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Paul Allen Seeks Brighter Outlook

Microsoft co-founder's Xiant Filer tool aims to clean up users' in-boxes.

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has launched a software company that will focus on desktop productivity tools. Xiant's first offering doesn't stray far from Allen's roots -- it's a tool that helps users clean up and organize their Outlook in-boxes.

The product, Xiant Filer, can learn to automatically route incoming messages to particular subfolders -- such as "work," "family," "school," or whatever the user specifies -- in an effort to eliminate clutter. It aims to help resolve a common complaint about Outlook: Finding older messages can be a daunting task.

Xiant did not disclose pricing or an official launch date. A beta version of Xiant Filer is available as a free download from Xiant's Web site.

Allen's own problems with Outlook are behind Xiant's launch. "Xiant Filer started as a personal project to help Paul keep up with heavy e-mail traffic," said Chris Purcell, VP of Allen's Vulcan Technologies investment firm, which is backing Xiant. "It worked so well we all started using it, which led us to take it to market."

Allen, still one of the world's richest men with a fortune of about $10 billion, has focused mostly on philanthropic efforts since leaving Microsoft in 1983. "It won't be lost on his former colleagues that Paul has returned to the software world with something that improves on one of Microsoft's keystone products," Xiant said.

Xiant Filer remembers users' filing preferences and sends messages to subfolders based on those preferences. It becomes more accurate with increased use, Xiant claims.

Xiant is promising follow-ups to Xiant Filer.

"There are already more tools under development to help computer users be more productive, organized, and better connected with their stuff," Xiant said in a statement.

Allen's entry into the Outlook utilities market puts him in competition with a wide range of companies, from small startups like Xobni to Microsoft itself.

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