Using Send/Receive Groups in Outlook

Executive Summary:

See how administrators can configure and update settings for Send/Receive Groups.

When you have multiple accounts in Microsoft Office Outlook, these accounts will poll their source servers at intervals defined in their Send and Receive settings. Some email clients provide control of server polling intervals in the account setup interface. Outlook allows users to create what it calls Send/Receive Groups. A group is a set of email accounts in a profile that can be configured with the same retrieval settings. By default, Outlook creates a Send/Receive Group called All Accounts with the default polling interval schedule of 30 minutes for Internet protocols for Microsoft Office Outlook 2007. This is a little longer than the 5 minute default in Outlook 2002/2003.

A basic corporate installation of Outlook will probably not need to work with Send/Receive Groups. A single Exchange account in a static, well-connected network environment would probably not benefit from a limitation on when certain content is downloaded to the client. If there’s only one email account, then there’s no need to create new Send/Receive Groups, but the All Accounts group properties can be amended if needed. Send/Receive Groups have value where multiple and diverse accounts are present in a single profile, especially when Outlook resides on a mobile computer with variable connectivity.

One example of Send/Receive Group setup might be where a mobile user has a POP3 email account configured to deliver to an Exchange mailbox. There may be situations where user may need access to his Exchange mailbox without necessarily downloading new POP3 content because of bandwidth or time limitations. In situations with limited bandwidth, users may want to exclude an account or even folders from the Send/Receive process or limit downloads to headers only. Send/Receive Groups can be used to separate email accounts into their own polling interval or to exclude them from automatic scheduled polling altogether.

In a multiple account profile, the polling frequency may not need to be the same for each account. It may also be beneficial to update an account manually as determined by the user. If the user has configured RSS feeds or Internet Calendar subscriptions, they might want to exclude those accounts from frequent email updates as well.

Send/Receive Group settings are stored in a file called <profile_name>.srs located within the user path for Windows XP at \Documents and Settings\<username>\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook\. For Windows Vista the path is \Users\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Outlook.

Unfortunately, this configuration file isn't an accessible file that you can make manual changes to, as you can with an .xml or .inf file, but rather it's intended to be read by only Outlook itself. If it’s deleted, Outlook will recreate it. There might be multiple .srs files, especially when there are multiple profiles. Indeed, should your Send/Receive Groups somehow become corrupt, and I have never seen that happen, deleting the .srs file might resolve that. Deleting .srs files has been known to improve send/receive efficiency at times or fix ambiguous errors during send/receive processes such as “The operation failed” or “An object could not be found.”

Send/Receive groups can be configured manually on individual Outlook clients by clicking Tools, Send/Receive, Send/Receive Settings, Define Send/Receive Groups or by pressing Ctrl+Alt+S. This opens a window similar to the one shown in Figure 1. In this example, Figure 1 shows a few groups configured. Each Send/Receive Group can have a separate scheduled interval for polling servers for new content. Figure 1 shows the default All Account group with 30 minute intervals whether Outlook is online or offline. With a Send/Receive Group selected, clicking the Edit button will open a dialog box similar to the one shown in Figure 2. In this dialog box you can select the options you want for the account you choose. The example in Figure 2 shows an IMAP account where the user can control whether to download full messages and attachments or just header information. If there were multiple folders subscribed for the IMAP account, individual folders could be specifically included or excluded from the Send/Receive action. You can also exclude Send/Receive Groups from the Send/Receive action (either by clicking Send/Receive or by pressing F9).

When the user needs to initiate a Send/Receive for an account separate from Send/Receive Groups associated with F9, he or she can select the group or account from the Send/Receive drop-down menu as shown in Figure 3. Administrators can use the Office Customization Tool (OCT) to configure or update Send/Receive Group settings. To learn more about the OCT read my tip Centralized Management of Personal Safelists in Outlook 2007 (December 2007, InstantDoc ID 97696). You open the OCT by running Office 2007 setup with the /admin switch. Figure 4 shows the OCT setting available to configure Outlook clients with Send/Receive Group settings, including the scheduled polling interval for new accounts. OCT can be used for new Outlook installations as well as for updating current Outlook clients.

Performance optimization efforts for Outlook and possibly the network can benefit from smart use of Send/Receive Groups to align client actions with account activity. That is, for accounts that don’t receive new items (such as some email or RSS feed content) very often, the scheduled polling interval can be extended to a more appropriate frequency.

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