It was just a short year ago that I really started to look for Outlook plugins that might make email management a little easier. Within the last few weeks I have found three. I didn’t dig into the history of each one of them enough to know how long they had been around but I’m guessing that the availability of Office 2007 has something to do with it.
Below I am going to give my opinion of one plugin, ClearContext. The next two will be covered in separate posts.
The first plugin I tried is ClearContext
From my experience, the idea behind ClearContext is to organize your email into categories or stages. In doing so the messages can be automatically filed away, deferred, delegated or turned into a task or calendar entry. Once an email has been categorized a dashboard view is available which allows a look at all messages, tasks or calendar entries for the project.
ClearContext does a lot of things right. The options available to you from when composing or reading a message are many, and are truly valuable. These include things like creating a task from the message or showing a related view which opens a window showing all messages within the category of the message you are viewing.
Unfortunately there are a few shortcomings that ultimately led me to uninstall ClearContext in search of an alternative. The first of these was that I could only place a message in a single category or stage. Ideally a message should be able to live in multiple categories without creating multiple copies of the message. The next issue was with the dashboard. While this idea is great, the execution is lacking. The dashboard is simply not as well organized or as functional as it needs to be. The last issue was how the messages auto categorize. If I categorize a message with a subject of “Sales Reports” to the “2007 4th QTR” category each message received with the same subject is also placed in that category. There are many instances when this simply won’t apply and will have to be worked around by resending the message to myself with an updated subject. This equals more work and defeats the purpose.
If these few shortcoming can be resolved (and they have certainly been mentioned by others in the ClearContext forums) this will be a very strong plugin.