Posts categorized “email”.

How to get Gmail Smart Label functionality in Outlook

Automatically file bacn out of your InboxLast week Gmail Labs released Smart Labels to automatically categorize email from bulk senders.  As Simon Mackie at Web Worker Daily points out, ClearContext provides Smart Label functionality in Outlook:

“ClearContext Personal… actually works in a similar manner to Smart Labels, filing unimportant emails, like social network notifications, newsletters, e-commerce emails and other bacn into categorized groups, taking it out of your inbox. It’s all done completely automatically, with no need to set up complex inbox rules.”

If you’re looking for a free Outlook-based alternative to Gmail’s Smart Labels, give ClearContext Personal a run.

Priority Inbox Data From Google

Known ContactsThe Gmail team reports the following on their Priority Inbox feature:

“Looking at median time in conversation view, we noticed that typical Priority Inbox users spend 43% more time reading important mail compared to unimportant, and 15% less time reading email overall as compared to Gmail users who don’t use Priority Inbox.

If you haven’t given it a try yet, use ClearContext’s Mark Important feature in v5.2 to achieve similar results in Outlook.

Macworld: Six Reasons Desktop E-mail Still Rules

Yesterday’s Gmail outage exposed the #1 reason to use desktop email clients over webmail.  Jim Kissell at MacWorld has written six OTHER reasons that desktop email clients are superior to webmail clients, including better integration with other apps, attachment management and rule creation.  Read the article here.

It’s all about Inbox Zero…

…or at least it seems that way based on a flurry of articles lately.  We've posted about inbox zero and ways to get started before.  Today, the guys at 37 Signals made a post on their excellent blog about Highrise and inbox zero and referenced a new inbox zero article in the New York Times.
It's great to see so much focus on inbox zero and email efficiency in general.  It's not a big surprise, as people are definitely having to get more done with less resources these days.  And getting better at email is one key way they can make that happen.

The 37 Signals post showed how Highrise users can snooze emails to make them go away for a while, which is very useful when aiming for inbox zero. ClearContext Pro users are able to do this by deferring emails and having them return to the inbox whenever they choose.  
That's just one of the many features in ClearContext Pro to help quickly process emails.

The New York Times article has a ton of straightforward and useful tips, as well as pointers to some good resources about handling email and achieving inbox zero.

InboxzeroWe're especially excited about all of this because of the Email Effectiveness capabilities we're introducing in ClearContext (in both Pro and our free Personal product).  Our current release has a sneak preview of these capabilities, including the ability to track your progress towards inbox zero within Outlook.  And there's much more coming soon.  You can download here and check it out!

Hopefully you're now well on your way to earning your Inbox Zero Nerd Merit Badge!

Microsoft Office Labs Email Prioritizer

Brad just blogged about a Lifehacker post about email innovations people want.  Right on the heels of that discussion, Microsoft Office Labs has released an experiment called the Email Prioritizer this week.  It’s for Outlook 2007 running on Exchange only and features two parts. (image from Microsoft)  Emailprioritizersmall_6

One is a "Do Not Disturb" feature that pauses new email from being sent from the Exchange server to your Outlook client. 

The other is an email prioritizer that puts 0 to 3 stars next to each email to help identify important email. 

Webware reviews the product and Todd Bishop writes about the project’s background based on a Microsoft Research project from 2005 led by Eric Horvitz.

This is interesting and exciting stuff to us at ClearContext, as  we’ve
been focused on prioritizing and organizing emails in Outlook based on a customizable set of parameters for a few years now in both our free personal product as well as in our Professional
paid version
– which also helps people manage workflow and projects within Outlook.

Over the past few years we’ve learned a lot about how email prioritization and triage can help people deal with overloaded inboxes.  It’s an important part of the solution, but only one of many required parts to help people deal with information more effectively. Really helping people solve the problem requires a lot more than just identifying important messages.

