SNARF to the email rescue

The first day work after a holiday is always the worst. You sit down at your desk, open your inbox and that sinking feeling hits you as a seemingly never ending list of unread messages appears before your eyes. Without ploughing through these emails one by one it's difficult to know which require urgent attention and which can be ignored.

Well according to Microsoft it no longer needs to be this way thanks to SNARF, the Social Network and Relationship Finder, a new free utility released by the software giant’s research arm, which works as an add-on to email programs such as Outlook.

The principle behind SNARF is that the most important emails will be from those people that you interact with most often. By counting how many times you correspond and reply to an email from a certain person SNARF can gauge how important that person is to you.

In effect, it hopes to act as a kind of email triage that will pull out and highlight those emails that the application thinks will need your attention. This adds a whole new layer of sophistication to the traditional Outlook new email notification pop-up, which I find can actually be a real distraction.

SNARF, could be a particular boon for those mobile workers who have just a few precious minutes to check their emails whilst on the run between meetings.

Of course such a tool has its limitations as not everyone who is important will reply to your emails. For example, if you work at a large company, you won’t want to miss that email announcement from the MD, but more than likely you will not have any direct regular correspondence with the him or her yourself.

That is where a tagging system, to flag important contacts, would be a great complement. Unfortunately, this is not part of SNARF just yet, although this functionality is on the way according Marc Smith, one of the Microsoft researchers who developed SNARF, speaking to Cnet.

The researchers say it has been successfully trialled amongst Microsoft workers and I look forward to giving it a go myself over the coming weeks. It is the latest tool to exploit so-called social sorting, a concept which has interested technology companies for a little while now.

You can download SNARF yourself here.