SNARF from MSR-CTG

Detailed SNARF Descriptions

This page examines the SNARF User Interface, one panel at a time, in detail.

  1. SNARF Main window
  2. Message List
  3. Thread View
  4. Settings
  5. Indexing Status

SNARF Main window

This is the main window of SNARF. Its purpose is to give an e-mail overview from a social perspective. One key difference between SNARF and most other e-mail clients is that SNARF lists people in its main window, rather than messages or folders, and the people can be sorted by their social relationship.

The main window is divided into several panes: at left, the three panes are named "Unread To/CC me", "Unread Mail", and "This Weeks' Mail."

Panes

To create a new pane, choose Menu-New Pane. To close any pane, just click the "X" (close icon) in its upper-right.

To access the settings for each pane, and define new views (e.g., what is listed and how it is sorted), click on the toolbox icon in the upper-right of the pane (next to the close icon). See the Settings area for more details on this.

The top of each pane is the header area. This lists the name of the view the pane is showing, and gives the current count of messages and people included in the view. It also has the settings and close buttons. If the mouse hovers over the header, a tooltip listing the current settings for that pane's view will appear. Right-click on the header to get a context menu with options to view the settings, close the pane, and access to all defined views. Choosing a view from the context menu will switch the pane to show that view.

Each pane can be individually sized by dragging the gray splitter bar below it. Or, a short-cut for resizing a pane is to double-click in its header area. This will shrink the pane to just the size of its header, or expand it proportionally to the screen. When a header is double-clicked, the main window will grow or shrink as well, to accommodate the pane's new size.

Lists

In the body of each pane is a list of people and mailing lists. Each person or list has a count of messages associated with them for that view - this appears after their name, in parenthesis. Each person also has a blue bar under their name which gives an indication of the magnitude (on a log scale, and relative to the other people in the same pane) of the number of messages for that person. To see the messages for an individual person, double-click on their name. The name of the current user will not appear in the lists.

When a name is double-clicked, SNARF will determine the best way to show the messages. This will usually be in a Message List. But if there is just one message, SNARF will open the message in Outlook. SNARF will open a Thread View if all the messages are in a single thread and if the "Default Open in Thread View" option is set (from the Message List) .

If the mouse hovers over a person, SNARF will show a tooltip that includes the Settings, and what numbers it is using to sort the person.

Context Menu

Right-click on a person or list to see its context menu. The choices are:

  • This is a List - SNARF has views for just mailing lists, and views that do not include mailing lists (see Settings). This option indicates to SNARF if this is a list or not (and this is currently the only means SNARF has of determining this). When a recipient is indicated as a list, then a check box will appear next to this menu item, and all views will consider it a list.
  • New Message To - creates a new e-mail to this person or list. Note that Outlook will need to resolve the display name into an e-mail address in order to send the mail.
  • Open in Message List - shows all the messages in a Message List.
  • Open in Thread View - shows the first message (and all of its related messages) in a Thread View.
  • Open first as Outlook message - shows the first message in an Outlook message window.
  • Open all as Outlook messages - opens multiple Outlook message windows - one for each message.
  • Mark all as Read - marks all messages as Read in Outlook.
  • Delete all - moves all the messages into the Outlook Deleted Items folder.

Options

There are 3 options on the Main window, under Menu-Options:

  • Lock Window - makes the SNARF main window float in front of other windows, and will lock the window frame so that it cannot be resized (except by double-clicking pane headers).
  • Never delete messages from me when deleting threads - affects the "Delete Thread" command in the Message List and Thread View. Normally when deleting threads, SNARF will delete all messages in that thread. This option will have SNARF skip the messages that were sent by the user (which may be in the Sent Items folder), so they are not deleted with the others. When this option is set, these messages can still be deleted individually - this option only affects the Delete Thread command.
  • Automatically start SNARF when Windows starts - will have SNARF start when the user logs in to their Windows account. This is useful when using SNARF for e-mail awareness, and for frequent triage (or to simply have SNARF running most of the time without having to remember to start it).

