Take Control of Outlook E-Mail With NEO Pro

NEO Pro 5 features a Microsoft-like ribbon interface and a new conversation view for finding threaded messages.
E-mail is supposed to increase our productivity, but all too often, managing e-mail becomes a job in itself. NEO Pro, now available in version 5, can help. This handy Outlook add-on cuts down on the time you spend dealing with your inbox, though it takes a bit of time to get fully up to speed with it yourself.

The first time you launch NEO Pro after installation, it will catalog all of your messages. The process is quick--it took less than 15 minutes on my machine--and Caelo Software (the app's creator) wisely recommends that you use this time browsing a helpful selection of "getting started" tutorials. I did so, and it was time well spent. That's because although NEO Pro looks a whole lot like Outlook, it's just different enough to require a bit of acclimation before you dive in.

Like previous versions, NEO Pro 5 runs alongside Outlook, and you can use it to manage all of your messages from within its Outlook-like interface. Version 5 features an updated interface with a Microsoft-like ribbon view that will be familiar to anyone who's used the latest versions of Office. (Like previous versions, NEO Pro 5 still allows you to use Outlook as your primary access point for your e-mail. You can use NEO Pro only for locating and organizing messages, if you prefer.)

Also like previous versions, NEO Pro 5 sorts your messages by correspondent, date, bulk mail, category, status, and attachments. This allows you to easily find messages that might otherwise be buried in an overflowing inbox. It's especially helpful that NEO Pro allows one message to reside in multiple locations, which allows you to find it more easily. If you know that an important message came with a .bmp file as an attachment, you can, for example, locate it easily in the attachments folder. Alternatively, if you know that the message arrived last week, but you can't remember the name of the attached file, you can search for it by date.

New in NEO Pro 5 is a conversation view that lets you track e-mail threads with more ease than with Outlook itself. This feature is particularly helpful when you're searching for one message in a sea of replies and forwards, and it's easy to collapse and expand the conversation view when needed. Also new is the ability to add personal notes to individual messages; this is helpful for forgetful folks (like me) who often flag messages, but then can't recall why.

The biggest downside of NEO Pro 5 is its price. Like previous versions, it costs $50 for a new license, which is a bit steep if you've already paid for Outlook. Upgrading from version 4.x will cost you $15, which also might be a bit too much to pay if you can live without the conversation view and the personal notes features. But if you aren't already using NEO Pro, use the 60-day free trial to take it for a test drive. You might find that the time it saves you is worth the price.

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