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Friday, December 02, 2005

New Microsoft Tool Helps Manage Your E-mail

Microsoft's research arm today released a free tool to help users slog through e-mail messages in their inbox in the order of importance, according to one of the researchers who developed the software.

Created within Microsoft Research, the Social Relationship and Network Finder, or SNARF, is an application that uses the same database as a user's e-mail client to count the number of times users send and receive messages from people, says A.J. Brush, a researcher in the community technologies group at Microsoft Research.

Calling this kind of e-mail triage process "social sorting," researchers worked with graduate students, at least one of whom is studying sociology, to come up with the tool so that it will help users prioritize the e-mail in their inbox based on how often they send and receive messages from contacts, she says.

More Intelligent Software?

"One of the core SNARF notions is that it's about people," Brush says. "We're really trying to remember information about the people in e-mail rather than on a per-message basis. SNARF will know [for example] that it's a message from Julie, I talk to her all the time, so it will put that [message] higher in order of importance."

In an e-mail message, Bernie Hogan, a doctoral student in sociology at the University of Toronto who worked with Brush as an intern during SNARF's development, said that modern e-mail clients don't take into consideration aspects of face-to-face interpersonal contact that people use to organize their daily interaction with others. Tools like SNARF will help researchers develop more intelligent software that streamlines e-mail communication, he said.

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