Commands

  • Menu-Refresh - quickly re-scans the SNARF database. This is useful if the view missed a notification (which should be rare).
  • Menu-Repair Outlook Connection - will re-scan all items in Outlook to make sure the SNARF database is up to date. This can be a slow process, and should only be needed vary rarely, for times when Outlook stops sending SNARF notifications of new mail.
  • Menu-Help - launchs the SNARF help web page.
  • Menu-About - shows the current version of SNARF, and its authorship.

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Message List

Here is a Message List:

A Message List shows the messages associated with a person from a view. To see this view, select Open in Message Listfrom the context menu of a person, on the Main window. If the window does not have the "Filter" box at the top, the Menu-Change Filter option (see below) will make it appear. This window will update to show deletions and changes to the messages, but will not show new messages. Use the Menu-Refresh command to re-query for recent messages and any other changes.

Like Outlook, each message is represented in this window as a single row, with various columns of data. The list can be sorted by any of the columns by clicking on the column header (and click again to reverse the sort). The column headers can also be resized by dragging the column separators in the header area. If the text from one cell is too long to be displayed, it is shown with ellipsis, and the full text will show in a tooltip if the mouse hovers over the cell. All unread messages are shown in bold.

Press escape to close the Message List.

Options

There are two checkboxes at the top of the window:

  • Show related thread messages - affects two things. First, it adds messages to the list that were not included in the view (or the filter), but are related to messages in the view or filter by being in the same e-mail thread (e.g., they have the same subject). The second thing is that the messages are sorted with all similar messages grouped together, and sorted by the earliest message in the thread. The related messages are shown with a gray color. If the sort is changed back to any of the displayed columns, this option will become unselected.
  • Show deleted items - causes the list to include deleted items, which will appear with a strikethrough font. When SNARF calculates its social accounting meta-data, it includes messages that may have been deleted. This allows SNARF to know that many messages to someone have been sent, even after the user deleted them to save space. The count of deleted messages is shown as a number in parenthesis at the end of this option. If there are no deleted items, then this option will be disabled.

There are two options available in the main menu:

  • Change Filter - will cause the Filter box at the top of the window to appear or disappear. The filter box allows criteria used for listing the messages in this window to be changed. For example, if the list is currently showing all messages from the last week, the filter might be changed to quickly show the last month. Clicking on the filter box will show a menu of items that can be changed. See the Settings section for a list of available filter options. The count of messages included in the filter is shown to the right of the filter box - this can be useful when "Show related thread messages" is enabled, to see how many messages are in the core list from that filter.
  • Default Open in Thread View - affects what happens when a message is double-clicked. When this option is selected, the message will appear in a Thread View, along with the other messages in the thread. If this option is not selected, the message would open in an Outlook message window. This option also affects double-clicking on people in the Main window. In both cases, the user can explicitly open messages in a Thread View or in Outlook, regardless of this option's setting, using the context menu.

Commands

The list allows multiple items to be selected. The following commands affect all selected messages:

  • Mark as Read - clears the Outlook unread flag.
  • Mark as Unread - sets the Outlook unread flag.
  • Open in Outlook - displays the selected messages in individual Outlook message windows.
  • Open in Thread View - Open a Thread View window for each selected message (with the selected message shown selected in the Thread View).
  • Reply - starts a reply to just the sender, in an Outlook window.
  • Reply to All - starts a reply to the sender and all recipients, in an Outlook window.
  • Forward - starts a forward of the selected messages in individual Outlook windows.
  • Move Message - asks the user to select an Outlook folder to move the selected messages to. This can be useful to move multiple items to the same destination folder (without having to pick the same folder multiple times).
  • Move Thread - asks the user to select an Outlook folder to move all messages from the selected threads. All messages will be moved to the same folder.
  • Delete Message - will delete the selected messages.
  • Delete Thread - will delete all listed messages from the selected threads. There is an option, available in the Main window, to have this command skip messages that the user sent. While this command will affect more than just the selected message, it will only affect messages that are in the list (i.e., which match the current filter, and "Show related thread messages" setting).

