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A brighter Outlook?

Software startup hopes there's big money in little improvements to Microsoft products.

You Software hopes there's big money in making little improvements to Microsoft products.

The start-up company made its retail debut Wednesday with You Perform, a collection of more than a dozen add-ons for Outlook, the widely used e-mail and calendar application included in .

Barnes figures it's a pretty safe bet to base a business model on Microsoft not achieving perfection.

The add-ons include a number of small but handy attachments for managing e-mail and other tasks, the kind of tweaks that normally might be sold as $10-a-piece shareware. You Software CEO Craig Barnes says that by bundling a bunch of such tools in an easily managed package, You Software can offer more value.

"Partly it's the practical advantage of putting these tools together," he said. "If you acquired and ran these add-ons separately, you couldn't run even five of them at the same time without bringing Outlook to a crawl."

Barnes proved the utility of the bundling approach with his previous company, Extensis, which specialized in packaging add-ons for professional graphics applications made by Adobe Systems and Quark.

After selling Extensis, later renamed CreativePro, Barnes decided there was a much bigger market in the realm of Microsoft productivity applications. Outlook is his first target, but he also sees plenty of room for improvement in Microsoft's PowerPoint and Project applications.

Add-ons in You Perform include tools for automatically processing and storing e-mail attachments, eliminating duplicate messages, adding calendar appointments by e-mail and forwarding calendar reminders to mobile devices.

Some are "duh!" functions Barnes fully expects Microsoft to incorporate into the next version of Outlook, by which time You will have moved on to other annoyances. He figures it's a pretty safe bet to base a business model on Microsoft not achieving perfection.

"Right now, some Microsoft product manager is holding a wish list for the next Outlook, and he knows they'll never get to everything," Barnes said. "There's always room for us to leapfrog them."

Barnes said he purposely avoided several potential Outlook add-ons, particularly junk mail filtering. "There's 200 companies doing spam filtering now, and Microsoft itself is starting to do a pretty good job right within the product," he said. "We decided early on not to touch that and look at the hundred little things we can do to make Outlook work better."

You Perform is available now for $50. It works with Outlook 2000 and more recent versions.