15 Great Microsoft Office Optimization Tools

Outlook Downloads

Outlook is the program everyone loves to hate. It's bulky, and it can be slow, but it also gets the job done. Plenty of tools promise to improve Outlook--the following are our favorites. You'll cut through e-mail clutter, find Outlook information quickly, shrink the size of this bloated application, handle attachments better, and more.

Xobni

If you suffer from e-mail overload and want more out of Outlook, you need this program, which makes finding messages, contacts, and anything else in Outlook exceedingly easy. It's the best Outlook add-in I've ever used.

The program runs as an Outlook sidebar. For each e-mail, it shows information about the person with whom you're communicating, including all the "conversations" you've had with them; in essence, it sets up a threaded list of every e-mail between the two of you. You'll also see a list of every file you've exchanged, as well as the person's phone number and "social network," a list of people with whom that person has exchanged messages. It includes icons for sending an e-mail to the person and scheduling a meeting via Outlook, as well. For anyone who lives for statistics, the total number of messages you've exchanged appears at the top of the screen, along with more information that isn't of much practical use but is interesting regardless.

The add-on offers plenty more, too, including a Xobni Analytics utility that gives you more information than you need about your e-mail use. Want to know the average amount of time you take to respond to people by day, month, and week? It's in there. So is the median time you take to respond to specific people, and to people at a particular domain.

Those statistics, though, aren't the real reason for using this program: It's the only Outlook add-on I've ever tried that actually lives up to the promise of solving e-mail overload.

Download Xobni | Price: Free

Lookeen

This add-in for Outlook 2003 and 2007 performs lightning-fast searches, and offers several tools for managing and finding e-mail.

It integrates directly into Outlook, so you don't have to fumble with a separate program when doing searches. Thanks to its various organizational tools, you can list all conversations with a specific contact, for example, and show all e-mail messages for a given day, week, or month. The program also automatically summarizes messages.

Lookeen does its job by indexing your files and then searching that index, rather than your entire data store. Because of that, you'll have to wait a little while before you can start using it; the program may take up to 20 minutes to finish its initial indexing.

Download Lookeen | Price: Free

SendShield

Worried that the Office documents you send may have private information buried in them? This program, like Metadata Analyzer (see the previous page), solves the problem. When you send a Microsoft Office document in Outlook, the utility examines the document for private information. It then shows you the results and lets you delete that information. The program deletes information only from the copy you send; the original file stays intact.

Download SendShield | Price: Trial; price not currently set

Outlook Duplicate Items Remover

Duplicate information--multiple copies of e-mail messages, contacts, and other details--tends to clutter up Outlook. It may arise because you've imported data from an earlier version of Outlook, or it may show up for no apparent reason.

The free Outlook Duplicate Items Remover solves the problem handily, adding a new Outlook menu option that will eliminate duplicates for you. Click the ODIR menu option, choose Remove Duplicate Items, and select a folder. Then click Remove Duplicate Items. The program will kill the copies, but it will also keep a backup, in case you want to restore anything.

Download Outlook Duplicate Items Remover | Price: Free

Kopf Outlook Attachment Remover

Perhaps the most common complaint about Outlook is how bloated the program becomes. It stores all of its data, including messages and attachments, in a single .pst file--and that file can quickly grow to gargantuan proportions, especially if you have plenty of attachments. As a result, Outlook loads and runs more slowly, and if your .pst file becomes too big, your machine will be prone to crashes.

What if you want to keep your attachments, but you don't want the .pst file to balloon? Try this clever program, which saves the attachments to your PC and deletes them from your .pst file. It then links your e-mail directly to the attachment, so the attachment still appears to exist in Outlook.

The program can go through entire directories, but if you prefer, you can have it operate on a message-by-message basis.

Download Kopf Outlook Attachment Remover | Price: Free

OutlookTools

Outlook is a complex program with many different options. Often these options hide beneath many levels of menus, and some features you may simply never find.

This free utility does an excellent job of simplifying Outlook's configuration. In a flash, you'll be able to access all of your Outlook settings and file folders, as well as to run troubleshooting tools, such as one that fixes corrupt .pst files. You can also solve one of the more annoying problems with Outlook: the program's insistence on blocking certain file types because it considers them insecure. This app will unblock any file type you want.

In addition, it lets you start Outlook with any one of numerous switches, and permits you to customize when and how Desktop Alerts appear to tell you that new mail has arrived. You can change the transparency of alerts, as well as determine how long they should stay visible.

Download OutlookTools | Price: Free

MAPILab Toolbox for Outlook

This excellent Outlook enhancer with 18 add-ons will make your e-mail life far more productive. For example, one add-on checks to see whether you've forgotten to include an attachment in an outgoing e-mail, while another lets you determine which attachments are secure or insecure. You can also schedule certain messages to be sent out on a particular day and time, send out e-mail in batches, autofill text in messages, and more.

It integrates directly into Outlook, and you can easily turn components on and off. It's particularly well suited for anyone who runs their own business.

Download MAPILab Toolbox for Outlook | Price: $24 (Trial)

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