Is Live Inbox an alternative to Xobni?

[Note: This post has been updated multiple times since it was first published (see below)]
I was thrilled this morning when I discovered live inbox. It’s brand new – launched this month (June 2011) and claims to be an alternative to “evil xobni” (live inbox with each word spelled backwards). I had just started trying out Xobni but – as the live inbox people rightly point out – it came with lots of problems, including nearly no customization options and initial problems with drag-and-drop in Outlook. So I was searching the web for an alternative and I thought I had found it in live inbox.

But after half a day of trying it out – or rather: trying to try it out – I must say that I wish that these guys hadn’t gone public with this product yet. Apart from that it would have saved me from wasting my time, I think that going public at this point of development is going to give them a lot of bad press and that might in the end kill the whole enterprise of developing a good alternative to Xobni. Does

I briefly describe my odyssey with Live Inbox:

– Installation: the automatic download of Microsoft Virtual Studio runtime x86 failed (tried several times) so I located it manually on the web, downloaded and installed it.

– After that, Live Inbox still wouldn’t install, even though my win7 user account has admin privileges (error message complaining that I did not have permission to write in some directory). Only when I started the setup by right-clicking and selecting “run as administrator” did the installation go all the way through.

– But the annoyances were not over at that point: starting outlook took ages even before the live-inbox pane even appeared on the screen and when it did it said “live inbox loading” for I-don’t-know-how-many minutes. Obviously, the add-on was indexing my inbox with several thousand emails. But it was not telling me so and it was not letting me use outlook while it was doing it. In contrast to Xobni, which was almost exaggerating its efforts to keep me entertained during the process.

– Once it had loaded in my Outlook calendar (which is my default view when starting outlook) I found no way to get it to show in a second outlook window which I opened with my emails (right click the mail-icon in the navigation bar). So I am forced to use the *first* outlook window to read my mail.

– I also found no way to close the Live Inbox pane completely. Xobni, in contrast, placed a useful button in the Home-ribbon for that.

– But at least it was operating now. – Or was it? – Well, I would say it wasn’t because it was so slow to react to any click on a mail or wherever, that it was just unbearable. I thought, hmm, maybe I should just restart outlook. After all, Xobni also messed up some part of outlook (I was no longer able to drag and drop a file into an email I was composing), so maybe they mistakenly copied that behaviour too…

– Unfortunately, that made it only worse. The starting procedure seemed even slower now, and, in fact, the Live Inbox pane did not materialize at all (well, it came up as an empty pane and stayed that way for at least 10 minutes). (See the following screenshot.)

Even a system restart did get Live Inbox going.

– Meanwhile, Outlook was using 45% of my CPU and constantly complaining that it was “trying to retrieve data from the Microsoft Exchange server…” which did not seem to work (see screenshot below).

Live Inbox is causing problems with MS Outlook 2010

– I tried rebooting windows, as a last chance but nothing changed (see screenshot below). So off you go: “uninstall live box” was the end of that adventure. Unfortunately. I would have liked to see if these guys can keep the promises the are making on the webpage, but well – I’ll probably come back in half a year or so, hoping that you still exist. But at this point, I can only recommend to anyone: don’t even try to install live inbox. It’s really not worth it. Yet (I hope).

P.S. I should also like to mention that I do not recommend using Outlook as an email client in the first place. I am only using it because my employer (or Microsoft – I don’t know whose fault it is that our Exchange server just won’t cooperate with Thunderbird through IMAP) is basically forcing me to use it. So I’m trying to make the best of it (and would be grateful for any hints or comments of how to make life with outlook more userfriendly, transparent, and customizable).

The above review is based on Version 1.1.7 (compliled 6 June 2011) of Live Inbox on a Win7 Pro machine (32-bit) with Office 2010. Please do leave a comment below if you have experience with a newer version that works!

In case you’re wondering: After having agreed to serve as a beta-tester (see Sumanth’s comment below) I did not hear anything for three months but then I received an updated version of live inbox in which all the above mentioned problems were supposed to be cleared out. However, I had huge problems getting the program running. First, it took 27 minutes to index my inbox and then it kept crashing due to some license issues. Sumanth told me that this was only due to the fact that I had previously installed a version of live inbox and that the issue will be resolved in the next release. So in brief: I am not giving up hope for this to become a true alternative to xobni, but at the moment it still looks like a long way to go.

