A: Along with the Journal feature, I find Tasks are one of the most underutilized features within Outlook. Some users depend on them wholly, and others completely ignore the option. The addition of the To-Do List in Outlook brings the Task list into the main interface so it no longer has to be out of sight, out of mind. The To-Do List can be viewed in the To-Do Bar, which you can customize; to see how to do so, check out "How do I configure views in Microsoft Office Outlook 2007's To-Do Bar using either menu commands or the registry?" Making tasks even more useful, they can be shared or assigned to others in Outlook.

Sharing Tasks

If you're using a Microsoft Exchange Server account, you can share your Tasks with other users, just as you can share any folder in Outlook. Right-click the Tasks folder in the folder list and select Properties at the bottom of the context menu to open the Tasks Properties dialog box. Select the Permissions tab to share this folder; the Permissions tab is present only if Outlook is using an Exchange Server account. Figure 1 shows the Tasks folder with a user shown as a Publishing Author.

Figure 1: Granting another user Publishing Author rights on the Tasks Properties dialog box

This user, Tinker Juarez, can now select Open, Other User's Folder, which reveals the small window that Figure 2 shows, and select the folder shared to him.

Figure 2: The Open Other User

In our example, Tinker Juarez can open the Tasks folder shared to him and be able to manipulate the content based on the level of access that has been shared to him. In the Tasks view for Tinker Juarez's Outlook 2010 client, he'll see a Shared Tasks section to the Navigation Pane below the My Tasks section.

The preset options for permission levels for sharing a folder in Outlook 2010 are fairly comprehensive. They provide for almost all combinations of attributes that you can assign to an Outlook object. The list is as follows:

  • Owner—You can create, read, modify, and delete all items and files, and create subfolders. You can also change the permission levels others have for the folder.
  • Publishing Editor—You can create, read, modify, and delete all items and files, and create subfolders.
  • Editor—You can create, read, modify, and delete all items and files.
  • Publishing Author—You can create and read items and files, create subfolders, and modify and delete items and files that you created.
  • Author—You can create and read items and files, and modify and delete items and files that you created.
  • Contributor—You can only create items and files. You won't see the contents of the folder.
  • Reviewer—You can only read items and files.
  • Custom—You can perform activities defined by the folder owner. The create, read, modify, and delete attributes can be assigned in any combination.
  • None—You have no permissions and you cannot open the folder.

This simple method of sharing folders is standard across all types of Outlook items. But what if you don't want all items in a folder shared?

Setting Tasks as Private

Some tasks might be personal or confidential in nature, and you might want to hide the contents of such tasks from people who otherwise have access to the Tasks folder. Individual Tasks can be assigned a Private status, which makes them available only to the Task owner. In Outlook 2010, you set this property within the Task form itself. As Figure 3 shows, you set a Task to Private by clicking the Private option in the Tags section of the Tasks tab of the Office ribbon.

Figure 3: Setting a Task to Private
This option still exists when using Personal Folders; however, there's no option to share Tasks with others using a PST. Interestingly, the Private setting is maintained when a PST is imported into a mailbox, however. When Tinker Juarez opens the Tasks folder shared to him by another user, any Tasks marked as Private won't be visible in his view.

Alternatively, you can create an additional folder for Tasks that are intended as private. This folder can be a subfolder of the original Tasks folder or can be placed elsewhere. To create a new Tasks folder (or any Outlook folder type), right-click in the navigation pane under the account you want to add the folder to and select the New Folder option. This opens the Create New Folder dialog box that Figure 4 shows.

Figure 4: The Create New Folder dialog box

Provide a name for the folder and select the item type as Task Items to ensure that Outlook uses a Task window, called an IPM.Tasks form by developers, for content saved to this folder and for requests for a new item from this folder. If your primary Tasks folder is shared out, you can save private tasks to a separate folder without having to worry about assigning the Private tag to each task.

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