlook email prioritization engine.  This was written for our v1 product,
so it doesn’t detail the thought process behind some of our newer features, but you get the idea.

[via Hawk Wings]