This Xobni window is to the right of your Gmail or Outlook.

“Xobni” is inbox spelled backwards. It’s pronounced “zobnee,” and what it does is add the sender’s photo and contact information to one side of incoming email. We’ve tried it and have now seen scores of photos of people we’re not sure we wanted to see.  But now when they pitch us a story, we can look at it and say, “Nice hairdo.”

It used to be available only for Microsoft Outlook and Blackberry but a new version is in the “alpha” testing phase, as they say, and works with Gmail. If you want to try it, they gave us 100 invitations to hand out for free So if you go to, put in your email address and then type “XOBNI-ONCOMP” (without the quotes) for the password you might get in to the “beta” or next phase.

Besides seeing your correspondent’s Facebook or LinkedIn photo on the side of your screen, you also get interesting statistics. Joy discovered that Margie, her most frequent correspondent, has traded 933 messages with her over the last four years (Margie always has a lot to say). She also saw a list of subject lines in the most recent 30 messages, and the most recent comments on Margie’s Facebook page.  Xobni said Margie and Joy have 87 contacts in common. When Joy went to answer the most recent note,  Xobni made suggestions as to others who might want to be included in the email.

Xobni also does search. Type in “Larry” and you’ll see all the Larrys you correspond with, along with their photos. You can do this in Gmail anyway, but it’s handy to see all the different Larry photos, in case you’re not sure who’s who. (If your correspondent never posted a photo of themselves – and quite a few people don’t – well then, you don’t see what they look like.)

Coming in the next few months are Xobni apps for iPhone and Android phones and tablets. You can already get these on the Blackberry. More info at

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