Under Outlook 2000, I could synchronize a particular public folder so that I could read it offline. Under Microsoft Office Outlook 2003, I can't see a way to do this. I've tried selecting the Download Public Folder Favorites option, but that downloads all my Favorites, which is a large amount of data. Did Outlook 2003 do away with this feature?

No; Outlook 2003 does let you selectively download folders from the Public Folders\Favorites hierarchy—in fact, Outlook 2003 gives you two ways to do it. One method is to set up Outlook with the classic offline connectivity, which uses an OST file on the local drive to cache the data. This approach requires you to restart Outlook if you want to switch from offline to online use.

I presume, though, that you're using the new Cached Exchange mode in Outlook 2003. This connectivity mode also uses an OST file on the local drive to cache all your mailbox data as well as your complete Public Folders\Favorites hierarchy. At least, that's how it works when Outlook is online against the server. The trick to getting the behavior you want is to take Outlook offline. You don't need to unplug the network cable from your machine—just choose the File, Work Offline command. If Outlook is offline when you shut down the application, Outlook will start up in offline mode the next time you run it. After you have Outlook working in offline mode, you can turn on its ability to download the Public Folders\Favorites, then restart Outlook and specify exactly which favorites to download.

To turn on Public Folders synchronization, follow these steps:

  1. Click Tools, E-mail Accounts, View or change existing e-mail accounts.
  2. In the E-mail Accounts dialog box, select the Microsoft Exchange Server account, then click Change.
  3. On the Exchange Server Settings screen, click More Settings.
  4. In the Microsoft Exchange Server dialog box, on the Advanced tab, select the Download Public Folder Favorites check box.

You need to restart Outlook after you make this change. After Outlook restarts, choose Tools, Send/Receive, Send/Receive Settings, Define Send/Receive Groups. Select the All Accounts group, then click Edit to display the dialog box you see in Figure 1. There, you can check which public folders you want to download into the local cache during a send/receive session. These settings apply only when Outlook is offline. If you toggle the File, Work Offline command to go back online, Outlook will start downloading everything in Public Folders\Favorites into your local cache.

I think Microsoft needs to refine the operation of Cached Exchange mode in the future. Outlook 2003 uses the Public Folders\Favorites hierarchy for two different purposes, which are not always compatible. One purpose is to determine which public folders load into the local cache (i.e., only those in Public Folders\Favorites). The other purpose is to determine which public folders appear in the Other Calendars, Other Contacts, and Other Tasks areas of the various navigation panes (again, only those in Public Folders\Favorites). This scheme isn't flexible enough for users who want to see a public folder under Other Tasks when working online but don't want to maintain a full cache of that folder on the local hard disk.