Making e-mail manageable: Four applications tested

E-mail Management ISYS:email.search v1.5 Mailbag Assistant 3.

Making e-mail manageable: Four applications tested
E-mail Management
 
ISYS:email.search v1.5
 
Mailbag Assistant 3.6
 
NEO Pro 3.0
 
Quick Mail Sort 2.0

 Specifications
 Telstra, Nokia team up
 How We Tested
 Editor's choice
 About RMIT
When you've got so much e-mail you don't know how you'll cope, and you're tired of waiting five minutes for Outlook to search your inbox, have we got the software for you!

This review is about managing e-mails, which involves... umm... the management of e-mails. If you're like me, managing e-mails is what you spend far too much of your day doing already. So I'm not about to tell you how to create new directories in your favourite e-mail clients, go through the intricacies of selecting messages, and the finer points of dragging and dropping them into the newly created directories, or go into the subject of creating and tweaking e-mail client rules. Instead, what we are looking at here is software applications that specifically aid in the management of e-mails, particularly the advanced search and cataloguing features.

Before you jump to conclusions and ask "Isn't that the task of my e-mail client software?" the answer is yes and no. While most popular e-mail clients perform some limited e-mail management tasks, many basic functions are definitely lacking.

Personally, the unarchived inboxes for my several active e-mail accounts amount to tens of thousands of messages that I regularly need to refer back to and search for information. Short of creating many complex custom rules to apply to my inboxes -- which I am sure would set a world record of some sort in rule-based application, certainly to rival the largest firewalls and router configurations out there these days -- I'm stuck trying to search and manage them as best I can.

The software packages in this review are all Windows-based client side applications; none of them are server based. Each of them assists with either the sorting, searching, or archiving of e-mail messages.

What are the important things to look out for in a package like this?

  • Depth of searching including the ability to string several search items together as well as include wildcards in searches.
  • Speed of searching, along with depth of searching, is a very important feature to look for; time is money, after all.
  • The ability to archive and to search archives.

ISYS:email.search v1.5.
According to the ISYS Web site, ISYS:email.search is "a search engine for your Outlook, Outlook Express, and Eudora e-mail. It indexes the content of your e-mail folders and provides powerful, lightning-speed search and retrieval capabilities." ISYS:email.search is a homegrown application developed in Sydney by a group of developers called Odyssey Developments.

The installation of ISYS:email.search is very straightforward. As soon as the ISYS application is launched, the user is given the option to automatically detect and index all the e-mails in both Outlook and Outlook Express. For our 10,000+ e-mails, the program took just over 10 minutes and logged over two million words in those ten thousand messages.

That's about all the configuration required. There is an option, switched on by default, to add a quick link in the menu bar of Outlook and Outlook Express to the ISYS application.

Because all the indexing is done upfront, the system can very quickly search and highlight keywords that the operator needs in all messages. The downside is that the indexing needs to be updated regularly. This can be done either manually or automatically to a user-defined schedule. Overall this is a very impressive package. The main benefit is its pre-indexed searches, and these are very speedy. The user interface is well designed and everything is logically placed. This application must surely be on everyone's shortlist for evaluation.

E-mail Management
 
ISYS:email.search v1.5
 
Mailbag Assistant 3.6
 
NEO Pro 3.0
 
Quick Mail Sort 2.0

 Specifications
 Telstra, Nokia team up
 How We Tested
 Editor's choice
 About RMIT
Product ISYS:email.search
Price AU$43 per user
Vendor ISYS Seach Software
Phone 02 9439 5800
Web www.isysemail.com
 
Interoperability

Supports Outlook, Outlook Express, and Eudora.
Futureproofing
Very powerful indexing and searching engine, easy to use and very impressive.
ROI
½
Excellent price.
Service  
No information supplied.
Rating

Mailbag Assistant 3.6
According to the blurb on the Fookes Software Web site, Mailbag Assistant should "save you time and frustration. This e-mail organiser complements your mail program and offers powerful tools to search, sort, export, extract information, and archive your messages."

