Can I easily create an annual recurring event from a contact's birthday or anniversary?

Outlook automatically creates an annual recurring event to match a new birthday or anniversary when you enter it. Imported contact records are another story, however. Outlook doesn't create events from imported contacts—at least, not until you trick Outlook by editing the contact item. First, locate items that have a birthday or anniversary, and then edit them to trigger the creation of the recurring event. Here are the instructions:

  1. In the Contacts folder, switch to the Phone List view, and then use View, Show Fields, or View, Field Chooser, to display the Anniversary and Birthday fields, listed under Personal fields. (In Outlook 98, use View, Current View, Customize Current View, Fields.)
  2. Click the Anniversary column heading, then hold down the Shift key as you click the Birthday column heading. This action will sort the contacts so you can see the contacts with an anniversary or birthday at the top.
  3. Click on the first anniversary or birthday date in the list, press End, then the space bar, and finally Enter. This sequence doesn't alter the date, but it makes Outlook think that you changed it. And that trick triggers the creation of an annual recurring event.
  4. Repeat step 3 for other birthday and anniversary dates.

If I try to create an address entry in the Outlook Address Book (OAB), I get a message that says I can't do so. However, I have no problem entering data directly into Contacts. What am I doing wrong?

You're not doing anything wrong. You've encountered a feature that isn't obvious. The OAB is a read-only container for contacts with email addresses or fax numbers. In other words, you can only view contact items through the Outlook Address Book; you must enter data in the Contacts folder.

If you prefer to keep addresses in the Personal Address Book (PAB) rather than the Contacts folder, you can add new addresses directly from the Address Book dialog box. However, if you don't keep addresses in the Contacts folder, you have to manually copy the PAB file when you travel, losing the benefit of synchronization. For more information about setting the PAB, see Tony Redmond, "10 Tips for Taking Exchange on the Road," April 1998.

I am looking for a way for several departments to each have an individual shared list of email contacts at member companies. How can I do this with Outlook?

From the Exchange administrator's chair, you might naturally want to set up such a shared list by creating a new Recipients container. You might quickly realize, however, that if users are going to maintain the list, they'll need to use the Exchange Administrator program, which won't run on all the workstations in your mixed Windows NT and Windows 95 environment. Exchange Administrator also isn't the easiest program to use, and you might not be comfortable about granting even limited permission for users to work in the Global Address List (GAL).

An alternative technique is to use public folders, specifically a public folder designed to hold Outlook Contact items. Using the Outlook client (rather than Exchange Administrator), create a public folder with File, New Folder and specify that you want it to contain Contact Items, not the default Mail Items. Using the Permissions tab on the Properties sheet for the folder, add appropriate permissions for each department, so that each department has access to its own folder for these contacts. If you already have a list of contacts in some other format, see the next question for instructions for using that list to populate the public folder.

Have you found a practical limit to the number of contacts you can put in a public folder used for email address lookups? I'd like to hear from you if your organization has implemented one or more public Contacts folders like those I've described. Write me at exadmin@slipstick.com.

How do I import contacts to a public folder designed to hold Outlook Contact items?

The absence of a feature that imports contacts to a public folder mystifies me. You can't use the Outlook client to directly import anything to a public folder. Fortunately, you can use a relatively easy workaround:

  1. Create a new folder in your mailbox to hold the items you want to import.
  2. Use File, Import and Export to perform the import, using the new mailbox folder as the destination.
  3. Switch to the new folder, then choose Edit, Select All to select all the items in the folder, followed by Edit, Move to Folder to move them all to the chosen public folder.

How do I extract only new contacts (e.g., contacts added in the past week) and make them available to other people? I don't want to share my main Contacts folder.

