Get Organizer—And Change Your Outlook

Check out the newest way to organize your mail and your folders.


by Dave Trowbridge


One thing that’s been overlooked during the brouhaha between the DOJ and Microsoft is the company’s role in creating hundreds of ecological niches for small companies who profit by filling the gaps in Redmond’s products. True, if one of those niches turns out to be particularly profitable, Microsoft is likely to either buy the small fry or bury them by incorporating the functionality of their product into Windows or another product, but in the meantime, a lot of people have an opportunity to make a nice living and to make things easier for the rest of us.

An excellent example of this is a product called Nelson Organizer, from Caelo Software (Nelson, British Columbia; After using it for about a month, I’m convinced that Nelson is an absolute necessity for any serious user of Microsoft Outlook. While the product has a few holes in it (it’s only version 1.1), it adds so much needed functionality to Outlook that I guarantee that you won’t be able to do without it after trying it for a week or so.

Nelson is an add-in for Outlook and, so, does not change the functioning of the program in any way. (You can switch between Nelson and Outlook using a menu button that appears in the tool bar of each program and Nelson can be set to run automatically whenever Outlook does.) What Nelson does is add an additional interface that is far more useful than the standard Outlook presentation of messages and folders by automatically organizing mail into several different kinds of folders not found in Outlook. These include by correspondent, date received, attachment, and bulk mail (mail not specifically addressed to you).

The basic Nelson interface consists of four windows (See Fig) and a set of tabs at the bottom. The tabs select the view displayed by the upper left-hand window: Hot, Correspondent, Bulk Mail, Date, Attachment, and Search. The upper right-hand window displays the contents of whatever folder is selected in this window, the lower right-hand windows the contents of whatever message is selected above and the lower left-hand windows a view of your Outlook folders.

Selecting Hot gives you a view of whatever Nelson folders you tag as hot, so you can have a mix of by-date, by correspondent, and by attachment. This is, perhaps, the most useful view and the one most people will spend most of their time in. Selecting Correspondent gives you an automatically generated list of the people who have sent you mail. Bulk Mail, of course, displays all mail not specifically addressed to you. Date sorts mail by New Since Time (the time being the last time you reset the
folder), Today, Yesterday, This Week, Last Week, and, then, by month. Attachment sorts by type of attachment, allowing you to quickly find a Word document, Excel spreadsheet, JPEG image, and so forth. You can drag messages between folders just as in Outlook.

The Search tab is Nelson’s biggest win. It allows you to search any and all folders by keyword and to save searches for repeated use. It searches the subject, message body, and address information and supports wildcards and the simple Boolean operators and, or, and near (within ten words). Searching is extremely fast. Having used this feature, I find it hard to understand why Microsoft left it out, but the fact that they did is good news for Caelo: this feature alone is worth the cost of the program ($29.95 single copy, discounts and site licenses are available).

Nelson is not without its weaknesses. Although the program enables you to reply and forward mail from within its interface, I could never get this feature to work. Technical support was very helpful, but they had only run across this problem once before and could only, after all possibilities were exhausted, suggest that I reinstall Outlook. Since I can still reply merely by opening the message (which puts one into the Outlook interface), I haven’t bothered yet and may not—it’s not a big deal.

Another weakness—well, not weakness, but an obvious feature not yet implemented—is the inability to delete attachments from within the attachment windows, or to automatically save attachments into designated file folders. Outlook stores everything in one gigantic file, making it a necessity to save attachments into file folders if you want access to them after you’ve archived your old mail (if you don’t, the Outlook PST file will eventually fill up your hard disk and slow your mail processing to a crawl). However, the Caelo folks tell me they are considering adding these features and, even without them, no one who relies on Outlook should hesitate even a moment to install Nelson.

Review printed in Computer Technology Review
July 2000 (graphic and screen shot excluded).