Outlook Tips and Techniques - 10 Apr 2001

I recently upgraded my users to Outlook 2000. Now, when they try to schedule appointments or meetings more than 2 months in advance, the Attendee Availability page shows no information about the attendees' schedules. How can I fix this problem?

This problem wasn't present in Outlook 98 or Outlook 97. As the Microsoft article "OL2000: (CW) Conditions That Affect Display of Free/Busy Time" (http://support.microsoft.com/support/kb/articles/q196/8/85.asp) explains, Outlook 2000 defaults to publication of 2 months' worth of free/busy information. You can change that default in Tools, Options, Calendar Options, Free/Busy Options.

This setting is in the user's Windows registry, so you could also include a .reg file in your logon script to make the change. In the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\9.0\Outlook\Preferences registry subkey, look for FBPublishRange, a REG_DWORD value that represents the number of months to publish free/busy data (up to 12).

I used the Delegate method to set up a conference room for automatic booking and selected the Automatically decline conflicting meeting requests option in Outlook. However, some recurring meetings have no end dates, and I'm running into conflicts in the calendar 2 years and more into the future. How can I prevent the room from accepting bookings that conflict in future years?

The Microsoft article I mentioned in the previous question discusses this problem, too: Outlook can publish free/busy information a maximum of 12 months into the future. If you're using the Delegate method, users who need to book that far into the future might have to look at those future dates in the conference room mailbox's Calendar folder to make sure the room is available on specific dates.

An alternative is to switch from the Delegate method of processing meeting requests to the free AutoAccept script from http://www.exchangecode.com. This code has richer capabilities for handling conflicting meetings—even for recurring meetings.

I've switched from ACT! to Outlook and can't figure out how to mark an appointment completed, which you can do in ACT! Where do I perform this function?

Every Personal Information Manager (PIM) is different. Although Outlook provides a Completed field for tasks, appointments have no such property. I guess you could say that Outlook assumes that appointments are completed unless you delete them from your Calendar folder.

When I receive a task reminder and dismiss it, why doesn't Outlook mark the task completed?

Not wanting further reminders about a task isn't the same as having finished it. If you want to mark a task completed when you receive a reminder, try this procedure: In the Reminder dialog box, click Open Item instead of Dismiss This Item. When the task item appears, mark it completed and save it. You can then dismiss the reminder.

How do you customize Outlook so that a reminder appears based on the end time of an appointment, not the beginning time?

I assume you'd like a reminder to end a meeting on time? Outlook won't let you set a reminder for a date or time after an appointment's start time. You can, however, create a separate appointment, set the start time when you want the reminder to appear, and set the reminder to occur 0 minutes before the start time.

How can I find out when a distribution list (DL) last received a message?

You said you were concerned about which of the 1200 DLs in your organization were in use. Unless you've turned on message journaling for the Exchange server, I can't think of a way to know when someone last sent a message to a DL.

One way to monitor future DL use is through a public folder. Create the folder in a part of the hierarchy that's hidden from users. Then, add the folder's email address to the various DLs. You'll receive a copy of each message sent to those DLs in the folder, and you can look at the To or Cc field to see which DL received the message. For this scheme to work, make sure everyone has permission to submit items to the folder by setting the role for Anonymous access to Author.

I created a custom form with custom fields. If a user enters data in TextFieldA, I want that user to enter corresponding data in DateFieldA. Can I use a validation formula for DateFieldA to perform this function?

A validation formula is an expression involving the current field that evaluates to True under certain conditions and False under others. Outlook checks validation formulas when a user saves an item. If the expression is True, the field is valid and Outlook saves the item. If the expression is False, the user receives either Outlook's built-in validation message, which Figure 1 shows, or, preferably, a validation message that you set on the form for that field, as Figure 2 shows. In Design mode on an Outlook form, you can enter a validation formula by accessing the Properties for a control bound to an Outlook field and entering the formula on the Validation tab. You can also set your validation text there.

Unfortunately, Outlook doesn't provide much guidance about how to construct a validation formula. On the Validation tab, which Figure 3 shows, you can click the top Edit box to open a dialog box that contains lists of fields and common formulas from which to pick. Keep the validation formula simple, and be prepared to experiment. I tried several times before I came up with a good validation formula for the text and date field situation that I posed above:

(\[TextFieldA\] = "") OR
(\[DateFieldA\] < #1/1/4501#)

This expression will be True if either of the two expressions joined by OR is True. The first expression checks whether the TextFieldA property is blank. The second expression checks whether the user entered a date. (Note that what the user sees as None in an Outlook form is actually the date 1/1/4501.) If the user enters data in TextFieldA, the field will no longer be blank; therefore, the expression will be True only if the user enters a date in DateFieldA.

I'm using Exchange 2000 and want to create an application in a new folder hierarchy rather than in the Public Folders, All Public Folders hierarchy. Will I be able to use Outlook 2000 custom forms to create new items in my application's folder?

No. Applications in non­Messaging API (MAPI) hierarchies in Exchange 2000 are available only to browser clients. Outlook clients, including Outlook 2002, won't see those folders in the folder list. Users can, however, connect to your application from within Outlook by entering the URL to the folder in the address box on the Web toolbar. Users can display the Web toolbar by choosing it from the View, Toolbars menu.

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