These commands are on the main menu, on the context menu (by right-clicking on a message), and available via keyboard shortcuts. Of course both the Delete Message and Delete Thread commands will not delete the message permanently, but rather will move the messages to the Outlook Deleted Items folder.

Finally, the Menu-Refresh command will rescan the database for the latest data. This is most useful if new messages have arrived, as the Message List will normally update itself to show all other changes.

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Thread View

The Thread View shows all messages in an e-mail conversation thread, in chronological order, and placed in a tree to show the conversational structure. Only the new text of each message is shown, to avoid redundancy. The message text is displayed in-place in the tree to avoid having to switch focus between a list of messages and a preview pane. And because the messages are presented in chronological order, an entire thread can be read from top to bottom, in the original order. Any new messages that arrive, or other changes made to these messages via Outlook, should show up immediately in this view.

Overview Window

On the left of this display is an overview of the thread tree. The selected message node is shown in a highlighted color (usually blue), and the lines to it from the root, and to any of its children are also highlighted. A node can be selected in the tree by clicking on it in the overview. The shaded box shows the visible section of the thread tree (in the main pane on the right), and dragging this up and down will scroll the main pane. The panes can be resized by dragging the splitter between them.

Main Thread View

The main pane on the right shows the new text from all messages in the thread. Unread messages appear with black text, and Read messages are gray. If the message has been deleted, SNARF will show a placeholder in red, with the text "". Each message node can show all the new text from that message, or a shortened version on a single line. See the options below to set these according to the user's preference. The selected message node is indicated by a thicker border with a highlighted color (the last message node in the above picture is selected). A message can be selected by clicking on its node, on its representation in the thread tree overview (on the left), or by using the up and down arrow buttons. For users with a wheel-mouse, the font size can be changed by holding the Ctrl key on the keyboard and rolling the mouse wheel.

Press escape to close the Thread View.

Actions

There are many commands that can be performed on the messages:

  • Mark as Read - clears the Outlook unread flag.
  • Mark as Unread - sets the Outlook unread flag.
  • Open in Outlook - displays the selected message in an Outlook message window.
  • Reply - starts a reply to just the sender of this message, in an Outlook window.
  • Reply to All - starts a reply to the sender and all recipients of this message, in an Outlook window.
  • Forward - starts a forward of the selected message in an Outlook window.
  • Move Message - lets the user pick an Outlook folder to move the selected message to.
  • Move Thread - lets the user pick an Outlook folder to move all messages in this thread. All messages will be moved to the same folder.
  • Delete Message - will delete the selected messages.
  • Delete Thread - deletes all messages in this thread. There is an option, available in the Main window, to have this command skip messages sent by the current user.

These commands are on the main menu, on the context menu (by right-clicking on a message), and available via keyboard shortcuts. Of course both the Delete Message and Delete Thread commands will not delete the message permanently, but rather will move the messages to the Outlook Deleted Items folder. The text of the message can be copied to the clipboard using the Edit-Copy menu command. This will copy the text from that node as it appears. If the message is collapsed to a single line, the text is copied as if it were not collapsed (that is, not just the one-line summary).

Normally, the Thread View will update to reflect the change in data. However, the Thread View prunes some deleted messages out, such as multiple consecutive deleted messages, or deleted messages with no replies. The pruning is only done when the Thread View first appears, or when performing a Menu-Refresh. So, if a number of messages have just been deleted, the Menu-Refresh command will allow the Thread View to prune some of them out to save space. It will also refresh all of its data from the database.

If all messages in the thread are deleted (e.g. by deleting the last message, or with Delete Thread), the Thread View will close automatically.

