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Simplify your global business communication with Thunderbird, XNotes & Dropbox.

Posted on November 17, 2013 by Sweet Memory Albums

The internet makes it possible for people all over the world to seamlessly work together, thus enabling even small companies to distribute their teams globally. Sweet Memory Albums for instance works with German, American and Italian wedding album specialists to design and print their albums as well as provide the best possible service to their customers. Initially, the communication between our team members was very difficult to manage in particular due to the huge time difference between Germany and the US. The following problems popped up:

  • How could we ensure that every team member was up-to-date on all incoming emails.
  • How could we exchange informations between each other efficiently.
  • How could we keep a record of all informations that were exchanged between anybody to ensure that nobody missed anything and nothing had to be communicated twice.

Thunderbird, Xnote & Dropbox saved the day.

The solution to this problem turned out to be simple & strait forward and did not involve additional costly communication software. We simple combined the Email client we were using anyway - Thunderbird - with the XNote plugin. XNote is not actually designed to propagate messages to other Thunderbird clients. That's why we used a shared Dropbox folder as message storage to automatically propagate all messages to everybody's computers.

We then worked out a simple yet thought-through message handling convention for everybody to follow and created several custom Thunderbird-Tags to enact this convention.

And this is how it works in details.

3 preparation steps:

  1. For each of our team members we created a "Name"-tag and a "For"-tag in Thunderbird, i.e. for wedding album designer Andy we would create an "Andy"-tag and an "For Andy"-tag. We would also assign distinctly different tag-colors to each team member.
  2. Everybody installed the XNote plugin on our Thunderbirds and configured the table column in all Email views to include the XNote column as first column.
  3. We all installed Dropbox and shared the same folder. We pointed our XNote "storage path" to that folder.

Our email convention:

When checking email, all of us have to adhere to the following rules:

  1. We tag emails for ourself with our "Name"-tag - that way everybody knows that this email is allocated to somebody.
  2. We tag emails for other team members with their "For"-tag - that way those team members know that we have read the email and think it is for them.
  3. We mark emails that we have answered or acted upon as "read" - that way everybody knows that the email has been dealt with.
  4. We write XNote messages with general informations intended for the whole team but nobody in particular with our name & date, e.g. "Andy 11.14.2013 - this wedding album is finished."
  5. We write XNote messages with informations or questions for specific team members with @"name of recipient" and our name in brackets, e.g. "@Emily - is this wedding album finished? (Andy)". Also, when writing an XNote with informations for another team member, we mark the email that message belongs to as "unread" and tag it with the "For"-tag of the team member it is intended for - otherwise he or she might not notice that there is a new XNote message.

Conclusion

After a while our Thunderbird clients started looking very colorful and "information packed", which in our opinion is easy to get used to and indeed quite stimulating & useful, since all information we need is combined at one place:

thunderbird xnote dropbox
And this is how it looks in Thunderbird

We have been using this system for a while and are extremely satisfied with the difference it has to the smoothness of our global communication. There will always be moments, when a Skype chat is better suited to resolve more complex issues, e.g. how to advance our wedding album design software, but 99% of our communication can be handled with this sweet combination of Thunderbird, s & Dropbox - quickly, efficiently and professionally.