I didn't attend Microsoft Tech Ed 2006. It would have been conference number five in four months, and that was just a little too much travel for me. Instead, I stayed in the office and spent a lot of quality time with Office 2007 Beta 2. Unfortunately, that means that I didn't have the pleasure of lugging home a suitcase full of swag from Boston, such as the Microsoft Virtual PC image of Exchange Server 2007 (both the DF4 build and the hands-on labs) that the Exchange team was giving away.

But I do have something free and very cool for you this month--the latest version of the Exchange Server Public Folder Distributed Authoring and Versioning (DAV)-based Administration Tool, better known as PFDAVAdmin. Microsoft released PFDAVAdmin 2.6 earlier this month. Here are nine reasons why I love this tool:

1. It's free. Download it at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=635BE792-D8AD-49E3-ADA4-E2422C0AB424

2. Despite its name, PFDAVAdmin helps you manage not just public folders but also folders in users' Exchange mailboxes.

3. In PFDAVAdmin 2.6, changing the most common mailbox folder permission operation--sharing users' calendar folders--becomes a one-step task. The new Set Calendar Permissions command on the Tools menu updates permissions on both the Calendar folder and the Freebusy Data folder in each mailbox on the selected server. Users need matching permissions on both folders to be able to work with each others' appointments. For a detailed walkthrough of this new feature, with screen shots, see http://www.tekla.m.se/jesper/texter/pfdavadmin_tutorial/pfdavadmin.html .

4. The new version adds the ability to perform folder permission changes, content reports, and other operations selectively on folders. It can filter on string, binary, Boolean, and ID fields. I hope date filtering makes it into the next version.

5. PFDAVAdmin's author, Bill Long, continues to update the tool with new features and to provide advice on how to use it. For example, in response to a comment on a blog post about PFDAVAdmin at http://msexchangeteam.com/archive/2006/06/13/427944.aspx , Bill explains how to use the new filter capability to apply permissions on calendar folders in a multilingual environment where not every calendar folder is named Calendar.

6. Paul Robichaux likes PFDAVAdmin as much as I do. His article "Using WebDAV to Modify Public Folders" (http://www.windowsitpro.com/Articles/ArticleID/43132/43132.html ), reviews some of the permissions problems that PFDAVAdmin can solve.

7. PFDAVAdmin helps prepare for your next Exchange migration--either to new machines or to a new version of Exchange--by generating a tab-delimited content report that shows the number of items in each public folder, the date of the oldest item, and the dates of the most recently modified and created item in each folder. By opening that file in Microsoft Excel, you can see at a glance which public folders are heavily used and which haven't been touched in years and are good candidates for deletion. For the next version, I'd like to see that report also include some indicator of whether a folder contains custom forms. That would help administrators prioritize which public folders might need extra resources to migrate to some other platform, such as Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007.

8. PFDAVAdmin can propagate permission settings to subfolders. Right-click a folder, then select "Propagate folder ACEs." This saves time if you need to help a user share a large number of mailboxes or public folders arranged hierarchically.

9. Did I mention that it's free?

I see one caveat to using PFDAVAdmin as a troubleshooting tool. A fairly common problem is that users can see or even edit the full details of each others' Calendar folders, when all you want them to see is free/busy data. Checking permissions on the Calendar folders with PFDAVAdmin is a good start, but it can't show you the entire picture because it works only with folder-level permissions. PFDAVAdmin will give you no indication that the mailbox or Active Directory (AD) container has permissions set too loosely. Therefore, for troubleshooting mailbox permission problems, you need to use both PFDAVAdmin and Active Directory Users and Computers.

My biggest wish for PFDAVAdmin is that Microsoft will migrate its folder administration features into the new Windows PowerShell command interface for Exchange 2007. Bill Long says an effort is under way to do just that, but that it's too early to know what functionality will make it into the final product.