FewClix e-mail plug-in may help you love Lotus Notes again

Plug-in makes Notes e-mail easier to organize and search

FewClix, the new e-mail add-on for Lotus Notes by Silicon Valley-based Synaptris Inc., is a mirror image of Xobni, the widely praised e-mail plug-in for Microsoft Outlook.

Both aim to make e-mail easier to organize and search, and users -- from Getting Things Done followers who religiously clear out their inboxes every day, to more relaxed types who prefer to let their e-mails pile (up) rather than file -- more productive.

And for the 145 million corporate and government workers that IBM claims still run Notes, FewClix could salvage a much-maligned user experience.

FewClix isn't a me-too product trailing Xobni and its cult following, according to Madan Kumar, CEO of the San Jose-based company.

"We've been in the Lotus Notes market for the last 10 years, providing data management and analysis apps [IntelliPrint and Intelliview]," Kumar said in an interview this week. In 2008, "we had a meeting with a large corporate [client] that convinced us to build a quick POC [Proof-of-Concept], which we showed at Lotusphere 2009 [though] we probably should've realized sooner since we had been getting the message loud and clear from customers over the years."

Synaptris is taking sign-ups for the public beta of the add-on starting today, on the eve of the Lotusphere show. which starts Sunday. The beta works with Lotus Notes 6.0 all the way up to the latest Notes 8.5.1.

Kumar promised users that they will save 30 minutes a day with FewClix's various productivity-enhancing features, in areas including:

  • Search: Users can search for e-mail by clicking on buttons on the right-hand bar, which create "Smart Filters." Users can quickly narrow searches by clicking more buttons, such as Date Range, Only Sent to Me, Urgent only. These searches can also be saved as permanent views.
  • FewClix screenshot
    Through "Smart Filters," FewClix lets Lotus Notes users quickly narrow down e-mail searches by any combination of factors, such as To:, Date, Size, and others.
  • Archiving: While Notes only lets users archive batches of e-mail by date, FewClix offers archiving by any combination of factors, such as recipient + before date + attachment. The beta requires users to search archives separate from the main inbox, but that will be changed by the general release, Kumar said.
  • Folders and Groups: Rather than forcing users to set rules that route e-mails into various folders, Fewclix lets users keep their e-mails in the inbox but reduce clutter by creating different "Groups." Those groups can virtually offload read and process e-mails to "done" groups, mimicking the delete/inbox removal process advocated by David Allen's Getting Things Done regimen, Kumar said.
  • Performance: A slick demo Kumar showed involved a Notes database with 12,000 e-mails. He said FewClix's in-memory index enables "very good" performance for mailboxes as large as 200,000 e-mails.
  • Analytics: FewClix can mine e-mails to see who has been cc:ed and bcc:ed. That way, if the user forgets who else has been involved in the same project/e-mail thread as a co-worker, FewClix can remind and take the user to those messages.
  • Social networking: Browse an e-mail and users automatically see the sender's contact information, taken from the user's local address book or his corporate intranet's database. By general release, FewClix will also generate the e-mailer's LinkedIn information.

More features to come

Xobni remains the more feature-rich product. For instance, Xobni can scrape new e-mails for changes to senders' contact information, which they can automatically update to Outlook. FewClix lacks that feature. It also doesn't mine a user's inbox in order to spit out time-series graphs of e-mail trends or have fancy algorithms to rank the most important people in the inbox, as Xobni does.

Other features, such as Gmail's ability to collapse e-mail threads into conversations, are also missing, since Notes offers its own version, Kumar said.

Kumar said Synaptrics plans to eventually add those features -- it's a data visualization app maker, after all. But he said analytics features were not requested by beta testers. Rather, "they just want us to help them search, which if we can do, means we've hit a home run," he said.

Kumar declined to comment on a final release date or price. The software will be available only for Windows in the first year, followed by a Mac version.

The client plug-in will eventually be joined by an enterprise version that can be deployed and managed by corporate Notes administrators, he said.

Moreover, Synaptris plans to release an Outlook version that will compete with Xobni.

Eric Lai covers Windows and Linux, desktop applications, databases and business intelligence for Computerworld. Follow Eric on Twitter at @ericylai, send e-mail to elai@computerworld.com or subscribe to Eric's RSS feed .

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