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How to make Outlook the Ultimate Social Media Tool July 3, 2008

Posted by Doriano "Paisano" Carta in Email, Microsoft, rss, Social Media, social networks.
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Believe it or not, Microsoft can actually help you create the ultimate social media tool! If you use Microsoft Outlook 2007 as your email client then you have the basic foundation for creating a powerful social networking monster. Here’s how I use my most important communication tool on a daily basis.

Most organizations have Microsoft Windows networks with Exchange server which means most of corporate America is using Microsoft Outlook as their email client. At the heart of Outlook is the inbox, which is where you get all of your company related emails. It also manages everyone’s calendar and appoinments as well as tasks and notes. Not too shabby right out of the box.

However, with a few simple and free plugins and add-ons you can supercharge Outlook into an even more powerful web 2.0 communication tool with built-in social networking! Here are just some of the best services you can snap into Outlook.

Here’s view of my data center, Microsoft Outlook. Click image to enlarge.

Here’s a breakdown of each highlighted section of my Outlook:

1. Business Email: The inbox is grand central station for Outlook, the heart of your mailbox. All of my corporate emails go here.

2. Personal Email: Outlook allows you to add many other email accounts to your client so you can access your personal email accounts from services like Bellsouth, Earthlink and even web based services like GMail. Here’s an excellent tutorial on how to add gmail to outlook.

3. xobni: If you want extended information about the people that send you emails than checkout Xobni which has been covered on here before. Xobnix snaps inside Outlook and displays many new details about the senders and all of the emails that you’ve exchanged with them. They now connect directly to their LinkedIn account if they own one which opens a whole new world of possibilities.

4. OutTwit: If you want to use Twitter from inside Outlook then try this gem. OutTwit adds a tiny toolbar that lets you send new posts to twitter as well as read and reply. You can now use TinyURL and send direct messages to anyone. The beauty of it all is that it looks like your working but you’re actually goofing off with your twitter pals. You can have all new tweets appear in a folder called Tweets (if desired) just like email! It’s also firewall friendly. 🙂

5. Plaxo with Pulse: The address book is very important and Outlook does a great book with managing our contacts. Adding Plaxo with pulse and its excellent Outlook toolbar turns your Outlook into a dynamic social network. In essence, it’s like having FriendFeed in your email client. Also, Plaxo will sync all of your contacts online with your local address book. The most powerful feature is the way Plaxo can manage all of your contacts from many different email systems such as gmail, yahoo mail, and more.

6. RSS feeds: Outlook can become an excellent way to keep up with all of your RSS feeds! While I still love Google Reader, I find myself using Outlook’s excellent RSS reader more and more because I am always in my email. I get notified of new blog posts instantly as they appear in my Outlook just like new emails. I’m hoping they will add the sharing capabilities that other readers have but other than that, Outlook RSS reader is a great time saver! Here’s how to add RSS feeds to your Outlook.

7. TimeBridge: One of the best features of Outlook is the ability to check everyone’s calendar for meeting availability times. The problem with that excellent feature is that it only worked inside the firewall within an organization’s private network. Well, that is no longer the case thanks to services like TimeBridge which understands how valuable this feature is to everyone. It also snaps into Outlook and allows you to share your calendar and availability to people outside of your firewall and local network! This is a powerful way to schedule appointments that will save enormous amounts of time and frustration. Here’s an excellent DemoGirl screencast.

But wait there’s more!
These are just some of the many cool tools you can use with Outlook. I also use other things that work with Outlook that aren’t as visible as these other tools. Tools such as McAfee anti-virus and c2c’s ArchiveOne for archiving older emails with attachments while leaving the headers in my mailbox giving the appearance as if everything were still there (double-clicking the email retrieves it from an archive on another server, saving tons of mailbox space). So, there’s far more than meets the eye when it comes to Outlook

Final Thoughts

Outlook is like the Swiss Army Knife of communications. Sure, it’s a master when it comes to managing your emails, tasks, contacts and calendar appointments, but as you have seen it can do far more than you ever imagined. The possibilities are endless as increasing numbers of new services are developed to work with Microsoft Outlook. Choosing the right tools can help you turn Outlook into an even more powerful communication tool.

Comments»

1. William Lefkovics - July 3, 2008

Another name for the article might be “How to grind Outlook 2007 performance to a virtual halt” or “How to extend your Outlook 2007 startup time by 7 minutes.”

Outlook’s RSS reader is great if you have a handful of feeds. I still use IntraVNews in Outlook 2007 because management of feeds in Outlook is one of the worst interfaces in Office. They chose to use the Accounts interface, which is great for things like… oh… accounts, where you only likely have a few. I have 2000 RSS feeds (sorted into search folders with specific keywords of course).

Outlook is a great, extensible personal information manager, just don’t expect every third party add-on to be written perfectly and work together seamlessly.

Your article certainly outlines how Outlook is supposed to perform, and may do so for some.

2. Paisano - July 4, 2008

lol. Could be true in many cases. That is why I selected Outlook 2007 not 2003. I should also mention that this shouldn’t be tried on anything other than Vista with tons of memory. Sure, one could attempt this (as I have countless times) on an XP system with Outlook 2003 and minimal RAM but it is not for the faint of heart.

Thus, Vista with as much RAM as your budget and system allows and Outlook 2007.

3. Shannon Whitley - July 4, 2008

Great post. I just wanted to point out that many business users will not be able to connect to POP and IMAP personal email accounts due to company firewall restrictions.

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