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.

63 comments
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

davidjbell
davidjbell

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

Bob N.
Bob N.

It would be instructive if you were to compile and share a list of Outlook commands that map to each and every function for which people here have found alternative tools. Perhaps those functions are so well hidden that third party tools make life easier for Outlook users. I must take exception to your assumption that if someone uses a third party tool they have been duped by a con man. What you seem unwilling to consider is that third party tools for Outlook - or any other program - are designed to enhance the user's experience with a program and/or improve productivity in a meaningful and significant way. You can choose to use them or ignore them but I appreciate the availability of tools that help me work more effectively. Perhaps a more open-minded approach might reveal a few tools that could improve your user experience with a program that you use with regularity and upon which you depend to earn a living.

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.

RaulADiaz
RaulADiaz

Best app for doing Sync is NOT getting any Sync app. There will always be some type of limitation, issue, side effect of using a sync app. In one form or another. Thats because without Exchange you dont have one centralized mailbox. You have various mailboxes with different data sets. Get a hosted exchange account or google apps (But outlook works a lot better with MS products). Once you get a hosted exchange you have ONE mailbox that is accessible from various sources (Web access, Outlook Client, Smart phones) all providing the SAME data set (Email, calendar, contacts). By same data that includes everything replies, forwards, messages marked read, messages marked unread, folders, calendar items, contact information, etc. Hosted exchange is affordable for even the small guys. $10 bucks a month on average. A few bucks more for Active Sync(iphone, Android, windows) or Blackberry connections.

gedubyah
gedubyah

Not an add-on, but if you pull up the date that holds your meeting, then hold down the Ctrl button on your keyboard while clicking the other days you want to copy the meeting to. Once you have all the dates in your view, hold down the Ctrl button again, click on your original meeting and drag it to each new date. You can move it to any time you want and it will copy all the information from your original meeting with the new date and time set appropriately.

Pcobiwan
Pcobiwan

You should be able to set up the auto-archive function in Outlook to do this.

tony
tony

If you aee using Outlook with Exchange then the default is cached Exchange mode and thus you have OST files not PST files. Similar, but not quite the same, and these are more easily corrupted because they can get out of sync.

dawsog01
dawsog01

there may be a better way, but you can click on the message and drag it to the calendar button in the navigation pane - it will then open up new a calendar appointment screen with the email contents included......

ssharkins
ssharkins

There were only two (I think) that haven't been upgraded for 2010, all the others support 2010.

Pcobiwan
Pcobiwan

Hi! If you have Outlook 2010 right-click on the header of the email conversation thread and choose 'Ignore'. It will delete the entire conversation from your email and prevent future conversations in that thread.

cybershooters
cybershooters

There aren't any really good sync apps for Outlook/Android, we've been through all of them at work, there are somewhere around a dozen and found serious bugs in all of them. Field matching in all of them leaves something to be desired (i.e. you put something in a field, Android either doesn't show it or puts it in the wrong place). Nearly all of them won't work properly unless you're logged in as an administrator (I think Android Sync was the one exception, but that one has other serious issues). Frankly we've given up, I get the impression that eventually they'll sort it out, HTC Sync is nearly there but not quite (fatal flaw is that it requires Adobe Air and has issues with standard users). So basically no more Android devices for the time being. If you're a standalone user with admin rights on your computer you should be able to use HTC Sync.

MarkNW
MarkNW

I couldn't get the first part to work, but holding Ctrl while dragging the meeting to other dates did work. When I first drug it to the next date, that date was displayed. So, I clicked and drug it to each successive date and it worked great! Thanks...

DWalker88001
DWalker88001

No, it is by specific message. Once I read a particular message, I want to mark THAT message to delete itself in one week, or 10 days, or two months, or whatever, but I have to READ the message to know how long until it should be deleted. These are sometimes for "Events" like an e-mail from a friend, inviting me to something, where the e-mail message is useless after the event has taken place. I don't always make these into a calendar entry. And sometimes they are not really events, but just messages that I want to leave for a couple of months and then have go away.

victor.gutzler
victor.gutzler

It works! I don't know why I never thought of doing that.... Thank you very much for your tip!

Pcobiwan
Pcobiwan

Android has a native Exchange account set up and a native Google account set up... what are you trying to get that isn't available in these?

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