A: LinkedIn is a social networking site focused on building networks for business professionals. People can connect and interact with peers and friends, as well as provide and receive recommendations. User profiles on LinkedIn often read like a resume. You or your users might benefit from bringing LinkedIn contact updates into Microsoft Outlook, eliminating the need to employ an additional interface (such as the linkedin.com website) to stay current on updates.

Originally, LinkedIn developed an Outlook toolbar for use with Outlook 2007, Outlook 2003, and Outlook 2002. This toolbar is no longer offered or supported by LinkedIn; however, it does still work as advertised. Figure 1 shows the LinkedIn toolbar and its Dashboard feature in Outlook 2007. Some people might prefer to continue using the toolbar; if not, the toolbar uninstalls very cleanly.

LinkedIn Outlook toolbars Dashboard feature

When Microsoft released the Outlook Social Connector (OSC), which is included with Outlook 2010, LinkedIn was one of the first services to partner with Microsoft in developing a social connector provider to bring LinkedIn content into the Outlook interface. Microsoft released a separate, optional Social Connector add-on for Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2003 that also supports third-party providers, including LinkedIn’s offering.

The LinkedIn provider for OSC, which LinkedIn calls an Outlook Connector, references LinkedIn content that’s specific to user sources in Outlook. When a recipient is selected in a view in Outlook, the OSC checks installed providers, such as the LinkedIn Outlook Connector, for updates from their source, such as LinkedIn.com. The updates are displayed in Outlook’s People Pane and reflect updates only from the recipient(s) within the items in Outlook that you’re accessing.

Figure 2 shows a selected email message to a public mailing list from Andrew Baker. The People Pane shown under the Reading Pane is populated with updates that Andrew provided on LinkedIn (in this case, answers to questions from LinkedIn peers). The photo of Andrew in the People Pane was also retrieved from his public profile at LinkedIn.com.

LinkedIn People Pane

The LinkedIn Outlook Connector also adds a new Contact folder called LinkedIn to bring your LinkedIn network into Outlook. Figure 3 shows the default business card view of contacts pulled from LinkedIn into Outlook. You can easily initiate communication with these contacts through Outlook. Contacts are stored in your mailbox and changes are automatically updated through the connector.

LinkedIn contacts

You can download the LinkedIn Outlook Connector from http://www.linkedin.com/outlook. It requires the OSC. Separate downloads are available for 32-bit and 64-bit Outlook, with a basic installation. You must restart Outlook to initiate the OSC provider. You can confirm and configure the installation within Outlook. In the main Outlook UI for Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2007, navigate to View, People Pane and select Account Settings in the drop-down menu to open the list of social network account providers installed on the workstation. Figure 4 shows the LinkedIn provider configured and the Facebook provider installed but not configured. You need to select the provider account and provide authentication credentials for the remote social network so the OSC can retrieve information from the network.

Configuring social network accounts

The old LinkedIn Toolbar for Outlook has been replaced by the LinkedIn Outlook Connector, which uses the OSC. Not all the features of the LinkedIn Outlook Toolbar were ported to the LinkedIn Outlook Connector; however, the OSC provides a more consistent experience connecting to multiple social networks. After the LinkedIn Outlook Connector is configured in Outlook, users have more contact-specific information at their fingertips within Outlook.