Posts from February 2008.

PC World: 50 Ways to Make Your Software Do More

Chris Null has published an article in PC World on 50 add-ins and utilities that can improve your PC experience.  There are some excellent selections for browser additions, Office add-ons and multimedia utilities.  Of course, ClearContext is right there under Office Optimizers.

Clive Thompson’s Take on Email Apnea

A couple of weeks ago I referenced Linda Stone’s post on Email Apnea, “a temporary absence or suspension of breathing, or shallow breathing, while doing email.”  Late last week, Clive Thompson pondered why the condition occurs:

“It’s so metaphorically rich I can barely begin to tease out the implications. Do we feel somehow threatened while doing email — hence our unconscious trip into fight-or-flight mode? Or do we feel as though we’re literally diving into some socially or technologically unbreathable environment, as if jumping underwater? Or is it because we’re preparing to vocalize — i.e. that email triggers the mental rhythms of conversation and self-presentation, so we’re taking a deep breath so we can “talk” uninterrupted for 20 seconds or so? By which I mean, is this a symptom of some form of performance anxiety?”

I found the post most interesting because he also writes about the way guitar players breathe when playing, which, like email apnea, I hadn’t noticed until it was brought to my attention.

On a side note, I’ve been a subscriber to Clive’s blog, Collision Detection, since his October 2005 New York Times Magazine article, Meet the Life HackersDespite his obsession with giant squid (or maybe because of), he’s always writing about some genuinely interesting stuff, at least for geek musicians like me.  Check it out.

Managing Automatic Responses

Are you constantly moving meeting responses out of your Inbox?  As the Outlook Team Blog points out, most folks want to see when someone declines or changes a meeting, but don’t really need Accept notices to appear in the Inbox.  Follow Michael Affronti’s step by step instructions to create rules that filter out all the meeting acceptance noise.

Archiving Topics

Removing a Topic from the IMS Topic list is as easy as dragging and dropping a folder.  IMS populates the Topic list by reading all sub-folders of the Inbox (or whatever you have defined as your ClearContext Topic Folder).  To remove a Topic from the list, click the associated folder in the Inbox and drag it to another folder outside of the Inbox.

Renaming Topics

If you decide to rename your Topic folders (perhaps because you want to take advantage of multi-level Topics), follow the process below to ensure that IMS performs correct Topic assignments in the future:

  1. Go to ClearContext > Options > Preferences.  Ensure that Assign message thread to Topic is enabled on both sections of "When I move a message to a Topic folder."
  2. Create a new Topic folder with the new Topic name.
  3. Drag the contents of the old Topic folder into the new Topic.  This last step will ensure that IMS updates all active conversation threads with the new Topic.  (FYI – CTRL-A will highlight all messages in a folder). 
  4. Finally, if any items remain in the Inbox with the old Topic assignment, highlight and re-assign using the Topic drop down.

Full Nelson Interview with Deva

Fritz Nelson has posted an interview of ClearContext CEO Deva Hazarika over at Information Week:

[Direct video link here.]

Not being an Outlook user, it’s clear that Fritz can’t relate to the pain many of us were used to when trying to deal with our email without ClearContext, but he does do a good job explaining IMS features and functionality.  As a bonus, at the end of the video you get a little hint at some future plans for the product.

IMS Multi-Level Topics

Did you know that you can create a Topic/Sub-Topic designation that maps to Folder/Sub-Folder?  To create multi-level topics, enter topic names separated by a "/". For example, filing to Topic "Work/Project" would store the message in the "Project" sub-folder underneath the "Work" main folder.  This comes in handy when using the Dashboard’s Show Sub-Topics Show Sub-Topics feature.

Fast Search in Outlook

imageFree tools to provide lightning fast search within Microsoft Outlook have been available for years now.  Lookout was one of the first to do it and was eventually scooped up by Microsoft and ultimately morphed into Windows Desktop SearchGoogle Desktop Search, Yahoo Desktop Search (a variant of X1) and Copernic all do virtually the same thing as WDS; they index your Outlook mail file (along with the rest of your hard drive) and, when searching on a particular keyword, sender, etc., provide much quicker search results than Outlook’s Advanced Find feature.

This is a highly useful feature and the perfect complement to IMS’s Topic based filing system.  If you are running Outlook 2003 or earlier on Windows XP, I suggest you find a search tool that works for you and install it.  I have used most of them at one point, though I am currently using Windows Desktop Search and am quite pleased with the results (pun intended).

imageThe good news for Outlook 2007 and Windows Vista users is that search is built right into each product.  As you are probably already aware, both ship with integrated desktop and mail searching capabilities, making finding the information you want a snap.

I have one tip when using these tools.  Occasionally I find that the index gets out of whack and I don’t see expected results in my search.  Re-indexing always fixes the problem.  For Outlook 2007 users, the folks at SlipStick have posted instructions on rebuilding your search index.

Email Apnea

Robert Scoble pointed to this interesting post by Linda Stone on Email Apnea – “a temporary absence or suspension of breathing, or shallow breathing, while doing email.”  Apparently, for a variety of reasons, it’s pretty common for us to hold our breath while working in email, and this can have a far-reaching impact on our stress levels, health, etc..  Honestly, I was a little skeptical, but now that I’m aware of it, I have found that I’m not breathing regularly when composing messages, reading through my Inbox, etc..  I see some breathing exercises in my future…

Read the article for more detail and see Robert’s comments here.

Can’t Wait to Put Things Off?

Craig Kennedy forwarded this interesting article from the Globe and Mail.  Researchers at Northwestern University have found a link between two seemingly disparate personality traits – procrastination and impatience:

"In sum, said the study, highly impatient individuals are overly keen to engage in activities where they get what they want right away and pay the costs later, but they procrastinate when they have to put in the effort up front in order to get benefits down the road."

Dr. Ernesto Reuben, one of the co-authors of the study, suggests that the procrastinators could benefit from technology designed to help keep them focused:

‘This could be addressed by giving them the right tools, such as e-mail programs that emphasize "important" messages "because a procrastinator will easily get distracted and start reading non-important e-mails.’

happy_emoticonDr. Reuben, if you are out there, please contact me.  I’d like to introduce you to ClearContext Information Management System for Microsoft Outlook

Thanks for the pointer, Craig!