Options

There are seven options that affect the look and behavior of the Thread View, accessible from the Menu-Options submenu. They are:

  • Automatically Mark Selection as Read - for users who like to read messages by moving the selection, and having the newly selected message marked as read in Outlook. For other users who prefer to manually mark messages as Read, they can turn off this option. This option is also useful to make SNARF act like Outlook, and mark a message as Read as soon as it is opened to be read.
  • Shrink Read Messages - This option saves screen space for Unread messages. However, for users who frequently refer back to the bodies of previous messages, or don't like the sizes of the boxes changing while using the window, then this option can be turned off.
  • Shrink All Unselected Messages - This uses the least space on the screen for a single message, but still shows context. However, some users do not like the boxes changing sizes this often.
  • Always Expand Selected Message - this option allows the user to move the selection to a message that was collapsed, in order to quickly expand it. However, some users do not like the dynamic changing of box sizes that this causes.
  • Show Recipients - This adds a line to each message indicating the list of To and CC recipients (and an additional separator line). Since the recipients of most threads stay about the same, it can save screen space by turning these off.
  • Move Selection when changing Read flag - This is useful when manually changing the Read/Unread flag on a message as the last thing before moving to the next message.
  • Show Recipients in Tooltip - If the Show Recipients option is turned off, this lets the user see the recipients in a tooltip by hovering the mouse over a message node. However, the flashing of these can be distracting if the user moves the mouse or scrolls a lot.

Known Limitations

There are a few shortcomings in the current implementation of Thread View:

  • Only the text of each message is shown - it does not show the formatting of the message.
  • If the author modified the text of previous messages in their reply (including adding "inline" comments), this will not show up.
  • Some messages (such as DRM protected content) are not displayed.
  • Hyperlink URLs are not detected (and therefore can't be clicked to follow).

To help alleviate these shortcomings, the user can open a message in an Outlook message window (by double-clicking it, or pressing Enter, or from the context menu). This should display DRM content, show any formatting (such as RTF or HTML), and show the entire message as the author wrote it. And Outlook will show URLs as hyperlinks, allowing the user to easily click on the link to navigate to it. The Outlook message also has access to most of the features of Outlook that are not available directly in SNARF, such as copying the message.

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View Settings

The View Settings window lets the user customize what is displayed in a pane, and to save those options as a view. Any changes made in this window will immediately affect the associated pane, so the user can quickly and easily see the affects of their change. However, the changes will not be made permanent until they are saved as a View (see View Name, below).

Display

The Display section selects which messages will count for a person to be displayed. Change the setting by clicking in the white box, and selecting an option from the menu that appears. The options are explained below. The list of messages can also be limited to specific Outlook e-mail folders (e.g., only messages in the Inbox) and all of their subfolders. If a folder is not specified, then messages in all Outlook folders, in all stores and PSTs, will be included. The user can specify multiple folders to include by separating the folder names with semicolons (and no additional spaces). For example, to include the folders "Inbox" and "My Stuff" (and all of their subfolders), specify: "Inbox;My Stuff" (without the quotes).

Sort By

Specify how to sort the list, in the Sort By section. The list can easily be sorted Alphabetically, or by the earliest or latest message of the Displayed messages. These can be sorted in either ascending or descending order, via the "Highest to lowest" checkbox on the right. Or, the list can be sorted on social information, using two queries which can be combined with an operator. The operator can be Plus, Minus, Multiply or Divide. The operator can be switched by clicking on the box to the right of the query boxes. To sort by the social information, ensure that the radio button next to the boxes is selected.

View Name

The View Name section, at the top, selects the view that will be used in the corresponding pane, and allows changes to be made to it. First, select an existing view from the dropdown list. If all settings are as desired, the View Settings window can be closed by clicking the "X" close icon in the upper right. Otherwise, change any desired settings. When changes are made to the settings, the word "modified" will appear under the view name to indicate that the changes have not been saved.

To save the current settings for future use, click the Save As button. This will prompt the user for the name of the view to save the settings under - the current name is the default. If the user keeps the current view name, then the current settings will overwrite any previous settings for that view. Otherwise, the user can type a new name into the box to create a new view name with the current settings. To remove a view, first select it in the dropdown list, and then click the Delete button.