The installation and initial configuration of Mailbag Assistant took less than five minutes. Once the setup application is launched, the wizard guides the operator through the remaining setup. The initial configuration takes place when the Mailbag Assistant application is launched for the first time. This basically gives the user the option to select which mail types/file types they wish to work with during that session of Mailbox Assistant. Users are given the option of launching that initial configuration screen each time the application is run. Further specific configuration/settings can be accessed via the tools menu or the edit/options menu.

Despite the prodigious number of applications and file types supported by this application, there is no direct support for Outlook (Outlook Express is there), or even just the Outlook PST files. Perhaps the manufacturers of Mailbag Assistant think Outlook is more than capable of handling its own e-mail management without the need for external assistance from third party applications.

The MailBag Assistant application is very impressive with a plethora of tools and data manipulation functions to satisfy most users. Unfortunately, as with most products that come with all the bells and whistles, the actual execution of some things can get a little confusing at times. There are great tools for extracting e-mail addresses as well as statistcal reporting tools. There is also a handy tip of the day pop-up whenever Mailbag Assistant is launched.

This application has support for over fourteen different e-mail clients and formats, which is far more than any other e-mail management application in this review, but not, as we mentioned, Outlook PST files.

Overall a very powerful application, in some respects too powerful. This program is best suited for a mail administrator or power e-mail user who is likely to receive or need to review thousands of e-mails. While it takes some time to get used to, once the operator has had some experience with this application, its actual functionality far outweighs the time it took to get to know it.

There is another application from Fookes Software which may be able to assist Outlook users. Fookes Software told us "There is also a specialised version of Mailbag Assistant called E-mail Examiner. It is targeted to people involved with computer forensics, although it can also be of interest to businesses who need to archive their MS Outlook or AOL mail. E-mail Examiner integrates third-party tools that enable it to import those two mailbox formats (without the presence of the corresponding mail clients). E-mail Examiner is distributed by Paraben and is available from www.paraben-forensics.com/examiner.html.

E-mail Management
 
ISYS:email.search v1.5
 
Mailbag Assistant 3.6
 
NEO Pro 3.0
 
Quick Mail Sort 2.0

 Specifications
 Telstra, Nokia team up
 How We Tested
 Editor's choice
 About RMIT
Product Mailbag Assistant
Price AU$52.80 per user
Vendor Fookes Software
Phone +41 26 927 2446
Web www.fookes.com
 
Interoperability

Supports a very wide range of clients and formats; but doesn't support Outlook.
Futureproofing
Excellent range of features and functions, but relatively difficult to master.
ROI
Very well priced application for features.
Service  
No information supplied.
Rating
&frac12

NEO Pro 3.0

T&B Editor's choice
NEO is short for Nelson E-Mail Organizer. The folks at Caleo Software tell us "NEO Pro is an ideal solution for those who want to enjoy even more control of their Inbox. With its Unified Message Store feature, NEO Pro will give you unparalleled capability to quickly view and search across all your message stores in one easy step. Imagine being able to instantly retrieve an important message buried in the dark recesses of your archives. NEO Pro truly turns your Outlook message stores into an instantly accessible and powerful database."

The installation of NEO Pro 3.0, while slightly more complex than some of the other applications in this review, is still a walk in the park and takes less than five minutes to complete, including the initial configuration.

The first time the application is launched the user completes the initial part of the configuration, which allows the program to create the catalogue and synchronise it. The steps in this initial configuration are as follows: create a catalogue name and a location for that catalogue (the option is also then given to import catalog settings from a previous NEO version). The operator is then prompted to select from a list of those message store(s) that they need NEO Pro to organise. The next step involves showing NEO Pro which folder(s) contain the junk/spam messages. The second last task is to input any existing and any previous e-mail addresses that the user may have had in the past so the application knows which e-mails are personally addressed to you. Once these details have been provided, the final step is to launch the catalogue synchronisation (with an option to launch the NEO tutorials Web page to begin to get a grasp on this pack­-age's abilities).

The actual catalogue synchronisation for our test message store took just over 10 minutes. This included synchronising the personal folders containing 12,493 items, cleaning up the catalogue (9948 items), organising the folders (143 items), and updating the word index (11,421 items).

