Advertising
Advertising

Review: Xobni Extends Outlook’s View, But at a Cost

Review: Xobni Extends Outlook’s View, But at a Cost

Review: Xobni Extends Outlook's View, But at a Cost

    Outlook is a well-established presence on the business desktop, providing millions with their email, calendar, contacts, and tasks. It’s such an institution, in fact, that when Microsoft radically revamped the Office suite’s interface in 2007, it left Outlook largely unchanged.

    Although it’s big and sluggish, there’s no denying that Outlook does what it’s supposed to do. Not quickly or with style, but consistently and effectively nonetheless. The thing is, though, that we have moved beyond just email as our major form of business communication. In the increasingly real-time and social world, a big ol’ email client seems a little… old-fashioned.

    Xobni is an attempt to bring Outlook into sync with the socially-networked world. Available in a free and paid “Plus” versions (the paid version offers advanced search capabilities and calendar functions), Xobni adds a new pane to your Outlook window packed with information about the sender of whatever email you’re currently viewing or the contact you’ve selected.

    Advertising

    Working with Xobni

    20091111-Xobni-screenshot

      The image to the right is what Xobni looks like on my system. I’ve selected one of my own emails from the “Sent Mail” folder and obscured some of my personal information, of course.

      At the top is a “business card” view with my phone numbers and email addresses, as well as my title and the company I work for. Below that is a graph of how many emails I’ve sent and received to and from this contact (which is me, which may be why the numbers are odd), but that’s just the default – the five buttons above that chart allow me to select different functions. If I click the orange button, I get actions I can perform relating to the contact – make an appointment or send an email, in this case. The other three buttons open the contact’s LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter profile. (You can pick and choose several social network functions – other options that I did not choose are buttons for Skype and Hoovers company search.)

      • LinkedIn gives you their location, current company and title, and number of connections, plus a link to their full profile.
      • Facebook gives you your contact’s “Wall” and a link to their profile.
      • Twitter gives you your contact’s status updates, plus buttons to view their profile and follow them – you an also post updates through Xobni, though it’s far from a replacement for a full-featured Twitter client.

      Basically, the top of the Xobni window is devoted to information about your contact. The next part is about your relationship with that contact.  The “Network” part is the most mysterious to me; according to their website, Xobni analyzes the “From:”, “To:”, and “CC:” fields of incoming emails to determine who among your contacts the sender also has some connection to. For instance, if I have the CEO and the CFO of a company in my address book, and I get an email from the CFO that’s CC’ed to the CEO, Xobni knows that the two are connected.

      Advertising

      “Conversations” condenses all my previous exchanges with that contact into threaded discussions. Click on a discussion and you can read the messages in the thread, see who was involved in the conversation, and pull out any files exchanged. (You can also hover the pointer over a discussion and a pop-up will preview the first few messages in the thread.) A slider at the top allows you to move from the first line or two of each message to full messages. Click a message in the thread and the message itself opens in the Xobni bar, with buttons to reply or forward, or to open in an Outlook window.

      Finally, “Files Exchanged” is what it sounds like – a list of every attachment the contact has ever sent you or that you’ve sent to them.

      At the very top of the Xobni window is the search bar, allowing you to search both contacts and email messages. The results are broken into 5 categories: People (contacts with your search term in their name, company name, email address, etc.), Messages (any email with your search term in it), Files Exchanged (any attachment with your search term in the filename), Appointments (any appointment that includes your search term; this is technically a “Plus” feature – clicking an appointment returned in search in the free version will open an upgrade pitch), and Tasks (again, any task with your search term in it).

      Verdict: Is Xobni useful?

      Xobni helps uncover a great deal of information, most but not all of which is particularly useful. I can’t imagine what use it would be to know that a particular contact tends to email me in the afternoon more than the morning, but it’s kind of interesting to look at. The social networking features are the most useful part, I think – already I’ve discovered profiles for and added on LinkedIn and Twitter a client that I’ve just started working with.

      Advertising

      Much of the usefulness of Xobni is hampered by the fact that, like Outlook itself, it’s fairly slow and resource-intensive. For example, it took nearly a minute hovering my mouse over a discussion with 24 messages in it for the pop-up to populate with message previews! Searching takes significantly longer than Google Desktop’s Outlook plugin – and even longer than searching the whole desktop from the Google Desktop sidebar.

