Keep everyone informed about time away from the office

You can easily mark time as "busy" or "out of office" in your Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 Calendar. But how can you give those times, such as vacations, prominent visibility to your coworkers? And how can you tell at a glance when your coworkers are going to be out of the office?

This article explains how to use customized all-day meeting requests to keep everyone alerted without affecting the available free time on recipients' calendars.

What do you want to do?


Add your vacation time to coworkers' calendars

When you mark time as "out of office" on your calendar, your coworkers see it when they attempt to schedule a meeting with you. But wouldn't it be great if you could alert everyone at once in advance of your time away without affecting their free/busy status or cluttering their calendars? You can do this by setting your information to appear on their calendars as an all-day event, but unlike a normal all-day event, which usually is set to "busy," this all-day event is displayed as free time. Your coworkers' free/busy availability is not affected.

 Note   Meeting requests are designed to be sent between Outlook users. The ability to see other people's schedules while composing meeting requests in Outlook requires your organization to be using Microsoft Exchange Server 2000, Microsoft Exchange Server 2003, or Microsoft Exchange Server 2007. If your organization doesn't use Microsoft Exchange, discover alternatives in the Show people outside of your organization your vacation schedule section.

  1. On the File menu, point to New, and then click Meeting Request.

Keyboard shortcut  To create a new meeting request, press CTRL+SHIFT+Q.

  1. In the Subject box, type a description.
  2. In the Location box, type a description.
  3. In the Start time and End time lists, select the start and end time for your time away from the office. For vacations, this usually involves full days. If this is the case, select the All day event check box.

An all-day event is a 24-hour event lasting from midnight to midnight.

 Note   By default, Outlook uses the current time zone setting on your computer for scheduling. If you want to schedule your time away from the office based upon a different time zone, on the Meeting tab, in the Options group, click Time Zones.

  1. In the Options group, for Show As, click Free in the drop-down list box. If you have already specified that this is an all day event, Save As is set automatically to Free.

 Important   Make sure the Show As setting is set to Free. This allows the meeting request recipients to accept the meeting request and add your vacation time to their calendar, but not block out any time on their calendar. The recipient's calendar will still show free availability for scheduling during your vacation time.

  1. Type any information that you want to share with the recipients.
  2. Click To, and then in the Select Attendees and Resources dialog box, in the Search box, type the name of a person or resource that you want to invite to the meeting. If you are searching with the More columns option, click Go.
  3. Select the name from the results list, click Required, and then click OK.
  4. If you are alerting people to a series of recurring times that you will be away from the office, on the Meeting tab, in the Options group, click Recurrence, select the recurrence pattern, and then click OK.

When you add a recurrence pattern to a meeting request, the Meeting tab changes to Recurring Meeting.

  1. On the Meeting tab, in the Show group, click Appointment.
  2. Click Send.

When you send this meeting request with Show As set to Free, the event appears at the top of each day in your coworkers' Outlook Calendars — a visual reminder that does not block out any work time.

 Note   If you did not select All day event, the event shows within the time grid; it does not appear at the top of the day. It is still marked as free time, however.

You are not quite finished though, because most likely you do want this time to show up as Out of Office in your own calendar. To learn how, see the next section, Block out vacation time on your calendar.

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Block out vacation time on your calendar

If you followed the steps in the previous section, the meeting request you sent was marked as free time to prevent blocking out time on other people's calendars. However, the time is also marked as free on your own calendar. You now need to create an additional appointment for yourself so that others can see that you are not available during the time you specify.

A common mistake is to open the meeting request item on your calendar and change the Show As setting from Free to Out of Office after you have sent the original request. You may think that this changes the event to appear as Busy on your calendar only. However, when you do this an update is sent to everyone you sent the meeting request to, changing Free to Out of Office and defeating the steps you took to avoid doing that. You must create a duplicate appointment on your calendar with the Show As setting set to Out of Office.

