Outlook is a platform
This is something I've been thinking of, and there have been an number of blogs posts relating to this.
Anil Dash recently wrote about Outlook as a platform. And Marc's Outlook on Productivity Site, has a number of posts about some utilities that really enhance my productivity in Outlook. “My Equation for Serious Outlook Productivity” discusses a number of these tools such as (the following are links are to articles on Marc's site):
- Getting Things Done - tools based on David Allen's methodology
- Lookout - search Outlook in seconds
- NewsGator - system for reading RSS feeds in Outlook and more
- ActiveWords - can't really explain what this is, you need to try it yourself
- Anagram - tool for parsing text and generating Outlook items (tasks, contacts etc)
- Plaxo - contact management tool
- SpamBayes - spam filterting
I don't use all of these, but I use some. I spend most of my day in Outlook and for may years I've really not felt very productive in Outlook, even though it's a necessary tool to do a good chunk of my work at Microsoft. However, as Marc and Anil write, these additional tools really do make some of us a lot more productive using Outlook. NewsGator really just delivers more information to me, much of it interesting, but it really just adds more to my life ;-). Lookout helps my find things in my huge Outlook store, and that saves me a lot of time. Plaxo allows me to keep my contact information up-to-date without having to track down people as they move and so on. Getting Things Done has allowed me to stop stressing about my e-mail and feel good about knowing that all the stuff I need to do is on my task list or on my calendar, freeing me up to keep on top of the information I need to process. Finally, I just installed ActiveWords (thanks Buzz) and plan on exploring this highly regarded piece of software.
If you spend a good chunk of your life in Outlook, I recommend you read up on some of these tools to see if they are good enough for you.
Finally, I've personally been thinking of how OneNote, Outlook, Getting Things Done, the file system, and my analog files all work together. I seem to have Outlook pretty well on track to making me productive again, and I've got ad-hoc ways of using OneNote and my documents but the integration between all these things isn't so fluid at this point. I think I'm going to have to get my hands dirty and write some code. Thankfully there is a GotDotNet workspace called Niobe that promises to make writing Outlook Add-ins in managed code a reality.