Managing Product Review
A TechHit One-Two Punch: SimplyFile and MessageSave
One does not simply file messages in email … oh, wait. One does? Does one? The actual name of the application is SimplyFile?
How TechHit Advances Your Outlook
TechHit is a San Francisco company that builds applications emanating from Microsoft Outlook. This approach works especially well in the legal field, where most lawyers still prefer, or are forced, to use Microsoft Office. While an impressive product in its own right, Outlook still lacks certain efficiencies. TechHit aims to add those efficiencies — and for the classically trained lawyer it will be a big hit.
If you’ve been using Outlook for a while, and wish to be knocked out by straightforward yet highly effective add-ons, it’s a good bet TechHit can sate your desire. If you’re new to Outlook, affiliating with TechHit means you’ll never have to know the pain that the rest of us have felt.
Outlook’s Rules functionality is not perfect. Rules are a fairly basic automation, at least in the way most attorneys will use them. SimplyFile is a far more thoroughgoing version of the Outlook Rules regime, aimed at organizing emails via subfolders. SimplyFile brings much more of the functionality to the forefront than does Outlook, and introduces predictive filing features via an adaptive algorithm that makes educated guesses relating to your email management history.
When you add SimplyFile to Outlook, a new menu will appear on your Outlook ribbon. If you click on or highlight an email message in your inbox, the menu will offer a folder “prediction” of where SimplyFile thinks you want to file that message. If that works for you, click the folder, and your email will be refiled to the suggested subfolder. If not, use the QuickPick function to start typing the folder you do want. The system will then begin making more predictions based on your typing, so that your choices are narrowed down with each keystroke, likely allowing you to choose the intended folder before you finish typing its name. It looks kind of like this.
In addition to filing messages, you can use SimplyFile to convert emails to tasks and calendar appointments. SimplyFile also allows for batch filing, and you can save the same messages in multiple folders. The “Go To Folder” tool allows you to get at your subfolders in Outlook using the QuickJump-style functionality — sort of a necessity for the robust inbox that SimplyFile predicts. You can customize hotkeys for SimplyFile, too, if you only do keyboards.
SimplyFile’s a game-changer from an efficiency standpoint. After a brief training period, its algorithm will begin to (more often than not) correctly anticipate your next move, saving you clicks in bunches, especially over time. It’s a learning system, which Outlook was never meant to be.
If you want to organize your emails at a high level, via subfolders within your Outlook inbox, SimplyFile is simply your best choice.
While SimplyFile organizes your email messages in Outlook, MessageSave allows you to archive email messages directly to a network drive, hard drive or locally synchronized folder, like those offered in conjunction with Dropbox or OneDrive.
MessageSave’s basic functionality is similar to SimplyFile’s. It adds a MessageSave icon to your Outlook ribbon, through which you can call up a dialog box for selecting appropriate archive folders, with bulk filing again also available. (The “MessageSave Basics” screencast here highlights the process in about 30 seconds.)
Once an email message has been offloaded from Outlook, it will exist as a document file; any attachments can be saved along with the file (or not … more on that in a moment). Email timestamps are preserved in created files, and you can add a message sender column within your network folder architecture, for ease of searching. MessageSave can archive tasks and contacts as well.
MessageSave lets you convert emails over to folders as document files, but there is a speed bump: the alacrity with which you can select the destination file. Using Microsoft’s built-in browsing forces you to climb down every branch of a complicated file tree. However, bundling MessageSave with QuickJump will allow you to use QuickJump’s type-ahead functionality to get to the appropriate repository in a far more direct fashion.
Most MessageSave users combine it with EZDetach, an app that strips attachments from single or batched emails. Once removed, attachments can be saved to a folder, or automatically printed — if you’re into that sort of thing. You can strip attachments without losing the traditional paper clip marker, so you’ll know that attachments had originally been sent with that email.
There are distinct advantages to using MessageSave as your email archive engine, beyond basic retention and compliance concerns, especially when its prowess is combined with the strengths of QuickJump and EZDetach. For one, it’s a less time- and space-consuming methodology than saving to PDF, archiving and/or printing those PDFs. Removing emails and attachments from your inbox will reduce your mailbox size, thereby increasing the speed at which your local application of Outlook runs. You can even use MessageSave, as controlled by a system administrator, to create and maintain an email archiving protocol for your law firm.
If you want to organize your emails at a high level via directories without your Outlook inbox, MessageSave can save you some major headaches.
The large majority of TechHit customers use either SimplyFile or MessageSave combined with QuickJump and EZDetach, which makes some sense. The choice is based on an email management philosophy. Do you prefer an “active” inbox, managing all your email within Outlook (via SimplyFile)? Or, would you rather have an “inactive” inbox, where terminal emails are housed in off-inbox file folders (via MessageSave)? Even so, these uses are not mutually exclusive — there is a hybrid approach.
SimplyFile can be used alongside MessageSave in some instances. For example, if a lawyer was to attempt to use Outlook as a case management system of sorts, she could maintain emails related to active cases using SimplyFile, while archiving messages attached to inactive cases with MessageSave. A lawyer could also automate a similar process by running SimplyFile in the foreground, while using folder mapping to maintain a regular background sweep by MessageSave for filing appropriately aged emails and attachments. Since copies of messages can be maintained in SimplyFile and MessageSave simultaneously, MessageSave could be utilized as a file-based backup to SimplyFile’s email folder regime.
I feel compelled now to note some other cool products that TechHit offers. SimplyTag is for dreamers who want to use something akin to Gmail’s labels within Outlook. SnoozeIt allows you to hide email messages in your inbox until such time as you deign to look at, or act upon, them. I guess that’s sort of like the Matrix version of Inbox Zero. TimeforaBreak is a stand-alone application implementing the Pomodoro Technique. If you’re a bundler (you know who you are), TechHit’s pricing page features rates for single product purchases, as well as various combination options.
TechHit’s tools are so easy, they’re probably illegal in most states. The additional organizational principles the company applies to the Outlook inbox is an obsessive-compulsive’s wet dream. The TechHit website provides lots of useful tips and tricks.
TechHit applications are compatible with Office 365, but not with Outlook Web Access or Gmail’s web-based user interface — though a Gmail account used in Outlook, via IMAP, will work. TechHit products are not available as smartphone apps, either — not yet, at least. And, yes, that’s kind of a drag. You can use a “to be filed” folder as a workaround — and even automate that some, on the back end, with batch filing. But, y’all know how I feel about smartphones.
Overall, the drawbacks are slim and the advantages robust — especially if you’re a heavy desktop or laptop user. If you crave efficiency upgrades surrounding the application in which you spend the majority of your time, TechHit’s offerings are a technical knockout.
Jared Correia is Assistant Director and Senior Law Practice Advisor at the Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program. Jared is the author of "Twitter in One Hour for Lawyers" and writes on practice management for Attorney at Work, here, and for the LOMAP blog, here. He is a graduate of Suffolk University Law School and of Saint Anselm College, where he was a captain of the debate squad that finished as national runner-up in 2000. He loves James Taylor and tweets @jaredcorreia.
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