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Ten Accessories for Outlook 2013

Outlook 2013 can do plenty for you without any outside help, but a few well-considered accessories can make your life even easier. Some favorite accessories make up for capabilities that Outlook ought to have but doesn’t. Some accessories help you use your Outlook data anywhere, anytime.

Smartphones

Smartphones are everywhere today, and they’re probably the most powerful Outlook “accessory.” If you haven’t shopped for a new cell phone lately, smartphones are cell phones with built-in personal organizing software. The top smartphones at the moment include the iPhone and Android-based devices like the Motorola Droid. (BlackBerry is losing ground fast.)

Although you can enter and manage data in a snap with Outlook, you can carry your most important Outlook info in your pocket on whatever smartphone you're carrying. You can even read your e-mail on the subway using a smartphone.

Outlook will not run a smartphone, but lots of third-party apps will link your smartphone to Outlook. Check your smartphone app store.

Microsoft Office

When Outlook was first released, it was a part of the Microsoft Office 97 suite. In certain situations, Microsoft offers Outlook as a stand-alone product (or in a package with Internet Explorer), so you may not always have the benefits of using Microsoft Office and Outlook in concert.

Office enables you to do all sorts of tricks with outgoing e-mail and graphics, while Outlook makes it a snap to exchange the work you’ve created in Office via e-mail.

A business-card scanner

You can use several brands of business-card scanners to copy contact information into Outlook from the business cards you collect at meetings, conferences, and trade shows. Of course, you can enter all the info manually, but if you collect more than a few dozen cards per week, a business-card scanner can save you lots of work.

Mozy backup service

Try Mozy backup service to back up your Outlook data. Mozy is a service that automatically backs up the most critical data on your computer and saves it on the Internet where it’s safe. If your computer crashes or if, heaven forbid, you should suffer a fire, flood, or other disaster that destroys your computer, you can get your information back and start up where you left off.

You’ll need a high-speed Internet connection to make use of Mozy. It costs per month, but the peace of mind is worth every penny.

Xobni add-in

Inbox spelled backward is Xobni, an add-in that helps you search, sort, and analyze the information you store in Outlook. It can even tell you what time of day your boss e-mails you most frequently. (Here’s a hint: Be available then.) Some of Xobni’s better tricks have been added to Outlook already, but you might still give the Xobni free trial version a whirl to see whether you like it.

Microsoft SharePoint

Until now, Microsoft SharePoint was found most frequently in large organizations that needed a way to share information and collaborate smoothly. The program was too cumbersome and expensive for private users and home businesses. Now anybody can buy a service called SharePoint Online, which is what Microsoft is calling the subscription version of SharePoint that it sells. You pay depending upon the level of service that you want.

If you have a regular team that collaborates on business projects, you might consider trying SharePoint as a tool for sharing documents and other information.

Microsoft Exchange

Many of the features that appear to be built into Outlook actually require you to run a program called Microsoft Exchange. Exchange lets you share your Outlook information with other people in your office and coordinate meetings and tasks.

You can rent Microsoft Exchange accounts from many different vendors, including Microsoft, for a monthly fee per user.

SkyDrive

With online giants like Google breathing down its neck, Microsoft is scurrying to create online services that can keep customers. SkyDrive is Microsoft’s cloud entry and it replaces Windows Live. It’s the umbrella under which you can find a whole range of free services that enhance and extend Microsoft Office, including access to your files through the web.

This nifty tool installs automatically with Office, or you can download the app. From file sharing to calendar publishing, you’ll get a lot of value from SkyDrive.

Text messaging services

Support for Outlook Mobile Services, the service that provides support for SMS messaging (text messaging), means you’ll need an MS Exchange Server that supports SMS/MMS messaging (basically select corporate users). For those of you who aren’t one of the chosen, you’ll need to locate a third-party service provider. Search the web for a service that meets your needs.

Dymo LabelWriter

The people who designed Outlook got so excited about e-mail that they completely forgot about that old-fashioned stamp-and-paper system that some people still prefer. (How quaint!) Outlook alone can store zillions of mailing addresses, but it doesn’t do a very good job of putting an address on an envelope.

Dymo LabelWriter can bridge that gap, printing any address from Outlook to a convenient gummed label that you can stick on a package or envelope faster than you can say United States Postal Service.

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