Microsoft will install a plug-in for its Outlook 2010 email application for Xing, a large professional networking site dominant in Germany, the companies said.

The plug-in will allow Outlook users to see messages, status updates and other information via Outlook without the need to use a web browser. It effectively makes Outlook a front end for interacting with Xing, as a person's colleagues can be directly contacted through the application. Microsoft contends that helps users save time.

The Xing plug-in is part of Microsoft's Outlook Social Connector, which is a set of features that allow for close integration with social-networking sites. Microsoft already has an agreement with LinkedIn.

Through the plug-in, users can see photographs of people they have contacts with. Outlook also synchronizes contacts from each social network with its own address book and users' mobile phones.

Xing says it has about 8 million [m] users in 200 countries. Users can create a free account, and Xing also runs paid services such as job advertisements, recruiting and other kinds of advertising.

The Xing plug-in will be available when Microsoft releases Outlook 2010, expected in June.