Useful bits of software
Sometimes it seems as if I spend my entire life in Microsoft Outlook -
probably because I do. It's the first program I fire up on my main box after a
reboot, and critical information from it synchronizes to my PocketPC to join me
on those rare occasions when I actually leave the house. So, when I was thinking
about software that I use all the time, the first three that came to mind
integrate with Outlook.
Let's start with the WinZip
E-Mail Attachment Add-On for Outlook. Though still in beta, it's already
quite stable (as I've found to be generally the case with WinZip products;
registering that particular piece of shareware is something that I've never
regretted. Anyhow, if you're a WinZip user and you use Outlook (not Express)
2000, 2002, or 2003, you should grab this one. What it does is integrate zipping
directly into Outlook. You get some new icons in every e-mail message so that
you can zip and insert files as a single step, as opposed to needing to zip to a
disk file and then attach the file. Alternatively, you can set it up to just
transparently zip any file you attach to a message. I use this one daily, since
my bandwidth is limited and my commitments sometimes seem like they aren't.
Next on my hit parade is X1. X1 is one of the
current crop of applications that indexes your local hard drive so you can find
things quickly. But it does a lot more than some of the competition. For one
thing, it indexes all of your e-mail as well as whatever disk files you point it
at, and it has no trouble with network drives. For another, it's blazing fast.
With over half a million e-mail messages in my index, it's a matter of just a
few seconds to find the ones that match any search term I care to think of. The
current release version has a sort of funky interface; if you're willing to live
on the beta edge (and this is another case where the beta has been wonderful for
me), mosey on over to the support forums and grab the latest version, which has
a much more standard Windows UI as well as integration with the taskbar.
Finally, where would any of us be without a way to beat back the spam?
Buried, I suppose. After trying a bunch of alternatives, I settled on SpamBayes. SpamBayes uses Bayesian
filtering to determine whether messages are spam or ham - basically, you train
it by showing it a bunch of spam and a bunch of non-spam and then it decides
whether incoming messages look more like spam or ham. I like SpamBayes because
it's free, it integrates easily with Outlook, and I can set my own threshold for
how certain it should be before tossing a message in the spam bin. By adjusting
this, I can be sure to catch any false positives before they get lost, at the
cost of still having to read a few new spams each day.
Mike Gunderloy has been developing software for a quarter-century now, and writing about it for nearly as long. He walked away from a .NET development career in 2006 and has been a happy Rails user ever since. Mike blogs at A Fresh Cup.