Your situation offers an opportunity to use one of my favorite Outlook features—folder filters. In this case, you can filter the contacts by the Created field. Here's how:

  1. Choose View, Filter (in Outlook 98, View, Current View, Customize Current View, Filter) to bring up the Filter dialog box.
  2. Look on the Contacts tab for the Time field. Choose created, and then pick one of the time periods offered (e.g., in the last seven days). The filter should look like Screen 1. Click OK to turn the filter on.
  3. When you've isolated those recent contacts, copy them to a new, empty Outlook folder, perhaps named New Contacts. You can make them available to other people in several ways:
    • Grant permissions for the New Contacts folder by choosing File, Folder, Properties and switching to the Permissions tab. Users granted access can see and use the folder, but can't add the New Contacts folder to their OAB.
    • Move the new contacts into a public Contacts folder (as described in the preceding question), rather than into a folder in your mailbox, and grant appropriate permissions for that folder.
    • Use File, Import and Export to export the contents of the New Contacts folder to a personal folder (.pst) file. If you export to a .pst file, you can email the file to other users or post it in a convenient location on the network for other people to import into their own folders.

How can I easily change permissions for a batch of folders in my mailbox?

Let's say you've created a group of folders in your mailbox related to a project, and someone new joins the project. You need to give that person permission to see the folders. Unfortunately, the law of folder creation says that permissions are inherited from the parent folder when a new folder is created. This requirement means that Outlook has no batch command to let you quickly change permissions later for a group of mailbox folders. You'll need to use the folder Properties dialog box to change the permissions one folder at a time.

The one way to make this process easy is to use an Exchange Server distribution list, rather than to assign permissions by choosing each user from the GAL. This way, you don't need to add and remove users from each folder, just from the distribution list, which you can manage through the OAB. As an administrator, if you know a user has responsibility for a project, consider also creating a corresponding distribution list and giving that user permission to manage it.

Why don't Outlook hyperlinks work in Web pages when I'm using Internet Explorer (IE) 4.0?

In my April 1998 column, I wrote about the question "Is it possible to hyperlink to an Outlook message from a Microsoft Excel cell?" Since then, I have had quite a few messages from people frustrated with their inability to get Outlook hyperlinks to work in Web pages.

The two common factors, it turns out, were Outlook folder names with spaces and IE 4.0x. IE 4.0 doesn't handle Outlook items properly when they contain spaces, even when you replace the space with %20. For example, the link

<A HREF="Outlook:Sent%20Items"> Sent Items </A>

will fail in IE 4.0, although it works just fine in IE 3.x. Because IE 4.01 installs with Outlook 98, it's unfortunate that Microsoft didn't find this problem and fix it. Netscape users might have this problem, too. I don't know of any workaround yet, but I'll keep an eye on developments.

When I use the Meeting Request form to arrange an appointment, I'm always bothered that an invitation to that meeting arrives in my mailbox. How can I avoid being invited to my own meetings?

The secret to avoiding those invitations is on the Meeting Planner tab (Attendee Availability in Outlook 98) of the Meeting Request. Notice that everyone's name, including yours, appears on the list of All Attendees. To the left of each name is an envelope icon. Click that icon, and you'll see two choices: Send meeting to this attendee and Don't send meeting to this attendee. The default is Send meeting. If you don't want to receive the meeting request in your mailbox, choose Don't send meeting, as Screen 2 shows.

How can I get a printout of the body text of my appointments (revisited)?

I answered this question in the May 1998 issue by explaining how to create a new view using AutoPreview to show the first 255 characters of the notes for an appointment and then use that view for printing. I am happy to report that Microsoft listened to your complaints about this issue in Outlook 97 and added a print style to Outlook 98 similar to the one in Schedule+. To use the feature,

  1. From the Calendar folder, choose File, Print.
  2. In the Print dialog box, under Print Style, select Calendar Details Style.
  3. Set the range of dates to print under Print Range, then click Print.

The resulting printout will list the date, time, subject, and location of your appointments, with the full text of any supporting information that you entered in the Notes block at the bottom of the appointment form.

Can I store additional mailboxes in an offline folders (.ost) file?

No, you can keep only your own mailbox and favorite public folders in an .ost file. This restriction means that, if you make use of another person's Contacts or Calendar folder (or a shared mailbox for handling feedback, help, or sales inquiries), you can't take the folder with you without some effort.

One way to take another user's contacts or appointments with you is to copy the important items from the other mailbox into a folder in your mailbox that you have set up for online or offline use (through the Properties dialog for the folder). Make sure you synchronize that folder so that Outlook copies its contents to the .ost file.

If you as an administrator have people who need offline use of information that they're currently getting through other users' mailboxes, consider keeping that data in a public folder instead. Users could then add the folder to their own Favorites folder and synchronize it with the .ost file.

