Outlook Tips and Techniques - 01 Jun 1999

How can I change the order of groups on the Outlook Bar? I want my custom group to be the first one, the one that Outlook starts in.

Outlook stores Outlook Bar settings in a .fav file, one for each profile on your system. For example, Outlook stores the Outlook Bar settings for the MS Exchange Settings profile in MS Exchange Settings.fav. You can drag icons within a group and between groups to rearrange them, but you can't reorder the groups by dragging them.

In Outlook 97, the only way to change the order of groups on the Outlook Bar is by brute force: Delete the groups at the top, then recreate them. They'll appear at the bottom of the list of groups.

That method is still perhaps the best way to change existing groups in Outlook 98, even though the Microsoft article "OL98: How to Change the Order of the Groups on the Outlook Bar" (http://support.microsoft.com/ support/kb/articles/ q198/0/03.asp) describes a method for reordering the groups. However, the method that the article describes not only changes the order of the groups but also wipes out all other customization that you've done to the Outlook Bar. Nothing in the article warns you of this effect, although it does instruct you to rename the .fav file. If you try the procedure in the article and don't like the results, you can exit Outlook and restore your original .fav Outlook Bar settings file.

How can I add a Public Folders group to the Outlook Bar for all my clients?

Frustration leads to enlightenment. Not only was I frustrated by the Microsoft article about reordering groups but I also find it irritating that Microsoft adds a useless Public Folders icon to the Outlook Bar. The icon is worthless because the Outlook viewer doesn't display subfolders; it displays only items. Clicking that icon gives you an empty viewer.

As a result, I went to the Outlook 98 Deployment Kit (ODK) to ferret out the information about customizing the Outlook Bar and Outlook Today. The ODK is available on the Exchange Server 5.5 Service Pack CD-ROMs and through the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) and various Microsoft channels for large customers. You can't download the kit from the Internet, but you can download the ODK documentation from http://www.microsoft.com/ office/98/outlook/documents/ o98dkdoc.htm.

To save you from having to wade through eight pages about the structure of outlbar.inf, I can tell you in a nutshell how to add a Public Folders group to all new Outlook profiles and any profiles that need the Outlook Bar rebuilt. Here's how:

  1. Use Start, Find to locate the outlbar.inf file. Make a backup copy, then open it in Notepad. On an individual client workstation, the file usually is in the main \Microsoft Office\Office folder. Or you can customize the version on your network installation point, if you use one.
  2. Look for a section named \[DefaultOutlookBar\]. Under that section, edit the AddGroup= statement to add a PublicGroup, like this:
  3. Add a \[PublicGroup\] section. Specify the display name you want the group to use, and reference the \[PublicGroupShortcuts\] section that you'll create in step 4.
    Name=Public Folders
  4. Create a \[PublicGroupShortcuts\] section that lists the public folders you want to add. Include the full path for each folder. This example adds icons for two folders:
    Target=1,0,\\Public Folders\All
       Public Folders\Company Calendar
    Target=1,0,\\Public Folders\All
       Public Folders\Mailing Lists   Msexchange List

    The Target=1,0, ... syntax is standard for referring to public folders. The second icon is for a public folder that accepts messages from the Internet msexchange list.

  5. Save the outlbar.inf file.

The next time a user creates a new profile on that machine, he or she will get your new Public Folders group and the other groups on the AddGroup= line. You can apply the customized outlbar.inf to existing profiles by starting Outlook once with the /ResetOutlookBar switch. However, this action destroys any previous customization.

After you see how easy this technique is, you can dig into the nuances discussed in the ODK documentation—for example, setting up groups for Outlook 97 upgrades, setting the display name for Outlook Bar shortcuts, and making a group use small icons.

You might not need to work with the outlbar.inf at all in the future, because Outlook 2000 exposes the Outlook Bar through the object model. You'll be able to control the Outlook Bar with Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) or Visual Basic Script (VBScript) code. One application might be an email message with a button that users click to add a new, standardized Public Folders group to the Outlook Bar without disturbing any existing Outlook Bar settings. Now, that's progress.

How do you get the Journal to track email messages you receive?

Automatic journaling works only for entries in the main Contacts folder. On the Journal tab for any Contact item, you can elect to have Journal entries made for other Outlook items related to the contact. Outlook automatically files in your Journal folder items that you send to the contact; messages you receive from the contact are another matter. Outlook doesn't file a Journal entry until you open the received item. If you read your mail through AutoPreview or a preview pane, you might never open the items you want to journal and, therefore, might not get any Journal items related to incoming messages.

If you still have trouble getting Journal entries for received messages, check the E-mail address fields on the Contact record. Double-click the underlined address in the E-mail field to see the properties for the address. In at least one situation I know about, changing the display name to match the email address made Journal entries start appearing for incoming messages.

How can I get Outlook to pop up reminders for tasks in subfolders?

If you put tasks anywhere other than the main Tasks folder—or appointments anywhere other than the main Calendar folder—you won't receive reminder pop-ups. Developers might have designed Outlook this way to conserve resources, so Outlook doesn't have to keep track of reminders for items in dozens of folders, just in a few default folders.

The workaround is simply to avoid the use of subfolders for tasks and appointments that require reminders. Instead, consider using categories to subdivide the items, with a separate view for each category.

Can I set the focus of an Outlook form to a particular page?

If you want to encourage the user to make entries in some custom fields before saving an item, you can show the custom page to the user before the user saves the item. The SetFocus method works in VBScript, but you must set the focus not to the form page but to a control on the page.