We’re currently beta-testing a new version of our completely free product,
ClearContext Personal (for Outlook 2003/2007 on Exchange or POP) that includes those inbox prioritization capabilities as well as advanced ways to
automate the filing and organization of messages and threads, view and work
with groups of contacts, explore attachments within email just like viewing
files in desktop folders, and manage unwanted email threads by
"unsubscribing" from them.   Enter your info on the beta page and we’ll send you download information so you can try it out.

It’s great to see Microsoft and others acknowledging what a critical issue information overload is for people, and we’re confident you’ll find ClearContext Personal a very useful tool to help highlight your most important contacts and messages – and much more.

The E-Mail Age on NPR

Last month NPR spent an entire week talking about email overload:

“E-mail. It was supposed to make communication easier, maybe even make life more manageable. The benefits are obvious — speed, global reach, mobility. But many people feel burdened rather than liberated. NPR looks at the e-mail assault and how to fight back.”

Segments include family spam, overload, no-email fridays and email security (among others).  Definitely worth checking out.

The E-Mail Age : NPR

ClearContext Personal Beta Launch Update

First of all, a huge thank you to everyone who has downloaded
or signed up for the ClearContext Personal beta. The level of
interest has been incredible. We’re
working hard so we can send invites to everyone still on the waiting list as
soon as possible.


One thing we didn’t really expect was how quickly so many people
would download, install, and send us feedback about their experience with
ClearContext Personal. Based on that, we’re
changing our plans a little bit. The
initial plan had been to roll out the first wave of invites to a group of
Outlook 2007 users, follow that with a quick round of bug fixes, and roll out
to a larger group of Outlook 2007 users plus Outlook 2003 users. We’ve received a lot of enhancement requests
and feature suggestions (many of which were already on our plans for the next
beta) from our beta testers in a few key areas that we agree will make the product both easier to use and more valuable to our users. So we’ve decided to extend development a few
weeks and roll a number of these changes into the product. People currently on the waitlist will
have to wait a little longer than initially planned, but the beta you’ll get
will be a much improved version of the product. Again, thanks a ton to everyone who has provided us with all this great
feedback. Here are a few key areas
we’re working on:

  • Guided Setup – walk-through during setup with more details
    on contact prioritization and options for
    color-coded inbox views
  • Filing – make one-click filing capability
    even smarter and more automatic, so keeping email organized will be even easier
  • Contacts and Attachments – additional
    actions on contacts and attachments, and make it easier to work with groups of related items
  • Message Prioritization – make it easier for people to customize how important messages from different contacts are to
  • Notification Managers – simplify the installation
    process for notification managers

We really appreciate all the feedback we’ve received so far
and are excited about these improvements that will make the product even easier
to use and give users a much better email experience from the first moment they
install the product. Please keep signing
up for the beta
and stay tuned to the blog for more
updates. Thanks!

ClearContext Personal Beta Launched to Improve Outlook for Everyone

All of us at ClearContext are really excited to announce the start of the beta program for ClearContext Personal.  This free Outlook add-in helps people organize their email and make their inbox (and email experience) just plain better.  At ClearContext, we have years of experience solving information overload challenges for email power users who deal with incredible amounts of email while managing multiple concurrent projects within Outlook.  In talking to lots of individuals and companies about those problems, we’ve found that it’s not just those users that are overwhelmed with email; it seems like just about all business email users are frustrated with email and feel stressed trying to keep up with it.  With ClearContext Personal, we expand the reach of our solutions to all Outlook email users who want a better answer to dealing with email overload.  Here’s a demo:

Our goal with ClearContext Personal is to identify the most common problems with email faced by users of all types and provide solutions that work without requiring any effort or behavior change on their part.  We want to help people figure out which email they need to deal with, put it in context with the information related to it so they have what they need to take action, and then automatically file it in the right place so all related information is neatly organized for them.  And all those huge reply-to-all threads, automated notification emails, and other unimportant messages clogging the inbox?  Yeah, put that to the side so they don’t keep getting interrupted.  Doesn’t that sound better already?

