Person availability sparkline for Outlook meeting requests

Dear Outlook team:

As I was riding home on the train today talking with my fellow riders, an idea for a practical feature in an upcoming Outlook release developed. Since time is precious, and I’m focused on other pursuits, I wanted to place this idea into the Creative Commons for your consideration.

At least the passengers of the train car I typically occupy find it all too common to receive meeting requests in Outlook that clearly conflict with existing appointments already scheduled. It’s as if the person who called the meeting just added names (reading off a script) without even bothering to click into the Scheduling Assistant UI.

Default Outlook 2010 Meeting Request UI

This is unfortunate since that UI does a fairly good job of actually assisting the caller of a meeting with the scheduling process.

Outlook 2010 Meeting Request Scheduling Assistant

However, it’s hard to teach a drone how to find pollen; so, I think there is an opportunity to bring more assistance into the default Appointment UI.


Here’s the essential idea: as attendees (or resources) are entered into a meeting request, dynamically shade the background of each name according to availability as follows:

  • Green – potential attendee is completely available
  • Yellow – potential attendee has a tentative conflict (i.e. a complet or partial conflict)
  • Red – potential attendee has already committed to attend another meeting

Changes to the date/time of the meeting should trigger event handlers that reflect any change in availability shading.

Additionally, you could also provide another, central visual cue for the overall meeting (e.g. a green highlight effect around the current Send button to indicate that there are presently no scheduling conflicts known to the system).

Frankly, I think it’s fair to question a person calling a meeting who doesn’t bother to confirm attendee availability. However, we are talking about drones not worker bees. So, for those of us who receive such meeting requests all too frequently, please consider this idea for a future release of Outlook. (If you have implementation questions, you can always reach out to your Excel colleagues. :-) )

Thanks for your consideration.