Tag Archives: Outlook

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.

Sparklines.

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.

Hotmail…DAV no more

This is a public service announcement concerning Hotmail (aka Windows Live Mail) access from Microsoft Outlook. If you recall your Hotmail account working just fine from within Outlook not too long ago, but you’re running into the following error (e.g. after hitting F9), this post may be helpful:

Task '********@hotmail.com: Folder:Inbox Synchronizing headers.' reported error (0x800CCC33): 'Access to the account was denied. Verify that your username and password are correct. The server responded 'Forbidden'.'

If you’re like me, you almost immediately launched your browser, navigated to Hotmail and entered your Live ID. Web access. No problemo. Outlook. Nada. Hmmm…

Then you may have copied the unique essence from the above error message as input to your favorite search engine. I did, and it produced the key to resolution.

Bottom line: As of 9/1/2009 Hotmail no longer supports DAV (aka WebDAV) based access–what Outlook categorizes as HTTP for Hotmail.

So, if you launch, for example, Outlook 2007 and choose Tools | Account Settings…, if you see HTTP for Hotmail as follows then you need to change your Hotmail account settings (click the image to enlarge it):

Hotmail account set for DAV-based access

So, the key is to discontinue attempted access via DAV. To open the door with that key, you have to remove your obsolete Hotmail account in order to create a new, viable (i.e. POP3-based) Hotmail account.

I’m a visual guy; so, while this article was helpful, it took me more than one pass at the new account settings to get everything working properly. Just in case, you’re visual, too, here is what it took as a collage (click the image to enlarge it):

Hotmail account set for POP3-based access

A few additional notes in closing:

  • Be aware that Outlook will recognize …@hotmail.com and set the wrong account type (i.e. to HTTP, not POP3). You must change that automatic action manually.
  • It appears that installing Microsoft Office Outlook Connector is another way to avoid DAV issues. On a shared PC, one user account had this software installed prior to 9/1/2009 and another did not. The account with Connector experienced uninterrupted Hotmail access, while the other suffered the aforementioned access break. To be clear, Microsoft Office Outlook Connector provides more than just a software layer above the account settings screen, and Microsoft recommends its adoption by Outlook 2003/2007 users.
  • More interesting to me is Microsoft’s brief statement about why DAV access is no longer supported: “…the DAV protocol is not optimally suited for programs to access large inboxes…

Update 9/9/2009: To repeat, the recommended path forward per Microsoft is the Microsoft Office Outlook Connector. Taking the POP3-based approach above on deals with Inbox email. Connector allows syncing of all folders, calendar and contacts, making Web login or Outlook login result in the same experience content-wise. In the end, when you look at the dialog presented via Tools | Account Settings…, you want to see a Type value of MAPI associated with your Windows Live Mail account (i.e. not POP/SMTP or HTTP).

Kudos to my brother-in-law, a PM on Windows Live Mail, for his emphasis toward Connector.

Inoculating a Reply All plague

The “Reply All” feature of most email programs like Outlook is a convenience ripe for abuse. Unfortunately such abuse seems to occur about once a quarter or so where I work. Folks add an alias to their message (To or Cc) that ends up involving a multitude of folks who could care less about the message just received.

So, unfortunately (!), what many folks do in reply is Reply All, yet again. :-(

When you Reply All to a Reply All asking not to Reply All, you defeat your purpose. Instead, be surgical and just educate the offenders. That is, be sure to remove all aliases from your reply–if you really feel the need to reply in the first place–and communicate solely with individuals on the To line of the diseased message.

Surely there is a way in Outlook to establish a rule as follows:

    Apply this rule after the message arrives
    with INOCULATION_KEYWORD(S)_HERE in the subject
    reply using INOCULATION_EMAIL_TEMPLATE_HERE
        and move it to the Deleted Items folder

If you really feel compelled to Reply All, then at least do others the favor of changing the Reply-To address in your message to something less hideous (e.g. (in Outlook) Options | Direct Replies To | Have replies sent to: no-reply@…).

Recall this message

Instead of recalling messages, delay their delivery long enough to confirm they’re truly right to send in the first place.

While reviewing my flagged and annotated items in Omea, I was reminded of Scott Hanselman’s post on Outlook’s “Recall this message” function being naive. When I first flagged Scott’s post, I annotated it to remember its familiarity with a post by Chris Sells some time before. Later, Lars Bergstrom shared a Outlook rule idea with Chris that Chris captured here.

Along with Scott, Chris and Lars, an effective delay rule is priceless and more importantly more reliable, effective and professional. Recommended!