Why is Outlook’s search so bad???

XobniWhy is Outlook’s search so bad???

Lately I’ve been getting this question quite a bit. Customers using outlook tend to have email boxes that are years old, and because Outlook compiles everything (Email, Contacts, etc) into a single file (PST) instead of multiples (the vastly more open “mBox” format (Mozilla Thunderbird uses this format)), that causes huge headaches when dealing with anything that affects/effects all the content of that PST file.

For example, indexing of attachments. This is kind of a big one. Attachments get progressively harder to find the larger a PST files gets, for the same reason that individual emails get harder to find. In short, windows search starts to break down when it comes to heavy lifting.

Some time ago I gave up on the idea that windows search would ever stop being crappy and have since moved on to using a grep tool for windows. Namely “dnGrep”. It is free, supports find in files, and massive multi-line search and replace, and most importantly, It’s blazingly fast!


At this point, all of you Linux junkies are smiling smugly thinking about “Grep” being a tool built into the Operating system, and honestly, you should be feeling good about that. Search is very important. Most of us file away things that we know we will need to reference later, in places that make sense at the time, but months or years later, we cannot find them.

Search should always be taken seriously. On windows, this problem is compounded when using microsoft office products, because the search inside those products is just as bad (if not worse) than windows search, or they may tie into windows search (which technically, is even worse).

A long time ago, there was a program add-in for Outlook called “Lookout” that handled search for Outlook. It was great! Then Microsoft bought Lookout and absorbed the company into it’s vast recesses. Obviously, the absorption of the Lookout staff and application didn’t do any wonders for windows/outlook search.

Thankfully, for Outlook users, there is a solution! It is a little free add-in for Outlook called “Xobni”.


Here are some of the proclaimed features for Xobni:

* View complete profiles for everyone.
* Search first, last or company name.
* View all the attachments you’ve exchanged.
* Xobni Gadgets bring you info about your contacts from Evernote, Dropbox and more. You’ll never have to leave your inbox.
* Spam Rescue is here to help.

Obviously, Xobni strives to be more than just search for outlook, and in addition to search wants to turbo charge outlook into the dangerous territory of making outlook actually useful.

It’s great that Outlook has a 3rd party savior, but it begs the question “Will Microsoft ever take search seriously?” Of course Redmond will shout from the heavens that they already do, but that’s the equivalent of a Hollywood star proclaiming that they will go to rehab.

My guess would be no. I think that Microsoft is in some ways quite senile about certain products and others are labeled as “Good enough”. Search in windows/office is “Good Enough”. Thankfully, there will almost always be 3rd party programs to pick up the slack from Microsoft’s shortcomings.

In all reality, there is little reason to use outlook unless you absolutely have to. Gmail outclasses outlook in more ways than I can count and if possible, you should switch to using the gmail interface. That said, many of you simply don’t have a choice as to which email application you can use. With the help of Xobni and other 3rd party programs/plugins/add-ins, at least the lack of choice becomes bearable.


Xobni (For Outlook)

((Screenshot shamelessly stolen from the Xobni Website))

What do you guys think? Have you found better solutions than what I have come up with?

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