A startup called Xobni has been getting a lot of buzz for its Microsoft Outlook plugin, which helps users organize their emails. But as of today, it has some new competition. A German startup called Axonic just launched an Outlook search application called Lookeen, which supposedly offers a more powerful and easy-to-use tool for searching your inbox and related files.

The difference in Lookeen’s approach is clear once it’s up and running — the interface is just a simple search bar (see screenshot below). Xobni, on there hand, is more initially impressive; its flashiest feature is a sidebar listing useful information about the people that you’re corresponding with. Therein lies the difference, says Axonic founder Martin Welker. By focusing on one thing, rather than several different features, Welker says Lookeen delivers a better search experience.

How is it better? Well, there’s the interface, for one thing. By limiting itself to a search bar, Lookeen doesn’t risk “overwhelming” Outlook, which is a real concern — VentureBeat Editor Matt Marshall raved about Xobni when it launched, but he had to uninstall it because the plugin slowed Outlook down too much. (Xobni is much faster now.) Welker also touts Lookeen’s thoroughness (it doesn’t just search your inbox, but also public folders, archives on an Exchange Server and the Notes and Calendar areas in Outlook), sophisticated search syntax and speed. As an example of Lookeen’s speed, Welker says the app searched through an Outlook store with more than 100,000 items and found everything containing the word “you” in 0.4 seconds.

Ultimately, with its single-minded focus on search, Lookeen is trying to do something quite different from the more versatile Xobni. But they’re still in competition, because it’s hard to imagine many users downloading both applications. Lookeen could find a real audience among users who just want improved email search, and aren’t interested in Xobni’s other bells and whistles.

The Karslruhe, Germany-based startup isn’t ignoring the competition either. In its press release, Axonic takes a couple small jabs at its more well-known American competition: It brags that Axonic “spells ‘inbox’ forward” (a clever, if not literally true, reference to the fact that Xobni is “inbox” spelled backward). It also notes that the Lookeen’s search bar doesn’t look like “a control panel of the Enterprise” from Star Trek, which is a fair description of Xobni’s sidebar. (Although personally, I kind of like it when my technology looks like it’s something out of Star Trek.)

Axonic was founded in 2003 and is privately funded.

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