Monday, May 12, 2008

Organizing My Life

I often think that companies should hire me to review their products - kind of like what Tom Hank's character does for that toy company in Big. Reviews from an average, everyday user's perspective. I have a lot of "this would be so much more useful if..." moments, and I so want to share them with the manufacturer/provider that I have actually written emails in the past to Google and others about what changes they could make that I think would make the product better. Some ideas would just be nice, others seem like basics that have been overlooked and are quite frustrating.

For example, I use Outlook for my contacts so I can sync nicely with my Blackberry, and I like to fill out the records completely (contact management was one of the main reasons I wanted a Blackberry so badly). I feel like there are some improvements that could be made, like instead of having just spouse and children fields, you were given the option to select another contact from your contact list.

Right now, if I happen to have a full contact record for say, my brother AND his wife, then I have an calendar entry for their anniversary for EACH of them. If I delete one and alter the other so that it indicates that it is THEIR anniversary - then any time I make any change to either of their contact records, I have to re-make my changes, and delete duplicates. You should be able to define relationships between contacts.

Also, I want to be able to put people's appropriate salutations, middle names (for some reason, I love knowing people's middle names), nicknames, etc. in there, but I don't necessarily want that showing up as the Full Name. In fact, sometimes I want to a record to appear under the person's nickname. I can manually change the "File As" name, but when Outlook makes the entry in my calendar for their birthday or anniversary, I don't want it to display "Mr. John Q. Public, Jr.'s Anniversary" and "Mrs. Jane R. Public's Anniversary," I want it to read "John & Jane Public's Anniversary."

And on the subject of email (admittedly what most people use Outlook for) why does it require so much effort to mark an email as spam in Outlook? You should just be able to click "junk" button. Unless you have a seperate spam filter that has that functionality, you have to junk messages one at a time, right click on the message, select the junk email options, and then select the option to block that sender. Oi... I'm tired. I could create a toolbar for it, but how many people know how to do that? This should be a basic.

I would like if Outlook incorporated the function Gmail uses in organizing emails - I love that emails are grouped with their string. Instead of listing out every single email, each string is listed. I don't know about you, but I wind up with long email strings at work, often about where lunch is going to be that day.

I got a little worked up on Friday and downloaded some toolbars for Outlook: the Xobni toolbar, and the LinkedIn toolbar. If you are constantly looking for some file that someone sent you awhile back, Xobni is awesome. When you are in your Inbox, it displays information about the sender of that email - phone number, frequency of emails, people included on emails between you (in order of frequency), and my favorite, files that have been exchanged via email between you. It doesn't seem to be something I need all the time, but when I do, it saves a great deal of time.

The LinkedIn toolbar just connects my Outlook to my LinkedIn profile. A link is shown for others' LinkedIn profiles, and I can click a button and Outlook will navigate me to my page. It's not something I use extensively, but so far it seems kind of neat.

Google's products have been the target of much of my pseudo-reviews too. I use Gmail to manage my personal email and my email for Bobby's business - but I can't open vCards with it. If someone sends me a vCard, I can't even forward it to my work address so I can open it in Outlook and enter the information into my Gmail contacts. vCards are not proprietary to Outlook either - they are the standard. I'm not sure how Google intends to do well with GAFYD if you can't even utilize vCards.

In fact, I find Gmail Contacts pretty lacking. I do like that you can enter contact information as Work or Home or even another category, but I wish it had more fields, and cross functionality with the calendar. And most importantly, I really, really, really wish I could sync my contacts with Outlook. I so hate having to maintain two seperate address books, and so my Gmail Contact will likely remain out of date.

On the topic of Gmail/GAFYD - syncing with Outlook is such a pain! You can't sync contacts at all, and syncing calendars has only led me to a crashing Outlook or duplicate (triplicate, quadruplicate, and centriplicate - yes, I just made that word up - entries). In Outlook I use categories to organize my calendar entries (and everything else), but in Google Calendar I have to create whole sperate calendars for things to show up in different colors. Syncing that seems to present a problem in itself. I've abandoned Google's Calendar altogether.

Oh, and I signed up for the Blackberry Owners Lounge, because I'm in love with my phone and want more stuff I can put on it - but for some reason they send out their emails in HTML... which I cannot read on my Blackberry. How does that make any sense at all?

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