Software

10 add-ins that make Outlook easier to use

If you can't do something in Outlook, chances are there's an add-in that can. Susan Harkins lists some handy add-ins that close a few feature gaps.

Outlook is a winner in the add-in department, with so many good ones available. Of course, not all add-ins deliver on their promises -- and some slow down an already performance-challenged program. But there are plenty of Outlook add-ins that expand functionality or enhance existing features. Here are 10 of my favorites.

1: RecoverMyEmail

Outlook is a great management tool, but it's prone to corruption errors. Usually, a corrupt PST file is the culprit, and the result is lost information. If you're lucky, Microsoft's pst repair tool can recover everything. But in my experience, it doesn't.

RecoverMyEmail can repair a broken PST (and DBX) file and recover emails. Figure A shows the add-in at work; the process can take a while. This add-in can also undelete email after you've emptied your Deleted Items folder. It's easy to implement and use. Unfortunately, it won't recover or undelete anything but email items. You'll have to look elsewhere for help recovering contacts and calendar items.

Figure A

Click Open Email File to start the recovery process.
  • Windows 2000, XP, 2003, and Vista
  • Outlook 2000, 2002, 2003, and 2007 (and Outlook Express)
  • $99.95
  • Free trial

2: E-mail Follow-up

Outlook lets you assign a reminder when you send email and then adds the reminder to your To-do list. If you need more (like me), try E-mail Follow-up. This add-in lets you set a response time when you send an email, as shown in Figure B. If the recipient doesn't respond within the allotted time, the add-in will remind you that you're still waiting on a response.

Figure B

Set a response time and let E-mail Follow-up do the remembering for you.
  • Windows 2000, XP, 2003, Vista, and 7
  • Outlook 2000, XP, 2003, 2007, and 2010
  • $24 (single user) up to $1200 (for 100 users)
  • Free trial

3: Lookeen

Despite improvements in Outlook's search features, many users are still turning to Lookeen. It quickly finds Outlook items, email, contacts, appointments, and so on, that contain your search string. Even attachments are searched. Results are easy to work with and provide an additional management tool for previewing, moving, and deleting.

Figure C

Type in the search string and Lookeen finds every item that contains that string.
  • Windows XP, Vista, and 7
  • Outlook 2003, 2007, and 2010
  • $39.80 (single user) with volume discount
  • Free trial

4: Xobni

It happens to all of us: I know John changed the meeting time after Mary said she couldn't make it... but you can't find the message with the new time. And when you finally find it, you realize that John's assistant, and not John, responded with the new time. Xobni works alongside your mail window to display recent conversations, exchanged files (Figure D), and related emails from people in the copy line. You can also view statistics and graphs that will tell you about your email habits.

Figure D

View people and attached files related to a specific email.
  • Windows XP, Vista, and 7
  • Outlook 2003, 2007, and 2010
  • $7.99 a month
  • Free trial

5: SimplyFile

Despite my best efforts, my Inbox stays crowded. I can drag messages to categorized folders, but I have many folders and I'm good at dropping messages into the wrong folder. SimplyFile does what Outlook does, but a bit more efficiently. After a little training (SimplyFile, not you), a single click to the SimplyFile group, shown in Figure E, will move messages. As you use this add-in, its ability to choose the right folder improves. (This add-in doesn't support Google Docs and has known issues with Gmail.)

Figure E

With SimplyFile, filing is a single click away.
  • Windows XP, Vista, and 7
  • Outlook 2003, 2007, and 2010
  • $49.95
  • Free trial

6: Email Scheduler

Outlook offers a bare-bones scheduling feature. You specify a day and time, and Outlook won't send the message before the allotted time. If you're scheduling messages frequently, you'll probably want more options. Email Scheduler fully automates scheduling delayed messages and sending messages. You can attach files and even whole folders. Although this is a handy add-in, be sure to check its restrictions before purchasing -- it doesn't work with Outlook Express or Exchange Client.

  • Windows 2000, XP, 2003, Vista, and 7
  • Outlook 2000, XP, 2003, and 2007
  • $24 (single user) up to $1200 (100 users)
  • Free trial

7: Sent Item Organizer

Occasionally, I run into an add-in that doesn't add functionality, it just lets me do what I want to do more efficiently. Sent Item Organizer lets your organize your sent messages by filing them in specific folders. This add-in is more flexible than Outlook's built-in rules. You can use keywords or email addresses to trigger the move. This add-in is also good for users who need more control but are unfamiliar with Outlook features.