Once the synchronisation has been completed, the interface at first seems overwhelming. However, after a short while one becomes aware of the logically displayed frames and toolbars and it becomes easy to find the specific tools to assist with the e-mail management. Also combined with the online tutorials, most average users could become proficient in its use within a very quick timeframe.

One nifty feature is the ability to run through the tab bar and instantly view statistics and sorted mail by: correspondent, bulk e-mail, category, status, date, or attachment. This is particularly handy when trying to weed out that elusive e-mail. This application is definitely the most comprehensive set of tools for managing e-mails in this review, however some may feel that it goes a little over the top. It's definitely one for the e-mail power user. In fact, the whole application interoperates so well with Outlook that there is a small icon on the toolbar in Outlook and vice versa in NEO Pro 3, which basically allows the user to switch between one and the other. It would be fairly safe to say that most users of this advanced package would rarely look at the traditional Outlook screen for their e-mail needs preferring to stay in the NEO Pro interface.

Overall, even though it only works with Microsoft Outlook, NEO Pro is very well refined. The user interface, while seemingly cluttered, is surprisingly easy to come to grips with and allows most tasks to be put at the user's fingertips instead of having to dig deep into hidden menu systems to get the task run. Another application that is a definite must for evaluation or trial.

E-mail Management
 
ISYS:email.search v1.5
 
Mailbag Assistant 3.6
 
NEO Pro 3.0
 
Quick Mail Sort 2.0

 Specifications
 Telstra, Nokia team up
 How We Tested
 Editor's choice
 About RMIT
Product Nelson Email Organizer Pro 3.0
Price AU$107 per user
Vendor Caelo Software
Phone +1 604 269 9006
Web www.emailorganizer.com
 
Interoperability

Supports a very wide range of clients and formats; but doesn't support Outlook.
Futureproofing
&frac12
Excellent range of features and functions, but relatively difficult to master.
ROI
&frac12
Well priced for this application.
Service  
No information supplied.
Rating
&frac12

Quick Mail Sort 2.0
Another Australian developed application, Quick Mail Sort 2.0 can, according to the NetroWorx Web site, "make sorting your Inbox in Outlook really simple. At the push of a button Quick Mail Sort sorts e-mail you have read in your inbox to a set of dynamically created folders. Quick Mail Sort uses information you have already provided in your contact list to determine where to file an e-mail.

What's more Quick Mail Sort is blazingly fast. It can sort over two thousand e-mails in under a minute."

The application is designed to run under Microsoft Outlook only. In fact, it has no separate program launch icon -- the whole thing is tacked into Outlook, which makes it very easy to find when you need to. There is no specific configuration needed either, with all the configuration coming down to creating main folders where the data should be sorted to and then selecting from the lists provided in Mail Sort which folders to sort mail from, and which folders to sort them into.

Quick Mail Sort as its name suggests is not a searching program like the other three applications in this review. Instead it simply sorts e-mails in a relatively limited but nonetheless effective way. It is certainly quick; we sorted over 1000 messages in less than a minute.

Once the application is launched, the operator is presented with options to set the source and destination folders for the messages that are to be sorted. There are five check boxes that can be selected too. Two of these direct messages with certain characteristics to alternative locations selected by the operator. Those characteristics are hard coded into the program, namely: sort messages where the company field for the contact is empty to a specific directory, and sort messages from people not in Outlook contact to a specific directory. The other three check boxes cover subfolders, unread messages, and flagged messages.

The way Quick Mail Sort handles the sorted files is very clever; it strips the domain from any given address. Say I have some messages in the folder that is to be sorted from kire@rmit.com. The program creates a subdirectory called rmit.com, and in that a subdirectory called kire@rmit.com where it stores every message from kire. If I have messages from steve@rmit.com it creates a subdirectory in the rmit.com folder called steve@rmit.com and stores those messages there.

This application only works with Microsoft Outlook. Depending on the operator's creativity, most e-mail sorting tasks could possibly be completed with this application. It would be nice to see other sorting options included such as being able to extract just certain e-mails from any given folder instead of having to process and sort every message. This application would be great for users to run before archiving/storing messages, because it would then be very easy to look up specific e-mail trails from certain companies or contacts without having to wade through thousands of messages. This is more specific tool than the other we looked at, but it is quite well executed.