Filter/Query Options

The following options affect a Filter or Query:

  • To Me only - lists people who sent e-mail to the current user, where they were the only listed recipient.
  • To Me - lists people who sent e-mail where the current user was on the To line.
  • To or CC Me - lists people who sent e-mail where the current user was on the To or CC line.
  • To anyone - lists all senders of e-mail, whether the current user's name appears on the To or CC line, or not.
  • From Me - lists recipients of e-mail sent by the current user.
  • From anyone - lists recipients of both sent and received e-mail.
  • To, From or CC Them - lists senders and recipients.
  • day - includes e-mail received over the last full day (i.e., yesterday) and today.
  • 7 days - includes e-mail received over the last week.
  • 30 days - includes e-mail received over the last month.
  • 365 days - includes e-mail received over the last year.
  • All - includes all e-mail, regardless of when it was sent.
  • Replies only - includes only e-mail that Outlook recognizes as a reply (e.g,. with "RE:" in the subject).
  • Unread only - includes only e-mail marked as Unread in Outlook.
  • Read only - includes only e-mail marked as Read in Outlook.
  • Lists only - includes only people marked as a List in SNARF (See Main Window).
  • Non-Lists only - includes only people not marked as a List in SNARF (See Main Window).

Examples

To view the unread e-mail in the Inbox, sorted by how often the user has replied to the sender (useful to find the messages in the Inbox that most likely need a reply):

Display: Unread Messages From Them (Select: To anyone, All, and Unread only)
Only in folders: Inbox
Sort By: Replies From Me, To or CC Them (Select: From Me, All, and Replies only)
Highest to lowest: Checked (to show those replied to the most at the top of the list)

To see a messages from people who send more mail to the current user than they have sent back in the last year (useful for to find people with unsymmetrical e-mail patterns):

Display: Messages From Them, To or CC Me, in the last 365 days (Select: To or CC Me, 365 days)
Sort By, first box: Messages From Them, To or CC Me, in the last 365 days (Select: To or CC Me, 365 days)
Sort By, operator: / (click on the box until the divide operator appears)
Sort By, second box: Messages From Me, To or CC Them, in the last 365 days (Select: From Me, 365 days)Highest to lowest: Checked (to show those with more received e-mail at the top of the list)

To see unread messages in the last month sorted by people that have been sent to the least (useful for Technical Support or Sales):

Display: Unread Messages From Them, in the last 30 days (Select: To anyone, 30 days, Unread only).
Sort By: Messaegs To or CC Them (Select: From anyone, All)
Highest to lowest: Unchecked (to show those with the fewest messages to them at the top)

Tips

Try to limit the filter/query to return as few results as possible, but still be useful. In general, the fewer messages in the list, the faster it will execute. For example, if a query is executing slowly, consider shortening the time from a year to a month.

SNARF treats all deleted items as if they were marked as Read in Outlook. So a good way to limit a view to only undeleted items is to restrict the Display filter to just Unread items.

Because all changes made in this window are immediately reflected in the corresponding pane, feel free to play with settings and see what results. The settings will revert back to their saved values by selecting the same view from the View Name dropdown box. To save the new settings for future use, click the Save As button.

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Indexing Status

The Indexing Status window appears when SNARF first starts, and when the user selects Menu-Repair Outlook Connection from the Main SNARF window. The first line indicates SNARF's progress of finding messages in Outlook to index. The second line indicates SNARF's progress in processing the messages that it has found so far. The third line indicates how long it has taken SNARF so far - this line may not update every second. The fourth line indicates the last folder to have a message processed - this may be blank if no messages have been processed. When SNARF has completed finding messages in Outlook, but still has processing left to do, a fifth line, and status bar will appear, indicating the percentage of messages that have been processed (and the word "done" will appear on the first line).

Note that this window can be resized. The user can cancel the indexing by pressing the Cancel button, however this is not recommended, as it will leave SNARF with an incomplete list of messages. This incomplete list can be corrected by running the Index again - either by closing and starting SNARF, or by choosing Menu-Repair Outlook Connection from the Main SNARF window.

This window will sometimes show other text. The message "Starting MAPI Index..." will appear when SNARF connects to MAPI, and "Initializing" will appear when SNARF connects to its database. When SNARF starts after the first time, it will show the message: "Finding previous messages", and show a count for the status. After SNARF has processed the messages, it has a bit more work to do, and will show "Finishing Indexing" for this stage.

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