Microsoft Outlook 2010 beta may still be weeks away from making the jump to general release, but that hasn't stopped Xobni from creating a new version of its e-mail search tool that's compatible with Outlook 2010. We tested out Xobni's version 1.9.2 e-mail search assistant on Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2010 beta with good results.
For those who are new to it, Xobni (in-box spelled backward) is a free Outlook add-on that beats the pants off Outlook's built-in e-mail search. While Xobni's core talent lays in rapidly finding e-mails and contacts based on any keyword search, it also excels at surfacing meetings and file attachments, hyperlinks, and even personal information extracted from social networks, like photos and phone numbers.
The number of new features in Xobni 1.9.2 is modest, with most of the work focused on behind-the-scenes compatibility with both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Outlook 2010. There are a few differences, however. In Outlook 2010, Xobni gains a foothold in the Outlook navigation ribbon. There's a search bar and a button to show or hide the Xobni sidebar, but so far the module is more a shortcut to Xobni's sidebar than it is a true command center.
There is one trick rolled into this module, though--if you've got multiple Outlook windows open, you can click the "show sidebar" button to make Xobni switch over to the new window. We'd rather see Xobni automatically pop up in all open instances of Outlook, but this is a reasonable enough workaround for now.
The handful of other enhancements (for both versions of Outlook) include Xobni's ability to now grab Twitter profile pictures in addition to public mug shots from social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, and the fact that premium Xobni Plus features users can now delete people from the list of auto-suggested contacts you see when composing a new e-mail message. In another backend change, business professionals who aren't administrators of their computers can now download Xobni, whereas before they had to cut corporate tape.
One of the most useful new features sees users of the premium (and relatively new) Xobni One service being able to view thumbnail images of contacts from one Outlook in-box to the other. When it was first introduced in mid-March, the cloud-based Xobni One only "synced" Outlook contacts between Xobni for Outlook and Xobni on the BlackBerry. Now, Xobni's servers can share photo information between multiple Xobni desktop add-ons under your name.
The company also notes that it's fixed some known bugs that had Xobni conflicting with (or disappearing as a result of) other Outlook add-ons, such as a security add-on by Trend Micro.
Here's another perk--Outlook should just scoop up this new version of Xobni if you upgrade from Outlook 2007 to Outlook 2010 without requiring you to reinstall. In fact, Xobni's single installer inserted the add-on to both versions of Outlook on our Windows 7 laptop.
New users who frequently search their in-box have much to gain from trying out the free version, and, confusing pricing structure aside, business professionals can benefit from the premium Xobni Plus (like autosuggestions when you compose) and from the server-based Xobni One "syncing" service that shares contact information between multiple Xobni accounts.