E-mail Management
 
ISYS:email.search v1.5
 
Mailbag Assistant 3.6
 
NEO Pro 3.0
 
Quick Mail Sort 2.0

 Specifications
 Telstra, Nokia team up
 How We Tested
 Editor's choice
 About RMIT
Product Quick Mail Sort
Price AU$46 per user
Vendor Netroworx
Phone 07 3511 6600
Web www.netroworx.com
 
Interoperability

Only supports Outlook.
Futureproofing
&frac12
Limited usage; specifically designed to sort e-mail very fast.
ROI
Very well priced for such a specific task oriented application.
Service
A 90-day warranty is better than nothing.
Rating
&frac12

Specifications

Application ISYS:email.search Mailbag Assistant NEO Pro 3.0 Quick Mail Sort
Vendor ISYS Search Software Fookes Software Caelo Software Netroworx
Web www.isysemail.com www.fookes.com www.emailorganiser.com www.netroworx.com
Phone 02 9439 5800 +41 26 927 2446 +1 604 269 9006 07 3511 6600
Price (RRP inc GST) AU$43 AU$52.80 AU$107 AU$46
Warranty N/A N/A 30-Day Trial 90 Days
E-mail clients supported Microsoft Outlook 98 or later, Microsoft Outlook Express 5 or later, Eudora Microsoft Outlook Express, Eudora, Netscape Messenger, Mozilla Mail, Mozilla Thunderbird, Pegasus, The Bat!, Forte Agent, PocoMail, Calypso, FoxMail, Juno 3.x, EML message files, and generic mailboxes Microsoft Outlook Microsoft Outlook 2000 or later
Ability to integrate with e-mail clients Yes Yes Yes Yes
Ability to run as a standalone application Yes Yes No No
Message file types supported Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora Native mailbox file types from all supported e-mail clients Personal Folder (PST), Offline Folder (OST), Exchange Mailbox, Exchange Delegate Mailbox Outlook
Ability to search Yes Yes Yes N/A
Ability to save search results Yes Yes Yes N/A
Ability to archive No Yes No N/A
Ability to search archives Yes - if open in Outlook Yes N/A Yes
Ability to import No Yes No N/A
Ability to export Yes Yes No N/A
Export file types supported Text EML, general mailbox format N/A N/A
Operating systems supported Windows 95/98/2000/NT4/Me/XP Windows 95/98/2000/NT4/Me/XP Windows 95/98/2000/NT4/Me/XP Windows 95/98/2000/NT4/Me/XP
Hard disk space required 82MB 4MB 10MB 2MB
System RAM required 16MB 32MB 64MB 64MB

Telstra, Nokia team up on BlackBerry

E-mail Management
 
ISYS:email.search v1.5
 
Mailbag Assistant 3.6
 
NEO Pro 3.0
 
Quick Mail Sort 2.0

 Specifications
 Telstra, Nokia team up
 How We Tested
 Editor's choice
 About RMIT
Telstra and Nokia have teamed up for a new BlackBerry-enabled Nokia handset that will provide users with access to an always-on e-mail solution via a mobile phone.

Telstra business and government mobile sales and solutions managing director, Murray Bergin, says this latest innovation and future devices will help boost uptake of the technology.

"This latest BlackBerry innovation means Telstra's business customers can use the same secure, push-based wireless technology that currently supports thousands of users Australia-wide to access corporate e-mail through a Nokia handset," Bergin says.

BlackBerry services, introduced in Australia in September 2002, are designed to provide users with always-on access to important information wherever they are in Telstra GSM coverage areas.

Bergin says Telstra has sold the BlackBerry solution to almost 350 Australian corporations, with more than 6000 users.

Included in the features are tri-band support for worldwide international roaming to approved countries, a BlackBerry Solution for the Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) market and consumers, and a BlackBerry Desktop Redirector Solution which allows users to take advantage of the push e-mail, voice, and SMS without the need to install IT infrastructure.

Bergin says the launch of the Nokia 6820 device, which provides access to the BlackBerry solution, is the latest measure in the advancement of BlackBerry in Australia.