When people use the Outlook Calendar to schedule meetings and other events, they can see your availability unless you have changed the permissions for your Calendar to prevent this. Normally, appointments, meetings, and events have a Show As setting of Busy. You can also create items with a Show As setting of Out of Office. Items set to Out of Office are regarded as similar to items set to Busy — someone should not expect you to be available at that time. Visually, the two types differ — items set to Out of Office appear with a purple color, items set to Busy are identified by a blue color theme. This difference in appearance helps emphasize why you are not available. For example, you might be able to move a conflicting Busy item, but you're probably not able or willing to change an Out of Office item such as your vacation.

  1. In Calendar, on the File menu, point to New, and then click Appointment.
  2. In the Subject box, type your name, and then type vacation. You can also use the Subject box to specify any other type of time off.
  3. In Start time, click the date when your vacation (or other time off) starts.
  4. In End time, click the date when your vacation (or other time off) ends.
  5. Select the All day event check box.
  6. Change the Show As setting to Out of Office.
  7. Click Save & Close.

 Note   You might consider deleting (from your calendar only) the initial meeting request that you sent to other people. Or you can leave it in your calendar so you can use it to easily send an update or a cancellation if your plans change.

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Show your vacation schedule to people outside of your organization

Whether you use an Exchange, POP3, IMAP, or Windows Live Mail account, you can share calendar information with anyone who has access to e-mail or to the Internet.

In this section



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Save a calendar as an iCalendar file

Calendars can be sent as an attachment to an e-mail message. These attachments are not linked back to the source calendar and therefore are never updated. For example, you might be working with someone at another company who does not have access to your Outlook free/busy information to know when you are available to meet. In this situation, you send an e-mail message with a Calendar Snapshot. The Calendar Snapshot appears within the body of the e-mail message and as an iCalendar file attachment. If the recipient is running Office Outlook 2007, the iCalendar file attachment opens as an Outlook calendar.

  1. In Calendar, select a calendar to make it the active calendar in the view.
  2. On the File menu, click Save As.
  3. In the File name text box, type a name for the iCalendar file. This should be a name that is easy to recognize and meaningful for you and your recipients.

A summary of the calendar name, date range, and detail level appears next to More Options. If you are satisfied with this summary, proceed to step 8; otherwise, continue with step 4.

  1. Click More Options.
  2. From the Date Range list, choose the amount of calendar data to include in the iCalendar file, or click Specify dates to enter a custom date range.

 Note   If you choose a large date range or select Whole calendar, you might create a large iCalendar file.

  1. From the Detail list, choose the amount of detail to show the recipients. By default, the Availability only option is selected.

 Note   None of the options include your items marked private unless you change the privacy option under Advanced.

  1. Optionally, click Show to see Advanced options.
    • Include details of items marked private     This option requires Detail to be set to Limited details or Full details. The existence of private items will be noted, but no further information will be shared.
    • Include attachments within calendar items     This option requires Detail to be set to Full details. All attachments on calendar items, such as spreadsheets, are included.

 Note   This might significantly increase the size of the iCalendar file.

  1. Click OK, and then click Save.

If your calendar contains no items, a dialog box appears to provide you with a chance to cancel saving the iCalendar file.

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Publish a calendar to Office Online

You can share your Office Outlook 2007 calendars by publishing them to Microsoft Office Online. Office Online provides a free way to share calendars and lets you control who has access to them. Furthermore, you can publish or view calendars on Office Online even if you do not use an Exchange account. Using Office Online is a great way to share calendar information if you use POP3 (POP3: A common protocol that is used to retrieve e-mail messages from an Internet e-mail server.) or IMAP (IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol): Unlike Internet e-mail protocols such as POP3, IMAP creates folders on a server to store/organize messages for retrieval by other computers. You can read message headers only and select which messages to download.) e-mail accounts, the most common types of personal or small business e-mail accounts.

  1. In Calendar, in the Navigation Pane, right-click the calendar you want to publish.

 Note   If you are using the Navigation Pane (Navigation Pane: The column on the left side of the Outlook window that includes buttons for the Mail, Calendar, and Tasks views and the folders within each view. Click a folder to show the items in the folder.) in Minimized view, in the Navigation Pane, click the Calendar buttonButton image, click Navigation Pane, and then right-click the calendar you want to publish.

 Tip   If you want to publish your default Calendar, click Publish My Calendar in the Navigation Pane, and then proceed with step 3.