      Now, that could have just been my PC – it’s a few years old, with a 2.4 GHz Athlon x64, a gigabyte of memory, and Windows XP with Office 2007. Hardly a speed demon! But a search for “Xobni” on Twitter reveals that I’m hardly alone in finding Xobni too slow. Here’s a sample of messages just from the last couple of hours:

      • “all xobni did for me was sloooooow down outlook. didn’t keep it long.”
      • “installed xobni… again… we will see if my laptop can handle it this time”
      • “I had xobni. it’s heavy, and not really effective or accurate. had many issues with that.”
      • “Xobni is a Really good product but occasionally it stalls outlook for a while.”
      • “my biggest problem comes when I try to read the conversation between some of my contacts with xobni.”

      To be fair, there are positive mentions, too, like this one from an obviously pleased user:

      • “I’ve been using Xobni since around Feb. 2009. Kind of hooked on it. “

      (Incidentally, the Xobni team is quite active on Twitter; comments about Xobni are often replied to by @xobni within minutes!)

      Advertising

      Xobni creates its own index of your email, so it definitely needs a lot of resources. It is possible that it’s not Xobni’s fault that it tends to be slow – perhaps Outlook, as big and ponderous as it is, just isn’t a good platform for third-party applications – but it is Xobni’s problem. While it provides some useful information and functionality, especially related to social networking, none of the information it provides is worth waiting for, especially if I can get the same information quicker just by Googling it.

      People with older machines — or lower-end new machines — just aren’t going to get much out of Xobni. If you have a more powerful computer, though, Xobni might well be worthwhile. Fast searching, threaded discussions, and social networking interface all make Xobni a useful product, provided you don’t spend time waiting for it to respond.

      More by this author

      How to Learn Something New Every Day and Stay Smart How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques 3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively How To Stop Procrastinating and Get Stuff Done Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

      Trending in Featured

      1 How to Get Promoted When You Feel Stuck in Your Current Position 2 8 Steps to Continuous Self Motivation Even During the Difficult Times 3 The Pros and Cons of Working from Home 4 How To Study Effectively: 7 Simple Tips 5 7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

      Read Next

      Advertising
      Advertising
      Advertising

      Last Updated on October 13, 2020

      How to Get Promoted When You Feel Stuck in Your Current Position

      How to Get Promoted When You Feel Stuck in Your Current Position

      Have you been stuck in the same position for too long and don’t really know how to get promoted and advance your career?

      Feeling stuck could be caused by a variety of things:

      • Taking a job for the money
      • Staying with an employer that no longer aligns with your values
      • Realizing that you landed yourself in the wrong career
      • Not feeling valued or feeling underutilized
      • Taking a position without a full understanding of the role

      There are many other reasons why you may be feeling this way, but let’s focus instead on learning what to do now in order to get unstuck and get promoted

      One of the best ways to get promoted is by showing how you add value to your organization. Did you make money, save money, improve a process, or do some other amazing thing? How else might you demonstrate added value?

      Let’s dive right in to how to get promoted when you feel stuck in your current position.

      1. Be a Mentor

      When I supervised students, I used to warm them — tongue in cheek, of course — about getting really good at their job.

      “Be careful not to get too good at this, or you’ll never get to do anything else.”

      This was my way of pestering them to take on additional challenges or think outside the box, but there is definitely some truth in doing something so well that your manager doesn’t trust anyone else to do it.

      Advertising

      This can get you stuck.

      Jo Miller of Be Leaderly shares this insight on when your boss thinks you’re too valuable in your current job:

      “Think back to a time when you really enjoyed your current role…You became known for doing your job so well that you built up some strong ‘personal brand’ equity, and people know you as the go-to-person for this particular job. That’s what we call ‘a good problem to have’: you did a really good job of building a positive perception about your suitability for the role, but you may have done ‘too’ good of a job!”[1]

      With this in mind, how do you prove to your employer that you can add value by being promoted?

      From Miller’s insight, she talks about building your personal brand and becoming known for doing a particular job well. So how can you link that work with a position or project that will earn you a promotion?

      Consider leveraging your strengths and skills.

