neoproThe email monster is tough to tame. You can save everything for now, and then search it later, but some mail may never be seen again.

If all your email is organized by the name of the sender – which is the most common way, you can click on a name and see everything they ever wrote to you or you wrote to them, no matter how long ago. A $50 program called NEO Pro, from Caelo Software, does this sort of organizing and many other styles automatically. It uses Microsoft Outlook as a mail manager but you don’t have to be an Outlook user, it simply has to be there on your system.

The usefulness for a business shouldn’t be under-estimated, especially in these days of email messages being subpoenaed as evidence in court cases. We would think any business might want a quick look at emails sent or received by key people, or anyone who might be even remotely related to a complaint or legal problem. Nice to have such messages all come up in one long list. That list can then be searched by subject. This could be attorney heaven.

NEO works with Microsoft Outlook, running in a separate window. However, you can minimize Outlook and work in NEO alone. That’s the way we used it. Unlike Outlook, NEO provides tabs across the top of the screen: “hot,” “correspondents,” “bulk mail,” “categories,” “date,” and so on. You can move everything out of your inbox and it still exists in an archive, neatly categorized by person, category, date and so on.

The new version of NEO adds search boxes everywhere. No matter what folder you’re in, there is a search box where you can enter key search terms. So if you’re in “Joe Smith’s” folder, you can search by keyword, attachment, name, etc. You can search by the type of attachment: PDF, JPEG, Word document or any of a dozen other categories.

The first time you let NEO go to work may be a bit of a shock. Joy’s inbox quickly filled with 22,000 messages, all the email she had archived for the past several years.  She was able to classify and organize them with two clicks of her mouse. Most were neatly categorized, but 800 had gone into a junk folder by mistake. Not being an Outlook user, she also had to configure it so that when she started to type in a few letters of a name, the program would fill in the rest of the email address.

There were several things we wished NEO had: In Gmail, if you use the word “attach” when you’re sending an email, but then forget to include the attachment, you get a reminder message. Gmail also shows you thumbnail images of any attachments in an email, so you don’t have to open them to get a good idea of what’s there. Gmail has an “undo” feature, so if you suddenly regret having just sent off that angry or insulting note (and who doesn’t sometimes?), you have several seconds to cancel it.  Gmail lets you search the web from within an email and paste the results. By the way, you can activate this feature and others by clicking the “labs” setting. It’s at the top of the Gmail screen and looks like a little green bottle.

Overall, NEO made email fun again, and many of those missing Gmail features can be had through free Outlook add-ins. Lots more info on NEO at emailorganizer.com. A basic version of the program costs $15, and there’s a free trial. If you just want your email categorized by sender, you might also look at the free Xobni.com.

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