  1. On the shortcut menu, point to Publish to Internet, and then click Publish to Office Online.
  2. If this is the first time you have published a calendar to Office Online, you must register for Office Online by using your Windows Live ID account. If you do not have a free Windows Live ID account, you can create one. Follow the instructions on your screen.
  3. Next to Time Span, select the number of days for which you want to share your calendar.

Date range screenshot

  1. Next to Detail, click the arrow and choose the amount of detail to share. If you want, select the Show time within my working hours only check box to restrict shared details to your working hours specified in Outlook.

Calendar details

  1. Next to Permissions, choose whether your calendar information can be viewed by specified people only or searched and viewed by anyone using Office Online.
    • Only invited users can view this calendar     If you click this option, an Outlook sharing e-mail message opens after the calendar is published to Office Online. You can send the sharing e-mail message to each person to whom who you want to grant access to your calendar. The sharing message automatically includes a link to the calendar and you can type a message if you want to.
    • Anyone can view and search for this calendar on Office Online     If you click this option, anyone who knows the link to your calendar can view it. People do not need a Windows Live ID account to log on or sign in to a service. In addition, Office Online users can find this calendar when searching for calendars.
  2. If you are publishing a calendar that anyone can view and search, type a description of your calendar in the Description box. This information helps other Office Online users find your calendar.

By default, this calendar will be periodically updated. Changes to the calendar are published to Office Online during the next manual or automatic send/receive. By default, there is a 30-minute interval between each send/receive for each Send/Receive group. If you change the automatic send/receive interval to less than 20 minutes, calendar updates to Office Online are sent at a minimum interval of 20 minutes.

To upload this calendar and then never provide updates, click Advanced, and then click Single Upload: Updates will not be uploaded.

  1. Click OK.

After sharing a calendar, the calendar icon in the Navigation Pane changes as shown below.

Shared calendar

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Publish a calendar to a WebDAV server

Publishing to a WebDAV server is useful if you want to share calendars and availability information with others but do not use a software application such as Exchange.

World Wide Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning (WebDAV) is an extension of HTTP (HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol): Protocol that is used when you access Web pages from the Internet. Outlook uses HTTP as an e-mail protocol.) that enables you to create and modify documents on a Web server. The server that you are publishing a calendar to must support the WebDAV protocol. Not all Web servers support WebDAV. Even if you can use File Transfer Protocol (FTP) (FTP: A communication protocol that makes it possible for a user to transfer files between remote locations on a network. This protocol also allows users to use FTP commands, such as listing files and folders, to work with files on a remote location.) or save directly to a universal naming convention (UNC) (universal naming convention (UNC): A naming convention for files that provides a machine-independent means of locating the file. Rather than specifying a drive letter and path, a UNC name uses the syntax \\server\share\path\filename.) path such as \\server\teamdocuments, this does not indicate that WebDAV is available. Your server administrator or Internet service provider (ISP) (ISP: A business that provides access to the Internet for such things as electronic mail, chat rooms, or use of the World Wide Web. Some ISPs are multinational, offering access in many locations, while others are limited to a specific region.) can tell you if WebDAV is supported on the server you want to use.

  1. In Calendar, in the Navigation Pane, right-click the calendar that you want to share.
  2. On the shortcut menu, point to Publish to Internet, and then click Publish to WebDAV Server.
  3. In the Location box, type the location of the WebDAV server and folder.
  4. Next to Time Span, select the number of days for which you want to share your calendar.
  5. Next to Detail, click the arrow and choose the amount of detail to share. If you want, select the Show time within my working hours only check box to restrict shared details to your working hours specified in Outlook.

Calendar details

By default, this calendar will be periodically updated. Changes to the calendar are published to the WebDAV server during the next manual or automatic send/receive. By default, there is a 30-minute interval between each send/receive for each Send/Receive group. If you change the automatic send/receive interval to less than 20 minutes, calendar updates to the WebDAV server are sent at a minimum interval of 20 minutes.

To upload this calendar and then never provide updates, click Advanced, and then click Single Upload: Updates will not be uploaded.

