Taglocity -- making MSOutlook more like Gmail

I prefer Gmail because it's quicker and less bloated. But Outlook will definitely be with us for some time, and while it is, Taglocity offers a product that closes the gap a little.

I'm running Taglocity 3.0 professional edition (free trial; soon to revert to standard edition), after using the 2.0 for about eight months.

In a nutshell, Taglocity radically enhances an existing Outlook feature called "Categories." (Categories = tags). For some time, Outlook has allowed you to categorize emails, but it was clunky.

Here's how I set up and use Taglocity, after installing it:
  1. Assuming you currently store your Outlook email in folders, open a folder and select all emails. Now, use the Taglocity Pane (atop your main Outlook page) to assign a tag to all items in this folder. You can just use the name of the folder, but I believe in following these conventions:

    a) don't pluralize ("report" not "reports") or capitalize, except
    b) capitalize acronyms ("PR", not "pr"), and
    c) add a hypen after tags that would otherwise form words or parts of words; e.g., "PR-" and "Toronto-". This will pay off later if you run a search for "professional". [Granted, it will fail if your email includes something like, "Toronto-based accountant"].

  2. Go through all your folders and repeat this
  3. Open your Tag Bar window (click "Tag Bar") clean up your tags. Through right-clicking you can consolidate similar tags.
  4. Now, within your Tag Bar window, move the tags around into groups and then assign a colour to each group (e.g., industries are blue; administration is green; personal is yellow)
  5. Still within the Tag Bar window, add a half dozen of your most popular tags to the actual Tag Bar. This bar sits atop Outlook's main page, and makes it easier to assign tags to emails.
  6. Now, go back and see where you can assign more than one existing tag to an email. E.g., you have an email about a flight on Air Canada and another about consulting services to Air Canada. Tag both "air-canada" but tag one "flight" and another "consulting" or something.
  7. When you've done all this, put all of your email in an "archive" folder and delete your other folders. One caveat, for repetitive projects, I prefer to use folders to tags. E.g., I write a monthly newsletter and I store material for it throughout each month; I will tag this material with the name of the newsletter, but I also store it in a folder called "May 2009" or whatever.
Yes, all of this takes some time. You may not follow all these steps for the email you received in the past. But the process demonstrates how to use Taglocity for email as you receive it. When an email arrives, once it's dealt with as a work task, you can click twice and deal with it as clutter.

Finding anything is simply about narrowing down the options -- triangulating. If, in six months, you need details about that Air Canada flight, you can use Outlook's search box to run a keyword search "category:air-canada, category:flight". Even if this produces 100 emails, you can easily scroll to the rough period of the flight. And you can combine the search with "from:dave"-type commands.

If the size of your company permits it, you can benefit from a network effect by making all of your tags public; i.e., the tags you assign to an email will travel with the email when an email is forwarded or replied to. If you invest the time to create a taxonomy for your firm, email conversations will only have to be tagged once, rather than by each recipient.

Sounds complicated, but in fact the top benefits I've experienced from using this are:
  1. if you equate a tag to a folder, you can put one email in two or more "folders" at the same time, so it's easier to find regardless of how your brain is working when you need the email. E.g., you might spend a year storing email first by industry (or client) and then by service performed, and then decide you want to store by service performed first and then by industry/client within those folders. With tags, you just do both.
  2. it's ridiculously quick to tag and drag emails to a single folder than to drag up and down Outlook and through nested folders.
  3. though command-line searches are not popular, in fact we have all become used to them through Google; they're quite quick when you get used to them. have you ever watched someone painfully spend two or three minutes trying to find a simple email? if you can narrow the problem down by two or three tags (and perhaps a rough date), it shouldn't take more than ten or fifteen seconds to find a needle in a 10,000 email haystack.
In time, people will no doubt have personal taxonomies. You'll add 100 tags to Gmail and you'll use them for all work documents, personal documents, calendar items, emails, photos and videos, and basically any discrete piece of content you store.


June 19, 2009 at 3:13 PM Jimmy said...

Nice to see how you use tags Dennis...thanks for sharing.

I use Taglocity too but don't worry about hyphenating tags to make them unique from real words because search already knows they are tags.

I also use Outlook search for quick things based on keywords - never thought to use command line queries in the Outlook search box probably because Taglocity Search provides such an easy interface to filter results on tags with AND/OR tag combinations, date ranges, from/to/cc, etc. ...plus the pruning tag cloud is a life saver.

Sometimes I'll use the Excel like column filtering in the results grid, as well as grouping to help manage large result sets. Cool stuff!