      Let’s say that the project you do so well is hiring and training new entry-level employees. You have to post the job listing, read and review resumes, schedule interviews, make hiring decisions, and create the training schedules. These tasks require skills such as employee relations, onboarding, human resources software, performance management, teamwork, collaboration, customer service, and project management. That’s a serious amount of skills!

      Are there any team members who can perform these skills? Try delegating and training some of your staff or colleagues to learn your job. There are a number of reasons why this is a good idea:

      Advertising

      1. Cross-training helps in any situation in the event that there’s an extended illness and the main performer of a certain task is out for a while.
      2. As a mentor to a supervisee or colleague, you empower them to increase their job skills.
      3. You are already beginning to demonstrate that added value to your employer by encouraging your team or peers to learn your job and creating team players.

      Now that you’ve trained others to do that work for which you have been so valued, you can see about re-requesting that promotion. Explain how you have saved the company money, encouraged employees to increase their skills, or reinvented that project of yours.

      2. Work on Your Mindset

      Another reason you may feel stuck in a position is explained through this quote:

      “If you feel stuck at a job you used to love, it’s normally you—not the job—who needs to change. The position you got hired for is probably the exact same one you have now. But if you start to dread the work routine, you’re going to focus on the negatives.”[2]

      In this situation, you should pursue a conversation with your supervisor and share your thoughts and feelings to help you learn how to get promoted. You can probably get some advice on how to rediscover the aspects of that job you enjoyed, and negotiate either some additional duties or a chance to move up.

      Don’t express frustration. Express a desire for more.

      Present your case and show your boss or supervisor that you want to be challenged, and you want to move up. You want more responsibility in order to continue moving the company forward. Focus on how you can do that with the skills you have and the positive mindset you’ve cultivated.

      3. Improve Your Soft Skills

      When was the last time you put focus and effort into upping your game with those soft skills? I’m talking about those seemingly intangible things that make you the experienced professional in your specific job skills[3].

      Advertising

      Use soft skills when learning how to get promoted.

        According to research, improving soft skills can boost productivity and retention 12 percent and deliver a 250 percent return on investment based on higher productivity and retention[4]. Those are only some of the benefits for both you and your employer when you want to learn how to get promoted.

        You can hone these skills and increase your chances of promotion into a leadership role by taking courses or seminars.

        Furthermore, you don’t necessarily need to request funding from your supervisor. There are dozens of online courses being presented by entrepreneurs and authors about these very subjects. Udemy and Creative Live both feature online courses at very reasonable prices. And some come with completion certificates for your portfolio!

        Another way to improve your soft skills is by connecting with an employee at your organization who has a position similar to the one you want.

        Express your desire to move up in the organization, and ask to shadow that person or see if you can sit in on some of their meetings. Offer to take that individual out for coffee and ask what their secret is! Take copious notes, and then immerse yourself in the learning.

        The key here is not to copy your new mentor. Rather, you want to observe, learn, and then adapt according to your strengths.

        4. Develop Your Strategy

        Do you even know specifically why you want to learn how to get promoted? Do you see a future at this company? Do you have a one-year, five-year, or ten-year plan for your career path? How often do you consider your “why” and insure that it aligns with your “what”?

        Sit down and make an old-fashioned pro and con list.

        Advertising

        Write down every positive aspect of your current job and then every negative one. Which list is longer? Are there any themes present?

        Look at your lists and choose the most exciting pros and the most frustrating cons. Do those two pros make the cons worth it? If you can’t answer that question with a “yes,” then getting promoted at your current organization may not be what you really want[5].

        The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. —Mark Twain

        Here are some questions to ask yourself:

        • Why do you do what you do?
        • What thrills you about your current job role or career?
        • What does a great day look like?
        • What does success look and feel like beyond the paycheck?
        • How do you want to feel about your impact on the world when you retire?

        Define success to get promoted

          These questions would be great to reflect on in a journal or with your supervisor in your next one-on-one meeting. Or, bring it up with one of your work friends over coffee.

          Final Thoughts

          After considering all of these points and doing your best to learn how to get promoted, what you might find is that being stuck is your choice. Then, you can set yourself on the path of moving up where you are, or moving on to something different.

          Because sometimes the real promotion is finding your life’s purpose.

          More Tips on How to Get Promoted

          Featured photo credit: Razvan Chisu via unsplash.com

          Reference

          Read Next