  1. Click OK.

After sharing a calendar, the calendar icon in the Navigation Pane changes as shown below.

Shared calendar

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Save a calendar as a Web page

You can save a calendar as a Web page and then share it with others. For example, you might post a calendar with important project dates as a page on your company's intranet, or post your soccer team's game schedule as a page on your personal Web site. You can then easily refer others to the calendar by distributing its URL. As well, if your Internet service provider (ISP) (ISP: A business that provides access to the Internet for such things as electronic mail, chat rooms, or use of the World Wide Web. Some ISPs are multinational, offering access in many locations, while others are limited to a specific region.) provides you with a Web site or a place to share files with the public, you can share your calendar as a Web page.

 Tip   A better solution is to use the Microsoft Office Online Calendar Publishing Service. You can save and publish calendars directly from Outlook, and updates are managed automatically.

When you save a calendar as a Web page, you can specify the start and end dates for the calendar, and whether to include appointment details that are entered in the text section of the appointment. You can also add a background.

  1. In Calendar, select a calendar to make it the active calendar in the view.
  2. On the File menu, click Save as Web Page.
  3. Under Duration, enter a date in the Start date and End date boxes. Click the down arrow for a calendar.

The default is the current and following month.

  1. Under Options, you can choose to include details of your appointments and, if you want, pick a background graphic for the Web page that you are creating.
  2. Under Save as, in the Calendar title text box, type the name that you want to appear as the title of the Web page.
  3. For File name, browse to the location where you want to save the Web page and then type a file name.
  4. By default, the Web page opens in your Web browser after you click Save. If you do not want to see the Web page, clear the Open saved Web page in browser check box.
  5. Click Save.

 Note   In some Web browsers, such as Windows Internet Explorer, the page might not appear as it should because active content is blocked. If you see an InfoBar at the top, click the text, click Allow Blocked Content, and then click Yes.

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Send your calendar via e-mail

  1. In Calendar, in the Navigation Pane, click Send a Calendar via E-mail.

 Note   If you are using the Navigation Pane in Minimized view, in the Navigation Pane, click the Calendar button Button image, click Navigation Pane, right-click the calendar that you want to share, and then click Send via E-mail.

  1. In the To box, enter the name of the person to whom you want to send the subscription information.
  2. From the Calendar list, choose the calendar to send. By default, your default Calendar is chosen. This is the Outlook calendar that is used to display your free/busy information to others and where meeting requests are accepted.
  3. From the Date Range list, choose the range of calendar dates to include in your e-mail message, or click Specify dates to enter a custom date range.

 Tip   If you choose a large date range or select Whole calendar, you might create a large e-mail message.

  1. In the Detail list, choose the amount of detail to show the recipients. By default, the Availability only option is selected.

 Note   None of the options include your items marked private unless you change the privacy option under Advanced.

  1. Optionally, you can restrict the information included in the e-mail message to your working hours by selecting the Only show time within my working hours check box. To change your working hours, click Set working hours.
  2. Optionally, click Show to see Advanced options.
    • Include details of items marked private     This option requires Detail to be set to Limited details or Full details. The existence of private items will be noted, but no further information will be shared.
    • Include attachments within calendar items     This option requires Detail to be set to Full details. All attachments on calendar items, such as spreadsheets, are included.

 Note   This might significantly increase the size of the e-mail message.

  • E-mail Layout     You can include your Daily schedule or a List of events.
  1. Optionally, you can request permissions to view the recipient's default calendar. To do so, select the Request permission to view recipient's Calendar check box.

 Note   This option only requests access to the recipient's default calendar. If you want to request access to an additional calendar that the recipient has created, for example, a personal calendar, you must send an e-mail message asking for permissions to that particular calendar.

  1. Click Send.
  2. Review the confirmation dialog box, and if it is correct, click OK.

If your calendar contains no items, a dialog box appears to provide you with a chance to cancel sending the e-mail message.

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Automatically respond to e-mail messages while you are out of the office

When you are away from your computer and not checking e-mail messages, you can set up Office Outlook 2007 to send an automatic response to some or all of the people who send you messages. You need to know what type of e-mail account (e-mail account: The server name, user name, password, and e-mail address used by Outlook to connect to an e-mail service. You create the e-mail account in Outlook by using information provided by your administrator or Internet service provider (ISP).) you use to determine what functionality is available for setting up automatic replies.

