Posts from December 2006.

Triage Your Email After the Holidays

I hope that everyone reading this weblog got the opportunity to take a break and recharge with family and friends over the holidays.  If you have just returned from vacation to find your Inbox is flooded, these tips on using AutoAssign, Automated Filing, and ClearContext Action Buttons can help you get your arms around the problem.

I’ll add one more piece of advice to the link above.  After you download all the messages you accrued during the holidays, take Outlook offline while you make your initial pass at triaging the Inbox.  Getting new email while you’re trying to tackle a backlog will only slow you down.

Welcome back and have a Happy New Year!

Video: Updated IMS Demo

OK, so maybe I went a little crazy with the demos in December…  This is the last one for a while, I promise.  We updated the generic demo on the website, cutting about a minute out of it and making it flow a little better:

[A direct link to this Windows Media Video is here.]

For a higher quality version of the video, see our online demo.

Happy Holidays!

Getting the Most Out of ClearContext

In the last month I have updated the weblog with new tips and tricks for getting the most out of IMS, adding some video tutorials to further learning about the product.  I have posted the updated list on the sidebar of the weblog and here for your convenience:

Video: Convert Your Folders to ClearContext Topic Folders – a quick demonstration on taking advantage of ClearContext’s automated filing featues using existing folders.

Video: How To Avoid Exceeding Your Mail File Size Limit – use ClearContext to help proactively stay ahead of your company’s mail file size limitations.

Archive Sent Messages in Outlook – ClearContext can automatically move sent messages to their associated Topic folder – a great way to keep both sides of the conversation in the same folder structure.

IMS Pro Tutorials – a collection of video tutorials highighting some core features of ClearContext IMS Pro.

Vacation Email Triage – You’ve got 100’s of messages in your inbox and you want to clear them out?  Follow these tips to regain control of your Inbox using ClearContext.

User Guide – this is the complete User Guide for ClearContext Information Management System.  A downloadable version is also available (save to your hard drive before opening).

ClearContext Proritization Adjustment – instructions for tweaking the weighting of ClearContext’s prioritization algorithm.

Video: Outlook Performance and Mail File Health – though not specifically about ClearContext, this walks through several utilities that can help if Outlook seems a little sluggish.

If you have additional questions about use of the product, please see our Features and Support forums.

A Linux Guy’s View on ClearContext

I don’t post every review of ClearContext here on the corporate weblog (they all go here).  However, occasionally I come across one that I have to share.  Tim Schaab, self-proclaimed “Linux Guy” writes on his blog Tim in a Nutshell:

“I did a full install of Office 2007 and for my first daring adventure into Office 2007 land, Outlook was my target. The testing also gave me the chance to test out the latest version of my absolute favorite Outlook add-on ever, Clear Context. It made working with Outlook empowering. Heck, it made email empowering. Nothing on Windows, Mac OSX, or Linux yet has matched the power it gives email.”

Tim goes on to write a very detailed review of his use of the product, in particular the RelatedView and Unsubscribe.  Now for the part that made me smile:

“Heck, it’s enough to make me have Windows be my fulltime desktop over Linux. Yes, it’s that powerful of a piece of software. …the Linux guy will have a Windows desktop so he can use Clear Context.”

Thanks, Tim!

Video: Outlook Performance and Mail File Health

** We have updated this post here **

As many of you are upgrading to Outlook 2007 and Vista, you may be excited about expected performance gains on your new system.  However, as you set up a new mail profile, using an old mail file in the new environment could propagate whatever baggage your PST file has from prior use, making it very difficult to realize the promised improvements.

Tech savvy folks know that reinstalling an application can often fix quirky problems they are seeing.  Microsoft recognizes this as well and has built in a nifty Detect and Repair feature in the Office Help menu (2003 and earlier) that basically reinstalls all Office applications.  This is a great place to start when you're having troubles in Outlook – though be aware that it may ask for your install CD's and/or reset some of your Office preferences.  In Outlook 2007, start with Office Diagnostics for a broader check of Outlook's health. 

But even when starting with a squeaky clean install of Outlook, most people bring over their old mail file to the new setup.  Unfortunately, many Outlook issues can be traced to data problems rather than application problems.  Using your old, battle-worn personal folders file on a new setup can have a crippling effect on Outlook performance.  If your mail file is very large and/or you have repeatedly installed/unistalled certain add-ins, it is possible that your mail file is corrupted.  If you're seeing quirky issues in Outlook and Detect and Repair or Office Diagnostics didn't fix them, then it's time to clean up your mail file.  Here's what I recommend:

  1. Get your mail file size down.  Outlook XP and earlier have a file size limit of 2GB.  Outlook 2003's limit is 20GB.  That said, I recommend that you keep your working mail file smaller than 1GB.  As your mail file size grows, performance slows. Outlook has AutoArchiving functionality, but I just periodically run File > Archive and archive my mail to a separate PST file by date.  When the dated archive file gets to about 750 MB (large enough to fill a CD) I back it up and start a new archive file.  All of these archive files are loaded in my Outlook profile (File > Open > Outlook Data File) and are indexed by my desktop search program for easy reference.
  2. Compact your mail file (particularly after an archive).  Right click the root of the file in your folder list.  Select Properties > Advanced and click Compact Now.  This will clear out any excess space created in your PST from the deletion/movement of messages.
  3. Run SCANPST.EXE against your file.  Outlook installs with a utility to analyze and repair your mail file.  SCANPST may be exactly what the doctor ordered when Outlook is feeling under the weather.  Some notes on using SCANPST:
    • Find SCANPST via Programs > Accessories > System Tools or use Start > Search or Start > Find to locate it on your hard drive.
    • Once open, you will need to find the location of your Outlook mail files.  In Windows XP, the default location for Outlook Mail files is C:\Documents and Settings\{USER_NAME}\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook.  In Windows Vista, the default location is C:\Users\{USER Name}\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook.
    • If you are running offline or cached Exchange, make sure that you scan your OST file in addition to any archive PST files that you are using.
    • For best results, run SCANPST multiple times in a row until it reports that there are no errors left in the mail file.
    • For more details on SCANPST and issues you might encounter running it, see this excellent SlipStick post.
  4. Finally, if the above doesn't help, it is possible that your mail file is hopelessly corrupted.  In this case, it's time to start with a fresh new mail file.  The easiest way to do this is to create a new Outlook profile via Control Panel > Mail.  Once you get Outlook running on the new profile, you can add your old mail file as a separate data file (File > Open > Outlook Data File – it's likely called outlook.pst or some variation in the default Outlook data file drectory) and still have access to your data.  Alternatively, if you absolutely need your old data in this new file, use File > Import & Export to import all or a subset of your old messages into the new file.

See the video below for a demonstration of these concepts:

[A direct link to this Windows Media Video is here.] UPDATE: Fixed broken link to video.

I hope this helps.  A little care and maintenance can have a huge impact on Outlook's performance.  For a higher quality version of the video, see our tutorials page.


Video: How to Avoid Exceeding Your Exchange Mail File Size Limit

As an ever increasing amount of data is sent and stored in email, many corporate Microsoft Exchange users are exceeding their Exchange quotas.  "Your mailbox is over its size limit" often appears at the most inopportune times, forcing the user to stop whatever they are doing to prune their inbox or, worse yet, causing them to miss important messages because they are blocked by the Exchange server.

ClearContext can help proactively archive messages to combat this problem.  By changing the Topic Folder location to a local Personal Folders file and using our automatic topic filing functionality, all archived messages will be automatically transferred out of the Exchange mailbox and into a local file.  Here’s how to do it:

  1. Config_options_shadow_1If you do not already have a a local file that you want to store messages in, create one in Outlook via File > New > Outlook Data File…
  2. By default, the ClearContext Topic Folder is created as a sub-folder of the default Exchange Inbox during setup.  Change this location under Tools > Options > ClearContext > Configuration by selecting the local file you want to store messages in from the Message Store for ClearContext Topics drop down list box.  Optionally, change the name of the folder here as well.
  3. Click OK on the configuration screen, OK on the restart dialog, and OK on the ClearContext Options screen.
  4. Restart Outlook for your configuration changes to take effect.

Going forward, as you review new email, assign a topic to the message.  This topic will automatically be assigned to all current and future messages in that message thread.  When you are ready to move the message out of the inbox, use the ClearContext Filing buttons to file the message, message thread, or all messages with the current topic assigned.  They will be moved from your Exchange file to a corresponding Topic Folder in the location you have defined in your local mail file.  In addition, if you enable Sent Message filing, all sent messages with Topics assigned will automatically be moved from the Exchange Sent Mail folder to the associated local Topic Folder.

The end result: you’ll be storing most of your messages locally, in one place, for easy review and retrieval without the hassle of begging your Exchange Administrator for more space or emergency message deletion sessions to keep the mail flowing.

See the video below for a demonstration on changing your topic folder location:

UPDATE 11/2008: New video

For a higher quality version of the video, see our tutorials page.  For additional detail on Topics and Filing, please see our User Guide.

Video: Convert Your Folders to Topics

Configuration_shadowThe default ClearContext Topic Folder location (where all topic folders are created and messages are filed when using File Msg, File Thread  and File Topic buttons) is located under /Inbox/ClearContext Topics in the primary email data store. This location can be changed via the configuration window located at Tools > Options > ClearContext > Configuration. The Message Store drop down menu allows you to change the .pst location that topics are stored in, while the Location function permits renaming of the folder where ClearContext Topic Folders are stored. For example, changing the location entry to /Inbox will configure ClearContext to create new topic folders directly under the Inbox folder (and also make a ClearContext Topic for each existing Inbox folder).

Prior to installation of ClearContext, many users already store their email in folders. To take advantage of Topic functionality using these pre-defined folders, drag them underneath the ClearContext Topic Folder (as defined in the configuration settings detailed above). Each folder name will now be listed as a topic on the Topic drop down menu and the File Msg, File Thread  and File Topic buttons will move messages into these locations.

See the video below for a demonstration of these concepts:

11/2008 UPDATE: New video.

For a higher quality version of the video, see our tutorials page.  For additional detail on Topics and Filing, please see our User Guide.

Video: Task & Calendar Management Tutorial

Our final tutorial (for now) covers IMS Pro task and calendar management features, RelatedView, and AutoAssign:

[A direct link to this Windows Media Video is here.] UPDATE: Fixed broken link to video.

For a higher quality version of the video, see our tutorials page.  Please let us know if you think there are additional tutorials that would be useful for first time customers.

Video: Views & Prioritization Tutorial

This third tutorial walks through IMS view selection, scoring adjustment, contact prioritization and message prioritization:

[A direct link to this Windows Media Video is here.] UPDATE: Fixed broken link to video.

For a higher quality version of the video, see our tutorials page.  A final video will be on it’s way shortly.

Video: Topics & Filing Tutorial

Our second tutorial covers Topics & Filing, Sent Message Processing, and AutoAssign.  Take a look:

[A direct link to this Windows Media Video is here.]

For a higher quality version of the video, see our tutorials page.  I’ll be posting other tutorials over the next few days.