I’ve written a lot about how email needs to improve.  With this release of ClearContext Personal we’re taking some big steps towards addressing some of the key challenges I’ve discussed involving volume and context.  And that’s just the start.  TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and GigaOm have already written about this launch – we really appreciate the great coverage from those writers and are really excited that improving email has become one of the hottest topics of discussion and innovation lately.   

We’re all pretty tired around here and we still have a few finishing touches to put on some of the new web pages, so for now I’ll send you over to check out the ClearContext Personal product pages.  Later today or tomorrow I’ll make a post that goes into more detail about the functionality of this release, what to expect in upcoming releases (including ClearContext Professional – a free upgrade for registered IMS v4 customers that incorporates all the new features in ClearContext Personal), and all sorts of other  information about this launch.

I’ll end this post with a big THANK YOU to everyone who helped make this launch possible – everyone at ClearContext, the journalists/bloggers, and all of our incredible users who have given us such great feedback and assistance in developing a product we are sure you’ll love. 

Discussions on the Future of Email

There have been some really interesting discussions of late on the failures of current email systems.  Michael Arrington at TechCrunch writes 2,433 Unread Emails Is An Opportunity For An Entrepreneur:

"I routinely declare email bankruptcy and simply delete my entire inbox. But even so, I currently have 2,433 unread emails in my inbox. Plus another 721 in my Facebook inbox. and about thirty skype message windows open with unanswered messages. It goes without saying, of course, that my cell phone voicemail box is also full (I like the fact that new messages can’t be left there, so I have little incentive to clear it out).

How do I deal with email now? I scan the from and subject fields for high payoff messages. People I know who don’t waste my time, or who I have a genuine friendship with. Or descriptive subject lines that help me understand that I should allot a minute or more of my life to opening it and reading it."

To which our CEO Deva responds Hi Techcrunch, I can solve your email problems:

"’I scan the from and subject fields for high payoff messages.’ – NO, NO, NO!  Nobody with any volume can do that and stay on top of email.  By analyzing your email history and all sorts of contextual clues about incoming email, this is something that can be done automatically Prioritized_inbox
– and we do.

Jeremiah Owyang rants in Email Consumes Us:

"Ironically, most of my social media peers and I still use email as one of the main ways to communicate back and forth to each other But even more, there are more inboxes to check, twitter, facebook, linkedin, I’m getting business messages from these tools and I’m sure you are too."

Deva’s response:

"As I’ve been writing about for a while, the very nature of email itself is changing.  Two major things have changed about email in the past few years.  The volume (duh, more!) and the nature (it’s no longer just individual messages, it’s projects and tasks and collaboration).

Yet email clients are still fundamentally designed to process messages one by one and treat them as independent units of data.  That approach just doesn’t scale and doesn’t reflect the type of connected and context-rich information contained within email."

If this sort of thing interests you, I encourage you to read the posts in full, including the 100’s of comments on the TechCrunch post.  Commenter’s advice to Arrington falls into three broad areas: get an email processing methodology, use technology for better filtering and management, or hire an assistant (if you don’t have the luxury, see my previous two links).

I’m pleased to see a problem that we have been addressing for years get some attention.  As Deva mentions in his posts above, our next release will get us even closer to our vision for email automation – prioritization of incoming email, categorization of information, aggregation of related information, and context-specific actions for different types of information.

Root Causes of Email Overload

I’m a little late to the game on this, but last week Lifehacker pointed to an interesting post by Dan Markovitz on the root causes of email overload:

"For example, I’ve spilled a lot of electronic ink (fortunately, electrons are cheap) telling you how to manage email. But I’m now wondering whether my advice has merely been addressing the symptoms, and not the actual problem. Which is to say, I’m giving advice on how to handle email once it’s hit your inbox. But perhaps I should be focusing more on the root cause of all those emails."

Dan makes a good case for running more analysis on the content of email to see if you can help alleviate the problem before it gets to you. 

Here’s my advice to Dan and anyone else who is looking to keep their Inbox leaner:

Read the comments on the LifeHacker post for more suggestions on tackling the problem.