August 29, 2002
By Jack Kapica
The Good: A refreshing and powerful way to organize e-mail.
The Bad: Although it's easy to learn, it may take a while to incorporate it into your routine. Also, it works only with Microsoft Outlook.
The Verdict: For the price, it's an excellent product for people who handle immense amounts of mail.
When Microsoft released Outlook, its e-mail and scheduling software package, with Windows 98, I was astonished by how many features it had. But in those days I didn't get as much e-mail as I do today — and I'm not even counting the spam. I have come to realize that despite its weight and complexity, Outlook makes organization of e-mail difficult.
Nelson e-mail Organizer, or NEO, a plug-in for Outlook, made me realize just how many more features I really wanted. Produced since 1999 by Caelo Software of Nelson, B.C., NEO is essentially a shell program that displays e-mail in a variety of ways.
Brilliantly, NEO doesn't change anything in Outlook — just the way we look at it. The first time it is run, it builds a database of the contents and sorts everything by a variety of criteria. What it displays is a series of pointers to Outlook's contents, meaning mail can be deleted, answered, forwarded and so on without disturbing the actual .PST file where the mail resides, or the Microsoft Exchange mail server, where the mail resides on large networks.
The database is updated regularly in an automatic process, or it can be updated at the press of a button.
As a result, NEO can be closed entirely and Outlook will continue to run in the traditional way. Whatever changes are made in Outlook (deleted mail, new mail) will be reflected in NEO when it is next opened up; and whatever changes are made with NEO will be reflected in Outlook.
It's a bit of a shock at first, but NEO has done away with the Inbox. Under the familiar Outlook toolbars is a series of tabs, which sort e-mail in categories marked Hot, Correspondents, Bulk Mail, Status, Date, Attachment and Search.
The Hot category is a customizable area in which you can put the most important e-mail, correspondents or mail folders. The Correspondent view is reserved for those to whom the writer is sending mail directly.
And rather than attempt yet another algorithm to delete spam, NEO dumps all e-mail with multiple recipients into the Bulk Mail folder, jumbling messages about the latest potion to enlarge various body parts together with the other multiple-recipients stuff, such as the daily joke list you subscribe to. Although it would have been nice to find that NEO could kill spam, which is next to impossible without making good e-mail suffer too, I still found it a lot easier to separate the spam from the real mail when it is sorted as Bulk Mail. NEO makes it more manageable, and that's a great comfort. (Of course, Outlook's spam filters will still work with NEO, so there's no concern about where spam lands.)
The Status view shows e-mail by the various flags you (and your correspondents) tweaked — such as Tagged, Kept or Unread — and the Attachments tab lists e-mail that has arrived with any kind of attachment. The Date view organizes e-mail by when it was sent or received.
I like this last one because I sometimes like to look at an exchange of letters in chronological sequence; this is difficult in Outlook, which puts items I send into the Sent Items folder, and the received ones in another. Unless I physically sort them all into a single folder, which I often forget to do, I can't see them in the proper order. Moreover, NEO will not only list the mail in chronological sequence, but also by correspondent — there's no need to create a separate folder for each exchange.
The last tab offers a search function that's immensely superior to Outlook's, which is a notoriously slow process. NEO's indexing function works much more quickly. NEO automatically updates its database every hour, but a user can force an update as necessary. Moreover, NEO saves searches for future reference.
Instead of the Inbox, NEO creates a category it calls Hot, which is basically the new mail combined with a To Do list, taken from Outlooks calendar feature. The Active Mail pane to the right is an embellished interpretation of the Inbox. Below that is the preview window, like Outlook's; another pane offers a view of the classic folders as Outlook offers them.
The Active Mail organizes correspondence by date (today, yesterday, this week, last week, and all the way back by several years), as well as by correspondent. In this latter category, it shows letters to and from the correspondent even if they are in different Outlook folders.
It also features the e-mail version of Caller ID — when new e-mail arrives, an icon appears, a sound is played and a balloon pops up with the name of the sender.
There are many features here, enough to make the program a little bewildering at first. But after a while, the monster in the Inbox will be tamed.
Nelson E-mail Organizer, v. 2.5, Caelo Software, http://www.caelo.com, $29.95 (U.S.). Bulk licenses also available. The program operates with Microsoft Outlook 97, 98, 2000 and 2002 (XP), as well as with Exchange 5.5 (SP3) and Exchange 2000 (SP2) (SP3) and Exchange 2000 (SP2).