Track who reads your Outlook email, attachments

(MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY Despite my recent defense of email, I recognize that it has some serious deficiencies as a communication tool. Unlike in a face to face conversation, for example, it's really hard to know if someone has received the information you've sent in an email, much less processed, understood, and decided to act on it.

Sure, there are some limited tools built into Outlook -- you can send messages with a read receipt -- but people hate acknowledging read receipts and they're easily bypassed anyway. A better option? An email tracking tool like Toutapp.

Toutapp is an Outlook add-on that, first and foremost, tracks your emails for you. Via a new status pane in Outlook or the Toutapp website, you can see who has interacted with your sent mail -- it informs you not just when your email is read, but it tracks which links get clicked and when attachments are opened. And it does all of this silently, without throwing any additional dialog boxes or acknowledgements at the recipient.

This sort of email tracking is obviously ideal for sales teams who need to know how engaged clients are in the messages they send out, but this is a great tool for general business users as well. Did your boss read the PowerPoint deck you sent? Has your co-worker opened the status email you sent? Toutapp tracks everything.

Toutapp leverages the data it tracks to keep you better informed about your contacts. The web interface maintains an address book of sorts, which you can drill into to see data like the health of your relationship with each contact and follow social media updates.

That's not all: Toutapp lets you create email templates and schedule emails for later. Sure, you can do both of those things in Outlook, but Toutapp makes it very easy. Ever try to create email templates in Outlook? Curing Lyme Disease was easier.

Toutapp's Achilles' Heel is its pricing. You can try the service for free, but the basic account limits you to an almost worthless five emails per day. The next step up is the Solo plan (which includes 100 percent of the features for individual users) for $30 a month, and it only goes up from there -- multi-user versions which include shared templates and other collaboration tools start at $100 at month. You can get Toutapp on the iPhone, but the app itself costs a buck in addition to your plan of choice.

I love what Toutapp offers, but the pricing is too expensive for most general business users. Sales folks might find this indispensable even at $30 a month -- sales force readers, sound off in the comments and let me know what you think -- but for everyone else, when Tout offers a version that costs $30 per year, give me a call.

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