Outlook Attachment Processor from MAPILab lets you save out all your email attachments to disk, and replaces them with links in the messages. I find it a lot easier to search and organize documents as objects on the file system than when they’re embedded in emails, and this add-in makes it painless to move them over. It’s got a large array of options, but they’re well-explained and have good defaults, so it doesn’t feel too much like the space shuttle control panel.
The most important options cover which messages and attachments are converted to local files, and where they end up. I like the way this addin focuses on solving a single painful problem, but with a lot of flexibility and depth for customizing that solution. It’s obviously been heavily driven by user feedback.
Of course, there’s a downside to saving all your attachments like this; the links break when you move to a different machine. There’s an ‘Update Links’ tool to change them to a new location to solve this problem, but it shows that separating your attachments from the source PST does add some complications. You can try the add-in free for 30 days with fully-functional trial version, and costs $24 to buy a single-user license.
MAPILab offer a range of other Microsoft plugins, including a couple of tools for Exchange. They employ 25 people, which shows the engineering effort that solid plugins like these require, and that there’s market demand for their solutions. They explicitly spell out their strategy as targeting narrow problems, leaving larger companies to "focus on the creation of platforms and technological foundations".
One of the problems I’m interested in solving is making document collaboration through email less painful. Attachment Processor and some of their other tools like File Fetch and File Send Automatically are solving parts of what makes it so awkward. What I’d like to see is a more comprehensive system that offers the advantages of a wiki without having to force people away from sharing documents through email. It seems like an Exchange extension that turned attachments into links to Sharepoint documents, like Attachment Processor does for the local filesystem, would be an interesting direction to go down.