Update 2 (10 Dec 2011): I thought I should mention that I have received a new version of Live Inbox already in October but I have been so busy those last months that I did not have time to install and test it. I am looking forward to do this sometime soon, hopefully and I’ll let you now the results in a new post. Thanks for your patience.

Update 3 (6 Jan 2012): Just before christmas I finally took the time to check out the latest version (compiled 22 Nov 2011). And I was once again harshly disappointed. It was just a waste of time. Any normal user would have been left with a non-functional outlook after trying to install that version.

First outlook crashed completely while live inbox was supposedly trying to scan my inbox. And when I say “completely” I mean that I had to kill the oulook.exe process on the Windows Task Manager; nothing else worked. After a forced restart, I was asked for a license but clicking on “retrieve license” (as I was told to do in an email from the developers) just led to the license being sent to my inbox again and again (where it had been lying all the time anyway). The software refused to do anything except for telling me that I need a license. As you can see in the screenshot below, there was not even a possibility for me to somehow enter the license manually and it was not possible to activate any part of the plugin without getting this error message.

Live-inbox kept asking for a license inspite of several mails containing the license being in my inbox

The only way to get around this was by saving the license file from the email to my desktop, reinstalling liveinbox and directing it to that file as soon as it asked for the license (rather than clicking on “retrive license”). For a moment it then seemed to work but when I restarted Outlook, the whole Live-Inbox plugin had disappeared again.

The only result of all this was that now Outlooks social networking pane below the reading pane which I had deactivated in the Plug-In options has magically been reactivated. I don’t like it if another program deems it appropriate to reactivate another plugin without even asking me. One of the developers responded to this issue as follows:

LiveInbox really does not care about it [the networking pane]. We do not modify The Addins section in the registry… NO we just don’t play around with other plugins. There is no code in LiveInbox that does that. What social networking pane was this ?

It’s funny that they don’t even know about this! It’s part of Outlook and the official name is “Microsoft Outlook Connector for social networks” (socialconnector.dll).

Despite my frustration with Live-Inbox, I have installed it on my home PC today where I have not been using Outlook before so that it is in its original condition (at work I have several other plugins installed). My home system is Win7 Pro 64 bit with Office 2010 connected to the Exchange Server at work. Here the installation process went a bit better but far from smooth:

  1. During the installation I was told that the .NET Framework version 4 needs to be installed and a browser window was opened with the download page. So I downloaded and installed it but even after that, the Live-Inbox installation was still stuck at the same point and did not pick up the changes I had made. I had to click “Cancel” and restart the installation. This is not how an installation procedure should run. It should at least tell you to restart the process after installing .NET rather than pretending to be still up and running.
  2. After installation, I agreed to “start Live inbox for outlook 2.0” but what was launched was the setup procedure for Outlook, not Outlook with my existing account. Hello?
  3. When I started Outlook the normal way, it suddenly opens two instances of Outlook. Dont ask me why.
  4. After indexing my Inbox, I am again asked for the license key (although there are still several copies in my inbox). Again, I had to save the license file on my desktop and direct live-inbox to it.

Now it is up and running. However, it is not working. I don’t know what these guys are doing, but I thought the point of live inbox was to make it really easy to quickly find any email. So as I was writing this update, I searched for the emails I had exchanged with the live-inbox team. I searched for “live-inbox” which is contained in all of their email adresses but only a single email was found (see screenshot).

Live Inbox only found one out of many emails from it's makers

I did get all live-inbox email adresses that I corresponded with, but not the emails themselves.

So I went back to the native outlook search and here is what I got:

The native Outlook search does find the mails

So without even extending the search to other folders of my inbox, Outlook already found more mails than Live-Inbox. — Hello?

I really don’t understand what’s going on here. As I said earlier: It’s a real pity that the live-inbox people are not getting this to work at all. The only thing that changes is the version number: The current version is already called “Live-Inbox for Outlook 2.0” Ha ha. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you the exact version number of the build that I have been testing in this update because the “About” button in the Live-Inbox ribbon is not working. But, as mentioned above, its the build of 22 Nov 2011.