  • Windows XP, Vista, and 7
  • Outlook 2000, XP, 2003, 2007, and 2010
  • $29.95
  • Free trial

8: Easy2Add

The coolest stuff comes sometimes comes in the smallest package. Easy2Add displays a small icon in your task tray. When you want to add a new item to Outlook, click the icon and enter the item. That's all you see, but behind the scenes, it creates a new item in Outlook even if Outlook is closed. Want to add a quick lunch meeting? You don't have to launch Outlook and wait for all those add-ins to load -- just use Easy2Add, enter the details (Figure F), and you're done. You'll have to follow a few rules about the text you enter, but they're simple. (Note: The documentation doesn't list Outlook 2010, but so far, so good; just keep that in mind if you use it with 2010.)

Figure F

Enter item details without launching Outlook.
  • Windows XP and Vista
  • Outlook 2002, 2003, and 2007
  • Free

9: PocketKnife Peek

PocketKnife Peek lets you view HTML messages in plain text without the potential danger of executing a malicious script. After installing this add-in, you'll find a Peek button on the standard toolbar in Outlook 2000 through 2007. In Outlook 2010, it's on the Add-In tab. Select the email item and click Peek. Figure G shows an issue of the Office For Mere Mortals newsletter in plain text. (No, I wasn't really worried about the newsletter. OfMM has been around for ages and is clean and informative!)

Figure G

Click the tabs to view an HTML email in plain text.
  • Windows XP, Vista, and 7
  • Outlook 2000, XP, 2003, 2007, and 2010
  • Free

10: SMS

Microsoft's SMS add-in lets you send SMS text messages through most mobile phones. In addition, you can save a draft, send to groups, print the SMS, and forward a message as SMS or email. You can lookup contacts and use Spellcheck. Connect your mobile phone via Infrared, Bluetooth, or even a USB cable and you're ready to go.

  • Windows Server 2003, XP, Vista
  • Outlook 2003 and 2007
  • Free

Other add-ins?

What other Outlook add-ins would you include on this list? Join the discussion and share your recommendations with other TechRepublic members.

About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

64 comments
jonathanjunkins72
jonathanjunkins72

The best free Outlook add-on to me has been Outlook Reminders On Top. I had a problem after my company upgraded us to Windows 7 where my reminder windows weren't always coming up, which was causing me to miss meetings and stuff. It turns out the reminders were getting minimized and highlighted in the task bar, but I wouldn't always notice it. Anyhow I installed that program (from www.radaker.com) and the problem went away, so I highly recommend it for anyone having this problem. Last time I checked it was still free.

vanina_123
vanina_123

Great article! I've found Email Stopwatch (http://emailstopwatch.com) useful to automatically track all the time I spend on emails. It sends a report to me everyday with the total time spent with each of my clients so I can add the time to my invoices. It’s easy to use and pretty cheap for our firm.

vanina_123
vanina_123

Great article! I’ve found Email Stopwatch (http://emailstopwatch.com) useful to automatically track all the time I spend on emails. It sends a report to me everyday with the total time spent with each of my clients so I can add the time to my invoices. It’s easy to use and pretty cheap for our firm.

dohodoho
dohodoho

I made this Outlook add-in that prevents you from sending accidental emails. It asks you to confirm email addresses outside your company domain with a single popup. I think it is very useful :)


http://www.safesendsoftware.com

klmcgb
klmcgb

Both as a very busy mom and a nurse consultant, I have long conversations with people or groups of people over the course of years. I will take pieces of info like births/deaths and add them to the notes in Contacts (Outlook 2010) but what I really want to do is have an automated compilation of conversations like a diary. For example, I work with patients who give me their medical history and I follow them for a year, then a few years later, they contact me for additional help. I end up searching files and archives for emails they have sent over time and try to piece together the history. It would be easier to have it compiled in a single journal or diary format so I can get myself up to date on their prior treatments and outcomes. For my personal life, I gave up on trying to journal life experiences for my kids. But I have kept family emails where I tell about things we have done. I would love to have this folder compiled into a diary-type document that I can one day share. Any ideas on this?

joep1701
joep1701

When I right click a link in an email I want to be presented with a popup menu with the following browser choices; Open now with Firefox Open now with Chrome Open now with IE Open in default browser but do not switch to browser The last choice is when there are several links in an email and I rather go through the entire email selecting the links I want for later reading, rather going back and forth between the email and my browser every time a click on a link. Thanks all.