Alex Lambeek, general manager mobile phones and multimedia at Nokia Australia says "In a recent study by Nokia, 77 percent of the business professionals surveyed in Australia said that they always need to access their e-mail while away from office. Recent studies have also shown that... QWERTY keyboards are the most popular input mechanism for text -- preferred by 53 percent of users."

Bergin says some of Australia's largest companies and government organisations have already adopted Telstra's BlackBerry solution.

Test bench

E-mail Management
 
ISYS:email.search v1.5
 
Mailbag Assistant 3.6
 
NEO Pro 3.0
 
Quick Mail Sort 2.0

 Specifications
 Telstra, Nokia team up
 How We Tested
 Editor's choice
 About RMIT
Interoperability
Which e-mail clients and formats does the software support?

Futureproofing
What features does it have, how easy are they to use, and how useful are they?

Roi
What will the software cost and will this be compensated by the time and resources saved?

Service
What support is provided as standard and how much will support end up costing you?

How we tested
Each application was installed on a desktop machine, a Compaq Deskpro, with a 600Mhz Intel Pentium III CPU, 10GB HDD, 128MB RAM, Realtek 10/100 NIC, Intel 810 chipset, running Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional and Microsoft Office 2003. We tested these applications under either Microsoft Outlook Express or Microsoft Outlook. We also installed the Eudora mail client as these were the most common e-mail clients that the applications supported.

Some of the applications support other e-mail client applications as well; the only application that did not support Outlook was the Fookes Software Mailbag Assistant, so we tested that application under Outlook Express.

We imported our "test" set of recent e-mails totalling over 10,000 messages. These were then placed in several different folders under Outlook and Outlook Express. Each e-mail management application was then installed onto a "clean" system and tested. We also created a live e-mail account to receive and send e-mail to and from.

Sample Scenario
Company: Garrett Garden Supplies
This company's staff are currently drowning in e-mail from a publicly-accessible e-mail address. Customer queries are going unanswered, while others get multiple answers, and this is damaging the company's reputation. The company desperately needs a package to help staff organise e-mail and make sense of the chaos.

Approximate budget: The company expects the package to pay for itself in saved time and better handling of e-mail.

Requires: An e-mail management package that will integrate well with the company's current mail clients.

Concerns: Improved ability to manage e-mail is obviously the key concern here, ease of use and ease of integration with mail clients are also important factors.

Best solution: It's a very close call between ISYS:email.search and Caleo Software's NEO Pro 3. NEO Pro has more features and ways to slice and dice your e-mail, but nothing can beat ISYS for sheer speed.

T&B Editor's choice
Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice: NEO Pro 3;
Highly Commended: ISYS.email.search


E-mail Management
 
ISYS:email.search v1.5
 
Mailbag Assistant 3.6
 
NEO Pro 3.0
 
Quick Mail Sort 2.0

 Specifications
 Telstra, Nokia team up
 How We Tested
 Editor's choice
 About RMIT
Caleo Software's NEO Pro 3 is powerful, fast, and fully featured without sacrificing user friendliness. It is designed specifically to work with Microsoft Outlook, but Outlook is a very common and popular e-mail platform. ISYS.email.search is powerful and blisteringly fast, working wth Outlook, Outlook Express, and Eudora. That said, each application we looked at has its own unique features that may best suit your particular circumstances.




This article was first published in Technology & Business magazine.
Click here for subscription information.

About RMIT Test Labs

E-mail Management
 
ISYS:email.search v1.5
 
Mailbag Assistant 3.6
 
NEO Pro 3.0
 
Quick Mail Sort 2.0

 Specifications
 Telstra, Nokia team up
 How We Tested
 Editor's choice
 About RMIT
RMIT IT Test Labs
RMIT IT Test Labs is an independent testing institution based in Melbourne, Victoria, performing IT product testing for clients such as IBM, Coles-Myer, and a wide variety of government bodies. In the Labs' testing for T&B, they are in direct contact with the clients supplying products and the magazine is responsible for the full cost of the testing. The findings are the Labs' own -- only the specifications of the products to be tested are provided by the magazine. For more information on RMIT, please contact the Lab Manager, Steven Turvey.

Newsletters

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
See All
See All