15 thoughts on “Is Live Inbox an alternative to Xobni?

  1. This is Sumanth from the Live Inbox team.
    Firstly, thank you for trying out our software and sorry about the issues you faced. We haven’t yet formally launched our solution but will be doing so this month (June 2011) once we have ironed out the final chinks.
    We are already working on the installation issues that you pointed out above. For the other performance issues, would you mind spending some time with us and help us figure out what the exact problem was.
    In return for your time, we would be glad to offer you a free lifetime license of the product (we promise you that you can file us under your “absolutely fantastic” category soon!). if this is acceptable, please drop me a line at at your convenience and we will duly follow up.
    Since you seem to be connecting to Exchange, there is a possibility that the issue might have arisen because you are not running it in cached mode. Were you able to run Xobni without these performance issues?
    Cheers and I apologize once again for the issues you faced…

  2. Live-inbox is fighting against Xobni, but now they offer a site with lots of bla bla against, but they don’t offer an alternative right now…coming soon.

    Looking at the information above, and the fact that Live-Inbox doesn’t have an alternative…I will keep on using Xobni.


    • You are right that, at the moment, Live Inbox is more an announcement than anything else and we will have to wait and see how much of it becomes real. I am in Touch with Sumanth from Live Inbox and he says the following:

      On the basis of your feedback, we are re-architecting some of the infrastructure elements and dependencies (things like VSTO) so that problems like the ones that you encountered are completely eliminated. Since we are doing this, we decided to update some other core components such as our indexing mechanism simultaneously and this is taking a bit of time.

      Sounds promising. I have accepted to test Live Inbox and will post updates about new versions here.

  3. Such a shame that Live Inbox hasn’t quite done what it set out to do yet. I do rather miss Xobni. It was just so useful and MS Outlooks Social Connector is useless. Come on Live inbox, get your act together!

      • Thanks for the update on this Chris. There are surprisingly few reviews of Live Inbox on the web and I was almost going to take the plunge as I have xobni withdrawal symptoms, but think I’ll have to just deal with them for now. Social Connector at least has files and facebook sorted (not very well admittedly) for now.

        Have you tried the xobni infinity? This was their “replacement” for xobni. I found it next to useless.

  4. Chris – This post is too old.

    You should try the resurrected Live Inbox 🙂 Would love to see you back.

    Live Inbox

  5. Chris You should give it a try and let me know!! But If you ask me, I am pretty confident:)!

    • As you can see from the post above, I have given Live Inbox quite a couple of tries and wasted way too much time with the product. I’m not going to do that again, especially not when you can’t even point out which of the flaws have meanwhile been fixed.

      I don’t doubt that the product has improved because otherwise it would hardly be around anymore. But after many years of software testing I have come to see that to judge the value of a software product, the company behind the software, in particular the developers, are as important as the actual code running on my computer (or on some server, for that matter). And the experience documented in the post above did not give me any confidence that this company will be producing viable software any time soon. I am ready to be proven wrong, but I’m not going to invest any time for another round of software testing.

  6. Chris, I started using LiveInbox in January 2017, have had no problems and find it very useful. (I am not affiliated in any way).

    – Your post is from 2011;
    – You want to use Thunderbird;
    – You did not know that Yahoo killed Xobni
    – You refuse to continue an exploration you started yourself and know will be available to the public (with a reply that took you more time to write than I spent on installing LiveInbox.).

    Either be honest or take the post down.

    I will be honest: I found LiveIbox five months ago, installed it with no problem and use it every day.

    • If you want to completement my live inbox review with a more up-to-date one that takes up my points of criticism, you are welcome to write one and post it here.

      In any case, I don’t see how my review is not honest.

      • Hi Chris. I appreciate the reply. Your review is honest for 2011 and 2014.

        In 2017, for the current version, it is not accurate in my experience.

        People looking for info and who see this article (it is top level on Google) really do not get a reliable idea of the program.

        I am not affiliated, nor a real big fan of LiveInbox, but it has been worth my payment and is better than a slew of other Outlook stuff I have..

        Don´t want to review it, not my thing, was looking for tips and was surprised to see this.

        The info is no longer accurate in my experience. That´s all.

        Good luck with all.

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