N
N

I have several different email addresses in Exchange on my account. One time I sent with my default account gvdkolk@n-i.nl, another time I sent with support@n-i.nl or info@n-i.nl. In exchange / outlook 2010 we would like to have this: If somebody send me a reply on a message sent with my email address support@n-i.nl I want outlook to understand that when I send a reply on this message it is send with support@n-i.nl and not my basic emailaddress gvdkolk@n-i.nl. Is there such a tool to automatically reply on the address that came in? Thanks in advance

hgutierrez
hgutierrez

I have been desperately searching for a way to add an "Equipment" button to the right of the "Add rooms" button on the Scheduling Assistant page of Outlook 2010. I was able to add Custom attributes to a list of equipment, which now appear under it's own "Address List" in the drop down of the Scheduling Assistant page, but I would like to have a Button access that Address List directly so only Equipment shows up. it would make user acceptance much easier if they could just click on "Add rooms" when they need a meeting room, and then click on "Equipment" when they need resources. Does anyone have any idea how to do this?

KevinBeach
KevinBeach

Through many versions of Outlook, the calendar display on the front page has been deficient because it does not show "empty" days or the date of each day. I'd like an add-on that shows every day of the following week (or even two weeks), with its date, even if there are no appointments for the day.

rspiewak
rspiewak

It's been gone a while...

The Old Barn
The Old Barn

If you like SimplyFile, how about the other software by the same company, TechHit.com? I could not survive with the huge volume of emails coming into Outlook but MessageSave and QuickJump by that company are well worth the low package price. Add in their social media software at "free" is tough to beat. I am a customer of this company and have no other connection with this company-just like their software. Bye, S

leon
leon

Susan, you should probably take a look at the new Outlook Add-In on the block. It is called SKAIFO - Skype Add-In For Outlook. It has lots of Skype functionality inside outlook with extensive UI... some great features such as Advance Scheduled Call Forwarding, Call Recording and Playback, and more... and one more thing worth mentioning: GeoMapping - it can map Skype and Outlook users and any Points of Interests...http://www.skaifo.com

oscil8
oscil8

Harmon.ie for Outlook does everything I need...but only for google docs, severely limiting my allowable file types. I need an equivalent that handles many many more file types (in other words, uses hosted storage other than google docs)

jfreedle2
jfreedle2

NONE of these add-ins are even needed. All of the functionality in these Add-ins are already included in Outlook and easily accessable. I guess that conmen are still around and still doping people into purchasing unneeded software.

susanabbott
susanabbott

I'm surprised no one has mentioned ClearContext. Auto-filing, one-click filing and categorization are helpful to keeping e-mail organized. There are more tools to use, but the filing aids are very helpful.

sweetings
sweetings

I have a vast collections of email message files with attachments from various projects that have worked on going back to the mid 90s and a number of them I cannot open with the attachment available because of the file type, which could be exe or some other type that have since been banned by MS as a security risk in later versions of Outlook. This is all well and good as a rule for today but, I reviewed, used and stored these message files and their attachments, years ago when received to have a permanent record for any future use (which I have had). As far as I am concerned, all of these files and their attachments are perfectly safe and I now need a method to open these old messages, with their attachments intact for further use. Does anybody know of a method?

bud_dude
bud_dude

Call me an old fart, stuck in the mud, fuddy duddy, but I refuse to upgrade beyond Outlook 2007 since that would be the end of my Lookout for Outlook search engine days. Still the best, fastest, and easiest in depth search engine ever developed for Outlook that searches inside mails and attachments... until Microsoft bought the product and ruined it. At least it can still be used in its original UI and easily handles indexing a 16GB 10 year old email store on MS Exchange Server. I simply cannot imagine working a day without a full function search engine such as this with its syntax searches.

Bob N.
Bob N.

The developer of QuickFile and EmailNotes just announced a new tool that they will release tomorrow, June 3. The tool, SmartSchedules, will allow a user to define templates for creating a series of appointment and tasks that can be managed as a group. I would describe this as adding the ability to create work flow processes within Outlook in a manner that would be similar to a work flow process in a CRM tool. It might not be for everyone, but if it fits your needs it might be a great tool. The developer has posted a video introduction at http://www.standss.com/t/1105/smartschedules_video.asp.

