Nelson Email Organizer

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, send e-mail
Published by: Caelo Software Inc., go to the web site
Requires: Any Windows version of Microsoft Outlook 97, 98, 2000 or 2002(XP); compatible with Windows 95/98/Me/WinNT/Win2000 and WinXP; NEO also works with Exchange Server. If using Exchange 2000 Server, Exchange Service Pack 2 must be installed; not compatible with Microsoft Outlook Express or any other email programs

MSRP: US$29.95 (site licensing available)

It's the giant monster that consumes us all, without mercy and without end. E-mail. It's a joy, it's a bane, it annoys, it's insane. However you consider e-mail, one thing is sure - there's a lot of it, and it has to be organized. The problem is that manually moving messages and replies into categorized folders can be a bigger pain than the e-mail itself. Outlook's Rules Wizard works well enough but takes a technical approach. Ditto for Outlook's highly manual Junk E-mail filtering. So what's a person to do? Well, you can try the Nelson Email Organizer (NEO) for starters.

To beat Outlook at its own game, you have to present e-mail in a way that is unique and useful. NEO does it by presenting your e-mail organized into categories such as Hot, Bulk Mail, Correspondents, Date and Attachment. There's no InBox in NEO. The program automatically organizes your e-mail according to the ways most of us think about it: by date, by correspondent, by mailing list, by attachment, highest priority and so on. Your messages automatically appear in more than one location at the same time.

After installation, NEO scans all your Outlook e-mail and e-mail folders, then sorts everything using an indexing system. Actual Outlook files are not touched - path indexing allows NEO to point to the same pieced of e-mail from a variety of NEO categories without physically moving or copying the e-mail. Receiving, sending and replying to e-mail within NEO still requires Outlook - NEO is a semi-automatic organizer and search tool, not a total Outlook e-mail client replacement. That means all the same security rules still apply and you should continue to check Windows Updates for Outlook patches and hotfixes on a regular basis.

You might be asking yourself if NEO simply trades one average organizing system for another. While its true that NEO demands about a week of steady use in order to fully understand it, the effort required to change over from Outlook alone is worthwhile. That's especially true for people in home office and business environments which demand regular morning or afternoon e-mail sessions in order to read and answer medium to large volumes of messages.

It took us a while (about a day of poking around and reading online help) to truly understand NEO's value and design paradigm. NEO presents e-mail within different tabbed views. Initially, everybody in your address book is classified as a Correspondent. Click the Correspondent tab in NEO to see all Correspondents. Click a Correspondent in the left pane and all associated e-mails are instantly listed in the viewer pane. The Bulk mail sorting and view is based on how e-mail is addressed to you. If an e-mail arrived addressed to a list rather than your specific e-mail address, it will be listed as Bulk and only be available in the Bulk view. The Hot view initially consists of unread e-mail in your InBox, NEO's estimate of your most frequent Correspondents and unread e-mail from past weeks. Because NEO uses indexing rather than physical copies of each e-mail, the program can economically display any e-mail in any number of different views. Nice. You can even create additional sub-folders within Bulk, Hot and Correspondents and tell NEO to automatically toss newsletters and other subscriptions into the proper place. Outlook folders are displayed in a separate pane for handy access within NEO. Also nice.

NEO's approach to spam and other junk e-mail is interesting. Rather than creating a Junk list which requires that you manually add individual e-mail addresses, NEO assumes three things: a) e-mail addressed directly to you is always valid, b) e-mail addressed to you indirectly (e.g., as part of a mailing list) is sometimes valid, and c) all indirect e-mail is Bulk and therefore lower priority (which means that Bulk mail doesn't automatically appear in the Hot tab). The assumptions are sensible and certainly work to cull about two-thirds of all junk without deleting anything until you say so. It's not a perfect system, but it appears to be very usable and (more important) safe. It's certainly a gentler approach than SpamKiller and the like, and accidental deletion of a good e-mail is unlikely.

Cons: A lot of people may have some initial adjustment pains and Outlook withdrawal symptoms. NEO work only with Outlook and Microsoft Exchange Server. You have to read the online help system to understand the differences between Bulk and Correspondent mail. NEO does not work with IMAP protocols, Exchange Public Folders or Multiple message stores (only one PST file at a time, in other words).

Pros: The online help system is thorough and will get you over any conceptual humps. The program becomes easy to use - almost second nature - quite quickly. Caelo has come up with a smart, useful product. NEO's indexed e-mail catalog is completely independent of the Outlook PST file so installation and uninstallation of NEO has no effect on Outlook. The built-in Search function is very fast and can scan very large PST files in seconds. Outlook is still available to you and can run concurrently with NEO. For $29.95 you can't go wrong. Recommended.

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