Can I share a personal distribution list from my PAB?

You can't share anything from a PAB. Microsoft didn't intend these files for multiuser access. You can, however, set up a separate Contacts folder in your mailbox to hold nothing but the recipients that make up your distribution list, and then give other people permission to access that folder. See the next question for how to get the distribution list into Contacts.

How can I move the contents of a distribution list from the PAB to a Contacts folder?

Moving a personal distribution list from a PAB to your mailbox is easier than you might think. When you import a PAB containing a personal distribution list, Outlook copies every entry in the distribution list as an individual Contact item. To get a clean import, all you have to do is make sure that the PAB contains only one item—the distribution list. Here's how to do it:

  1. Exit and log out of Outlook.
  2. Make a copy of the PAB file containing the personal distribution list. Call it MyCopy.PAB.
  3. Restart Outlook.
  4. Create a new folder to hold the Contact records from the PAB. Let's call it PDL Contacts.
  5. Open the Address Book, using Tools, Address Book or the toolbar icon.
  6. In the Address Book, under Show Names from the, select Personal Address Book.
  7. Right-click Personal Address Book, then choose Properties, and change the Path to point to the MyCopy.PAB file you created in Step 2.
  8. Delete everything in the PAB except the distribution list. (Don't panic—you're working on a copy of your original PAB, remember?)
  9. From the main Outlook menu, choose File, Import and Export.
  10. In the Import and Export Wizard, choose Import from Schedule+ or another program or file, and then click Next.
  11. Choose Personal Address Book; click Next.
  12. Under Select destination folder, enter the path to the PDL Contacts folder you created in Step 4, then click Next, followed by Finish. The PDL Contacts folder now contains an item for each name that was on the original distribution list.

After performing the import, you will probably want to repeat steps 5, 6, and 7 to point the Personal Address Book service back to your regular, unedited PAB file. If you want to share the PDL Contacts folder, choose File, Folder, Properties, and set access rights on the Permissions tab.

Should I upgrade my users to Outlook 98?

Outlook 98 is a free upgrade for Office 97, Outlook 97, and Exchange Server client users connecting to Exchange Server. However, as with any upgrade opportunity, you need to weigh the pros and cons.

Most of the development effort for Outlook 98 went into features for Internet mail users, not Exchange Server. I've been able to find only two new features specifically for Exchange Server: background synchronization and filtered synchronization.

Background synchronization lets a remote user synchronize with the Exchange Server mailbox as a background task while working on other Outlook tasks. Filtered synchronization lets the remote user set rules for what kinds of messages to download—for example, the user might want to leave messages with 10MB attachments on the server until the user is back in the office.

You might want to make sure that users who rely on filtered synchronization (and never connect directly to Exchange Server) know how to use the Remote Mail feature to download headers and delete unwanted messages from the server periodically. Remote Mail is not new to Outlook 98, but in Outlook 97 it was incompatible with offline folders.

Other factors to consider. Outlook 98 installs Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 4.01, although Microsoft doesn't force you to use IE 4 as the default browser. You can't install Outlook 98 in a Run-from-Server or Run-from-CD-Rom configuration, because of its dependence on IE 4, and you can't install it if you already have Office 97 set up to run from the server.

Outlook 98's Rules Wizard, which replaces the Inbox Assistant, is missing two of Inbox Assistant's key features: forward with headers intact and automatic offline replies. You can, however, disable the Rules Wizard through the Add-in Manager in Outlook 98. If you disable the Rules Wizard, the Inbox Assistant will become available on the Tools menu.

Is it possible to select dates that don't fit a recurrence pattern and schedule an appointment for those dates?

When I wrote about this topic in the July issue, I was thinking appointment—that is, an entry for one user—rather than a meeting or an appointment item that involves sending invitations to other people. Of the two methods I offered for scheduling without a pattern, only one—copying an appointment—works well for meetings.

If you use the recurring appointment method to create a meeting, and then delete the extra instances, the invitees will also get those deletion notices and will probably get quite confused about which meeting you're trying to schedule.

So, use the copy method: Create an appointment, and then copy it to new dates. Then, add one more step. After you copy the appointment to the additional dates, double-click it to open the appointment, and then send it to transmit the meeting request notice to the other invitees.