LMHinWEHO
LMHinWEHO

What about the Aladdins suite of Envelopes & Labels--click and print custom everything! CategorieZ--a quick bar that lets you create, group and click to add AND synch across your org's server. LinkZ is an amazing way to connect your Contacts to each other. AND Office Documents makes Mail Merge to emails, letters, contracts and a lot more almost instantaneous. I've been using these for years and wouldn't dream of working without them.

Kengrush
Kengrush

Does what it says. Has (full "business" edition) successfully synced my desktop's 2 user accounts with 2 laptops with THE SAME account credentials without Exchange. A single license on any PC will allow syncing of networked units. It also offers the ability of syncing to a common network PST file for each account ID, avoiding occasional access (unable to lock file) problems, meaning BOTH Outlook files can be in use, but then both syncing PCs have to have separate licensed installations.

Pcobiwan
Pcobiwan

AutoMate is by far my favorite Add-in. It has much more complex rule possiblities that the standard Outlook rules. I am able to set up rules to automatically file my emails after they've been read. It also offers the ability (in AutoMate Pro) to strip and save attachments - a great help with email storage limits.

Denders185
Denders185

Would still like to see an add-on that would sync emails between my desktop, laptop and blackberry.

MarkNW
MarkNW

I knew the trick of dragging a message onto the calendar to create an appointment - good tip. Does anyone know of a tip or add-on that will allow you to duplicate a meeting? Oftentimes I want to set up multiple meetings that aren't identical or evenly spaced (yes, GroupWise did this very nicely, also, by allowing you to select different dates off a calendar). Got a calendar add-on for Outlook 2010 that will let you clone or copy meetings (without moving the original)?

clamb1
clamb1

I frequently send an email to multiple distribution lists. The same person, usually several people, may be contained in several of these different lists. Is there an add-in that will scan the "To" field and remove duplicate names?

wramallah
wramallah

this one facility that I think is long overdue. no inbox is immune of duplicate emails that could run into hundreds or more. deleting them is a major pain. i used Thunderbird and this facility is standard and is great. wassim Abdullah - Palestine

brad
brad

Another great productivity Outlook AddOn is i-Read-it (www.i-read-it.com). It prevents Outlook from marking emails as read UNTIL you click the I-Read-It button (I have a tendency to go through emails and then forget to reply to one because it is now marked as read), and you have other buttons to easily add emails to reminders. I use this plugin all the time, and I never forget about emails now. For 10 dollars, it's a steal!

DWalker88001
DWalker88001

I get a lot of messages that will "expire" after a certain date. When I receive a message, I would like to mark it to delete itself on a given date, say, 2 weeks from now. Is there any way to do that?

imsoscareed
imsoscareed

I keep seeing about all the problems with PSt corruption. I've been using Outlook with Exchange server since Exchange Server 5 (1997) with over 1500 users and have never had a corrupt PST file.

MrRich
MrRich

Harmon.ie is a free Outlook connector for Sharepoint. It is super smooth to use to file any attachments to Sharepoint as they come in through email and to add attachments from a document library. Much better than the built in sharepoint integration in Outlook 2007. This is my top add-on of the past ten years. It is really that good! DS development email extractor has literally saved me days of work while handling bouncing and over quota users on a 7000 user mailing list. It allowed me to migrate subscribers whose ISPs were blacklisting us (trust me, not spamming here) to a new provider. Recommended for anyone who handles large mailing lists without serious automation.

victor.gutzler
victor.gutzler

One of the simple functions I miss since switching from Groupwise to Outlook has been the ability to convert an email message into an appointment. Is there a way to do this in Outlook, or is there an addin that does it?

simonlister
simonlister

Mail Manager is a plug-in for Microsoft Outlook that enables users to file, find and share emails easily. The search tool is lightening fast and I can also file email from my BlackBerry which is really handy. www.oasys-software.com/mailmanager

midiman57
midiman57

Yes! IE9. The perfect add-in for Outlook.

mrevivo
mrevivo

Only one add-on is for outlook 2010

DaiBell
DaiBell

Am I the only one who has had virtually no problems with IE9 64 bit in Win 7? I've been using it for 2-3 months now with 64 bit Flash beta. Only one or two sites of the very large number I visit have shown compatibility problems and that was sorted by adding them to the Compatibility View list. BTW IE9 for XP showed-up in Windows Update on one of my XP PCs and it installed with an initial Favourites Save problem (due to file permissions?). I deleted the account and set it up again which fixed the problem.

