I've used Xobni off and on since it was first released and over the last few months it has stuck with me and I've become completely attached to it. With some of the initial releases it struggled with performance however, recent versions no longer have that problem. It performs well and doesn't seem to chew up resources. Best of all, it has become so smooth, so magical in what it does and how it does it, that as a developer, I have come to believe that the Xobni developers are true wizards, crafting their spells of awesomeness on their product
. So, it is with the viewpoint of a developer that I review some things I really like about the current 1.8 version of Xobni.
As a developer, I have complete respect for good, well designed, and nicely written software. I love it when software does something that amazes me and I just have
to know how it does it. There are many things about Xobni that are pure magic. First of all, it is such a great concept that is amazingly executed. Not only that, but I develop Outlook addins as well, so it is cool to see something done so nicely that I can really learn from. Here are a few things that I just love about Xobni.
(click for larger view)
1) .NET Application
This one doesn't "wow" me or anything, but there is something that I love about nicely done software using my technology
. I am a .NET developer and I love .NET, so gotta give props to Xobni for it :-) - now onto the more important stuff.
2) Lightning fast speed
One thing nobody can disagree with. Xobni does what it does super fast. I have a lot of e-mail in Outlook, going back 10+ years (a lot of it archived). My PST is several
gigs in size. So when I see Xobni instantly return my search to me, with the right results no less, it is a thing of magic.
3) Social networking wizardry that makes me envious
In just about every app I do now days, I am always looking at building social media into it. I love the idea of merging a person's online profile/persona with the data you've collected about a person. What cooler way to get the complete picture of a person and know what is going on with them. Working in CRM (Customer Relationship Management) the social-CRM concept, in bringing a person's social data into CRM is something that everyone wants. However, it is not an easy job. If you have to ask a sales person to look for, collect, and enter someone's Facebook profile ID, Twitter account name, LinkedIn profile URL, etc, it will NEVER
happen and your efforts to merge in that data will be wasted. That is what is so amazing about how Xobni integrates with social sites like Facebook & LinkedIn. Somehow, it just knows
. I've never told Xobni any of those details, yet it always seems to get it right, displaying Facebook and LinkedIn details about people I receive e-mail from and they merge all this together. You might be seeing a picture of the person from Facebook and the company name and title from LinkedIn. I will tell you it is down right spooky. Do they have access to some super-secret API? Perhaps. But if they do that is a work of genius on its own. But if they don't, then the Xobni devs are true wizards and I am not worthy of their craft. They obviously have some secret sauce here - and I want it. I've spent countless hours trying to reverse-engineer and figure out or replicate how they do what they do unsuccessfully. I bow to their superior intellect.
4) Magical data mining across the internet
I discovered something about Xobni. It appears to mine data from places you woudn't expect. One of my websites sends out e-mails from forum posts. I noticed that Xobni was displaying a phone number for that e-mail address and I knew right away that it wasn't a phone number, because I recognized it as a ticket or case number that was displayed on that website (but it does "look" like a phone number). The only way Xobni could have gotten that number is to perform a search for the e-mail address using Google/LiveBing/Whatever (most likely on restricted to the site that the e-mail belongs to based on domain) and harvested out the most logical thing that looked like a phone number. That is pretty smart. So I started looking at other people as well that I know don't have Facebook or LinkedIn and it was showing numbers for them also. Some google searches revealed where I think Xobni was getting the phone numbers from on their websites. But it seemed to just know
these phone numbers right away. Fast. That is completely clever.
Xobni is nice and smooth. As you click on something the panel will roll in and out with some nice animation that is incredibly smooth. As you search for something the results come in and continue to filter as you type and it is incredibly smooth. The sliders to see more or less details resize as you slide and it is so nice and smooth. I love smooth software. (See screenshot below)
(click for larger view)
6) Taps into places in Outlook that you didn't know were accessible
As a developer who has developed his share of Outlook addins, I am impressed with what the Xobni devs continue to pull off for integrating into Outlook. First of all, I don't believe that the Xobni sidebar itself in loading into an Outlook form region. If it is, I don't know how to get it there. Form regions are typically part of things like the reading pane, the folder pane, etc. Not the full side of the explorer window IIRC (I would love to be corrected on this if I am wrong). I have addins using form regions as well, but the placement of the Xobni sidebar is super nice (and it is NOT a task pane either, those aren't supported in the same versions that Xobni supports and besides task panes load to the left of the Xobni sidebar). Second, the new 1.8 feature of the ranked/intelligent auto-complete when addressing an e-mail. Who knew you could put something there and replace/hide the OOTB autocomplete list? Just awesome. (See screenshot below)
(click for larger view)
7) Smart, well designed software that just works
All in all, Xobni is software to be impressed with. Especially from the perspective of a developer
. It is just done smart
. There are some amazing ideas at work in Xobni. Not only that, but it is done right. In the months I've been using Xobni, it hasn't crashed once. It hasn't given me results I wasn't expecting.
Well worth a spin for any Outlook user IMO.