GCN Lab Review: NEO Pro 4.0 e-mail organizer can tame the Outlook monster

Software gives new life to recovering e-mail hoarders

NeoPro v4 product shotPerformance: A
Features: A
Ease of Use: B+
Value: B+
Price: $49.95

Pros: Does a great job of indexing and organizing unruly Outlook e-mail.
Cons: Similar products are available for less.

My name is Trudy, and I’m an e-mail hoarder.

It’s difficult to admit it, but I have several thousand e-mail messages fermenting in my Microsoft Outlook inbox. On a few rare occasions, my hoarding instincts have turned up an e-mail that saves the day, but for the most part all that old e-mail just sits around clogging the cyber pipes.

A whole software industry has sprung up to help people like me, offering software products that organize your e-mail. One such product is NEO Pro 4.0 from Caelo Software, and after a week or so of using it, I’ve taken the first few steps toward taming my e-mail monster.

You download NEO from the company’s Web site, www.caelo.com. NEO is really an indexing tool for Outlook. It works with any version of Microsoft Outlook except Outlook Express. Caelo recommends that you open Outlook before launching NEO. The default setting is such that when I launched Outlook, NEO also automatically launched.

The software reminded me of a summer job I once had, long before e-mail was part of office life. Each day I had to open the paper mail and sort it before I put it in my boss’s inbox. I would throw out the junk mail and keep the mail addressed directly to him. NEO was like my own personal summer employee. It created a folder called “bulk mail unsorted,” where it put all the e-mail messages not addressed directly to me. In just a few minutes, I deleted about 300 messages NEO had labeled bulk mail.

NEO doesn’t compete with Outlook or try to replace it. You can keep your regular Outlook folder open all day. NEO is in a separate window, so you can toggle between Outlook and NEO.

NEO performed an initial synchronization on my Outlook e-mail that took less than five minutes. It created a main catalog that divided the e-mail into four categories: new, spam, current and dormant. The dormant folder contained e-mail that was old and inactive but not ready for the archive bin. It’s not quite spam, but it’s not active e-mail either; it’s hibernating until you need it. You can set NEO to automatically move e-mail messages to the dormant folder if there’s no new activity in 365 days.

The software built an individual e-mail folder on the left-hand side of the screen for each of my e-mail correspondents, alphabetized by last name. I liked how you could check your whole e-mail history with a person at a glance, including your replies. It gave you a quick summary of the relationship.

But the NEO feature that could become what used to be called a “killer app” is its searching capabilities. When you use the regular Outlook Find function, Outlook searches through every message to find what you’re looking for. For example, I used the Outlook search bar to look for e-mail messages in my inbox with the word “Caelo” in them. Outlook took 1 minute, 37 seconds and turned up five messages. The same search using NEO took less than two seconds and gave the same results. If you spend a lot of time searching your Outlook inbox, this feature alone could justify the $49.95 price tag.

NEO’s indexing feature also lets you see the big picture of your e-mail. My Outlook was set up with sections that I rarely looked at, such as my sent files. I only check on them if there is a problem or somebody wants me to resend something. But NEO can show you all of those shadowy corners of your e-mail that fill with outdated information. Tell NEO to show you unread e-mail, and it shows all of it, what’s lurking in spam and deleted folders as well as your inbox. It turns out I had spam e-mail about growing supersized tomatoes from six months ago. NEO showed me the depths of my hoarding problem in a way that Outlook couldn’t, by laying it all out there.

Another helpful feature of NEO is the choices it gives you on the right click button. You can delete whole correspondents and all their messages with a click of the right-side button. Once an e-mail has been dealt with, you can designate it “inactive” with a right click.

I’ve been using NEO for only a week but already my inbox is lighter and more manageable. Gone is that feeling of dread I used to get when I would be away from my computer for an afternoon and come back to find 83 new e-mail messages. NEO’s fast search function alone made me feel like I could conquer my inbox and finally get organized, one day at a time.

Caelo Software, 604-267-7061, www.emailorganizer.com.

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