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SNARF from MSR-CTG

SNARF User Scenarios

  1. Danyel: "Ready in the morning"
  2. Andy: "I love using SNARF to catch up on e-mail distribution lists."
  3. AJ: "I’ve turned off my Outlook 'toast'"

I’m Danyel, a researcher on the SNARF team.

I’ll admit it—I often get to work just in time to drop my bag, read a half-dozen email messages, and dive into my first meeting. That’s why I like using SNARF for Triage. I’ll leave it running on my computer, so it’s ready in the morning when I walk in the door. I leave “Unread To/CC Me” big enough for me to read the top four or five names; I leave “Unread Lists” open to read two or three.

I’ll scroll through that first pane and check if there’s anything that I need to take care of. I’ll open messages from people at the top of the list, and then scurry off to the meeting. I usually open them in thread view, so I can find the message they are responding to, and any other messages in the set.

If a list I care about is showing in Unread Lists, I’ll click on that, too.

When I get back, I’ll go into Outlook to read the rest.

I’m Andy Jacobs, lead developer for SNARF. I love using SNARF to catch up on e-mail distribution lists. I don’t want to read each message in these low-priority lists, but I like to look for useful info. I already have an Outlook rule to move these messages out of my Inbox and into another folder, and this keeps my Inbox fairly tame. I then use SNARF to show me the messages in the DL folder, sorted by the number of times a list is mentioned – this brings the active lists to the top. I double-click on a list to read it, which brings up a SNARF Message List.

With the “Show related thread messages” option set, the messages are sorted by conversation, with the oldest conversation shown first. I read the subject of the first message. If I’m not interested in it, I press Ctrl-Shift-D, which deletes all messages in that conversation thread. This can often delete 10-50 messages at a time! I continue deleting threads until I find one I’m interested in. When I’m interested in reading it, I double-click it, which brings up a Thread View.

In the Thread View, I can easily see the first message, and first couple replies. This gives me a feeling for the conversation. If I’m still interested, I read as I scroll down with my wheel-mouse (and don’t have to click anything else, jump between windows, or read going up). When I’m done, I press Ctrl-Shift-D to delete the conversation. If I want to save a message, I move it into another folder, and then delete the remaining messages back in the Message List (using multiple-selection for the remaining messages).

I’m A.J. Brush, one of the researchers working on SNARF. Although I helped decide that SNARF should focus on making email triage easier, it turns out that I use SNARF primarily to stay aware of new email during the day (ssssh, don’t tell!). I’ve turned off my Outlook “toast” notifications and instead kept a minimized version of SNARF visible in the top corner of my screen. This way I can quickly glance over at SNARF during the day and see if there is any new email that I want to read. If something catches my eye, I bring up Outlook (I always keep it minimized) and handle that email and usually a few other things that came in as well. I feel I work much more effectively without the constant distractions of Outlook notifications.

The most important view for me is “To/CC me”, and I try to make sure I’ve read all the email sent to or cc’d to me. (Some SNARF team members are aware of my strategy and have started sending email they want me to read quickly both to our team distribution list and directly to me – clever!)