BogBeast
BogBeast

I get CC'd all the time on emails I don't need to see. If there and add on or outlook function that allows me to remove myself from an email conversation? frequently my inbox gets trashed by people 'replying to all' to the original email...

jhwatersphd
jhwatersphd

amazingly, there do NOT seem to be, yet, any automatic and simple ways to synchronize Outlook Contacts and Calendar (which calendar, by the way?) with an Android smart phone!!! There are some, but they all require you to work with something called Microsoft Exchange or something of the sort, which i not only do not, but don't even know what it is. How about some help for the little guy, the individual who isn't a part of a large corporations with servers, etc?? Jwatersphd

rpatter763
rpatter763

I liked your article but I would like to see one on your opinion of the best anti-spam filters.

Bob N.
Bob N.

I use a couple of products that I find particularly useful for Outlook - QuickFile and EmailNotes. Both of these products and many more can be found at www.Addins4Outlook.com. You can take them for a test drive before you decide to purchase them. QuickFile makes email management very easy while EmailNotes allows me to add my own notes to messages. You really have to try these products to understand their value, but I highly recommend that you look at the great solution stack that this company has created for working more effectively with Outlook.

wpshore
wpshore

I've been using Xobni for months now and can't imagine using Outlook 2007 without it - I HIGHLY recommend it to everyone - it has a lot of features in the full version but the (almost) instant search feature in the free version actually makes Outlook useable and avoids the kludge it ordinarily is. I might even upgrade to the paid version one day but - please be advised - there is a free version that's wonderful and has no real learning curve to make you much more productive in Outlook.

jan
jan

Although I hate Lotus Notes, I fell in love with its functionality of being able to selectively delete and or save attachments. The same functionality can be installed with Outlook. It required some research across the internet, but I have now a button on my ribbon that I click when I want to remove and possibly save the attachments from a (closed) message. I use it every day.

Lightning546
Lightning546

You neglected to include the Outlook shutdown add-in to your list. This is an absolute must have if Outlook won't shutdown properly, and saves you from having to wipe your drive and reinstall all of your software. Your list would also have been more effective if you had limited the Outlook add-ins to free solutions, not everyone can afford to buy stuff especially in this economy. Another add-in that you didn't put on the list (if it's available) is an add-in that automatically sorts mail rules alphabetically, which is a huge shortcoming in Outlook.

jamiefixit
jamiefixit

Hmm? I used outlook since it's inception up until a year ago when I went cloud based just using gmail and other free stuff, none of which is by any means perfect, but it was extremely liberating and far more suited to the mobile environment we now all find ourselves in. My biggest frustration I guess is the glacial pace of development with Google products and their lack of sophistication, but surprisingly this has not prevented me doing anything that I need to. A bit like getting my first iPhone, my geek response was, how do I do fiddly stuff under the hood? The reality is that I really have not had to, with a couple of minor exceptions, like the abilty to edit the predictive text dictionary (why does no-one allow you to do this?).

mirossmac2
mirossmac2

From Caelo Software, NEO Pro creates a continuously updated index of every word in outgoing and incoming mail. So you can't remember precisely which friend(s) you wrote to about a particular issue, nor when, but you do recall using the word "olympian" (say). Bingo! You're there. Or you're very sure you sent a letter of condolence to X five years back on the sad death of her husband - but did you really? NEO indexes all archive.pst files, too. It does a whole lot of other stuff for business folk, too, that I've never even looked at. But these two features alone make it worth a fortune to me. And okay, Mailwasher Pro isn't an Outlook adjunct but it does let you look at all incoming mail while it's still on the server, where you can read it, check the headers, delete spam, recover accidental deletions, and so download only what you want. I have a lifetime subscription to that.

Neil Leacy
Neil Leacy

http://www.claritude.com/product.htm I dislike having lots of emails left in my inbox and have always filed them in to specfic mail folders once I've read them. However I also dislike having to fish around in the sent mail folder for copies of my replies. As well as making moving emails to specific folders just a few keystrokes away I love the option in Speedfiler that allows me to save the copy of my reply into any specific folder making keeping track with email conversations so much simpler. Neil I find Speedfiler essential for the way I prefer to work with emails as it will not only

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