Importantly, Xobni has a search function, akin to the Google Desktop search. While it’s fast compared with Outlook, it still needs some work, as Smith admits. I searched using two words that I knew were in the subject of an e-mail, but the e-mail appeared relatively far down on Xobni’s search results. Smith says that the search feature might favor searching for words in the body of the e-mail rather than in the subject, and that the team was experimenting with the best way to order its search results. Still, I find that Google’s search tool is more powerful at this point.
Xobni also offers a set of analytic tools that can be accessed from the Outlook tool bar. Using these tools, a person can see graphs of her daily, weekly, and monthly e-mail activity, from average e-mails sent and received to the average response time. For people who are interested in when they are most productive or are looking to find a way to change their working habits, this could be a useful feature.
When you first download Xobni, the software notes that it is indexing your e-mails–looking for little bits of data about such things as the name of the sender, the date, e-mail addresses of people who have been cc’d, and whether or not there is an attachment; the process takes between 15 and 25 minutes. Xobni starts with the most recent e-mails and works backward chronologically.
After using Xobni for the past few weeks, I’ve noticed a few quirks that will hopefully be ironed out in future versions. For instance, the software has prolonged the amount of time it takes my version of Outlook to open on my Dell (both are a few years old). Also, Xobni has missed a handful of recent e-mails that I expected to see when I searched for them. But overall, the experience was good, because never before had I had such an interesting look at e-mails and such instant access to phone numbers and attachments.
Right now, Xobni is not available for download, although people may request the software by visiting the website. Smith says that he and his colleagues will most likely be ready to let more people test Xobni within the next couple of months. In 18 months, he says, he expects to release more versions of the software that work with Gmail and Yahoo Mail, for instance. Also, he’s exploring the idea of mining instant-messaging data for social-network connections and content to make Xobni more useful.