For example, the code to switch a user to a page named My Page that contains a text box named txtMyTextBox looks like this:

Set objPage = Item.GetInspector.
   ModifiedFormPages("My Page")
Set objControl = objPage

Put this code in the Item_Write event by using Script, Event Handler in the code window to add the event handler for the Write event. (You would also want to add code that lets the user save the item without going to the "My Page" page if the user has already filled in the data.) The focus will move to the txtMyTextBox control when the user tries to save the item. If you don't care about putting the focus on a particular control, you can use

   FormPage "My Page"

Can I create a rule that puts in one folder all the meeting requests I receive and all the responses to the meeting requests I send?

To catch all incoming meeting requests, create a rule with the condition with (GMT in the body. This technique works because incoming meeting requests always contain some text, which you can see if you turn on AutoPreview, that includes the time of the requested meeting and the offset from GMT. For example, the time might read (GMT+03:00). (Thanks to reader Kim Lawrence for this tip.)

To gather the meeting acceptances, you can use a rule with the condition with Accepted: in the subject. Rules to catch declined and tentative meeting requests substitute Declined: and Tentative: for Accepted:.

In Outlook 98, you can use a different approach that doesn't depend so much on language-specific text. Create rules with the condition uses the form name form. When you click form name in the Rules Wizard description, the Choose Form dialog box appears. In the Look In list, switch to the Standard Forms Library, which Screen 1 shows. Now you can pick a standard form or one of many hidden forms, such as those used to handle meeting requests and responses. (This technique doesn't work as well in Outlook 97, because Outlook 97 doesn't expose all the hidden forms to the Rules Wizard.)

How can I hide a mailbox but still let mail get to the user?

This technique is common for top-rank executives and big distribution lists (DLs) that you don't want everyone to know about. The trick is to get the SMTP address for the mailbox or DL from the Microsoft Exchange Administrator program. As you probably know, you need to use Exchange Administrator to hide the mailbox; check the Hide from address book check box on the Advanced tab of the mailbox's Properties dialog box. While you're in the Properties dialog box, get the SMTP address for the mailbox from the E-mail Addresses tab. If you add that address to your Contacts folder or Personal Address Book (PAB), you can send to the recipient, even if you don't see that mailbox or DL in the Global Address List (GAL).

Can I limit a time-line view in a Calendar folder to show only working hours?

Time-line views can use a day, week, or month timescale, chosen with the Day, Week, and Month toolbar keys. The Day timescale always shows a 24-hour day; you can't confine it just to working hours.

How can I notify users that Public Folders contain new items that they need to see?

You can spread the word in at least four ways:

  1. Add a Folder Assistant rule to send them the new item.
  2. Instruct users to drag the folder to Favorites and monitor the number of new items displayed next to the Favorites folder.
  3. Get a third-party notification utility such as those I've listed at http://www.slipstick.com/exchange/ client5.htm#notify.
  4. Write an Exchange Server Event Service script that sends a simple message when someone adds a new item.

I think the first and last methods add too much clutter to Inbox folders that are probably already overcrowded. My preference is to use the Favorites folder. The folder shows the number of unread items in parentheses next to the icon on the Outlook Bar or in the Folder List.

How can I see more folders in the Outlook Bar?

If you use the Favorites folder to keep track of key public folders, as I described in the previous question, you'll probably want to keep those icons in sight at all times. But sometimes all you can see on your Outlook bar are the main folders such as Inbox and Calendar—maybe seven icons in 800 * 600 resolution with Outlook maximized. You can easily see more folders by switching from large icons to small ones. Right-click anywhere in the shaded area of the Outlook Bar, then choose Small Icons from the pop-up menu. When you use the small icons, you can see twice as many icons at one time.

Some of my Outlook 98 installations have a Folder Size key in the Properties dialog box for different folders, but some don't. How can I get that feature to work on all machines?

This feature is helpful if you enforce server space limits on your users. However, for some reason, the Folder Size key doesn't show up in all Outlook 98 installations. You might need to add a Registry entry to make the feature work. First, quit Outlook. Back up the Registry, as you should always do before making any change. Run regedit, and locate the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\8.0\Outlook Registry key. Add a new DWORD value with the name ChkFldrSize. Set the value to 1 to enable the Folder Size key and 0 to disable it.

Outlook 97 doesn't have a built-in folder size viewer. However, the Three-Pane Preview Extension for Microsoft Outlook 97 (http://officeupdate.microsoft.com/ downloaddetails/ol3pane.htm) adds a File, Folder, Folder Size command to the menu.

How can I delete all the items in a Calendar?

Ah, you noticed that the Day/Week/Month view of the Edit menu has no Select All command. No problem—just switch views. Try the By Category view. Not only will this view show all your Calendar items but it also lets you easily distinguish holidays, which use the Holiday category, from other items. You will find a Select All command in a table view such as the By Category view, so that you can easily select all items, then press or click Delete.

Why is the check box for Search Subfolders grayed out (disabled) when I use Tools, Find to search public folders?

Exchange Server lets you distribute public folders over multiple servers. You can place subfolders on a different server (or even several different servers) from the parent. Microsoft didn't design the Find function to search across multiple machines, because the process could eat up network resources.

If searching across subfolders is crucial for your operation, you might want to investigate one of these tools that add more advanced searching capabilities:

  • Fulcrum FIND! and Knowledge Server (http://www.fulcrum.com)
  • Verity Information Server (http://www.verity.com)
  • Microsoft Site Server (http://www.microsoft.com/siteserver)

A nice side effect of using these tools is that the indexes that these tools create can make searching faster. The Microsoft white paper "Integrating Microsoft Site Server Search with Microsoft Exchange" at http://www.microsoft.com/ siteserver/site/30/ whpprs/ exchange.htm explains how to use Site Server with Exchange.

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