Which type of e-mail account do you use?

If you know the type of e-mail server that you are connected to, you can go to one of the following sections to find steps on how to configure an automatic reply:

If you need to identify the type of account that you use, continue reading this section.

One of the easiest ways to see whether you're using an Exchange account is to check whether there is an Out of Office Assistant command on the Tools menu. Make sure that you click the expand button Button image at the bottom of the menu so that all of the commands on the Tools menu are displayed.

If there is an Out of Office Assistant command on the Tools menu, and you see the following dialog box when you click it, then you have an account on Exchange 2007. If so, proceed to the Automatic replies for Exchange 2007 accounts section.

Out of Office Assistant dialog box

If there is an Out of Office Assistant command on the Tools menu, and if you see the following dialog box when you click the command, then you have an account on Exchange 2003 or earlier. If so, proceed to the Automatic replies for Exchange 2000 and Exchange 2003 accounts section.

Out of Office Assistant dialog box

If there is no Out of Office Assistant command on the Tools menu, then probably you do not have an Exchange account. However, you can approximate most of the Out of Office Assistant behavior by using rules. To learn how, proceed to the Automatic replies for POP3 and IMAP accounts section.

ShowAnother way to identify the type of e-mail account that you use

You can check the Account Settings dialog box in Outlook to identify the types of e-mail accounts that you have in your Outlook profile.

  1. On the Tools menu, click Account Settings.
  2. On the E-mail tab, the Type column lists the type of account for each e-mail address.

Account Settings E-mail tab

Some features may require specific versions of Exchange. For example, Outlook Anywhere requires Exchange 2003 or Exchange 2007.

To identify the version of Exchange that your are connecting to, see Determine the version of Microsoft Exchange my account connects to.

Automatic replies from Exchange 2007 accounts

This feature requires you to use a Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 account. Most home and personal accounts do not use Microsoft Exchange. For more information about Microsoft Exchange accounts and how to determine which version of Exchange your account connects to, see the links in the See Also section.

When you use Outlook with an Exchange 2007 account, you have access to new Out of Office Assistant functionality and an improved user interface. The new features include:

  • Rich text formatting     Use fonts, colors, and formatting in your replies.
  • The ability to send auto-replies to people outside of your organization     Out of Office auto-replies can be customized for recipients both inside and outside of your organization. For example, you may want a more generic message sent outside of your company — perhaps one that doesn't list alternative contact names, phone numbers, or e-mail addresses.
  • The ability to schedule Out of Office auto-replies in advance with a start time and stop time     You need never again forget to turn on (or off) your Out of Office auto-reply function. Schedule the dates and times that auto-replies should be sent.
  1. On the Tools menu, click Out of Office Assistant.

Out of Office Assistant command on Tools menu

  1. Click Send Out of Office auto-replies.
  2. On the Inside My Organization tab, type the response that you want to send while you are out of the office.

You can use the controls to change the font, font size, and other text formatting.

Optionally, you can send auto-replies to people outside of your organization. You can choose whether to send an auto-reply to each person who sends you an e-mail message or only to people who are listed in your Contacts.

 Note   The contact must exist in your Exchange Contacts folder. If the contact exists only in a folder that is a part of a Personal Folders file (.pst), the auto-reply message will not be sent.

  1. On the Outside My Organization tab, type the response that you want to send while you are out of the office.

You can use the controls to change the font, font size, and other text formatting.

  1. Select the Auto-reply to people outside my organization check box.
  2. Click My Contacts only or Anyone outside my organization to specify the people to whom auto-replies are to be sent.

When the Auto-reply to people outside my organization check box is selected, the Outside My Organization tab displays (On) next to the tab name.

Automatic replies for Exchange 2000 and Exchange 2003 accounts

This feature requires an Exchange 2000 or Exchange 2003 account. Most home and personal accounts do not use Microsoft Exchange. For more information about Microsoft Exchange accounts and how to determine which version of Exchange your account connects to, see the links in the See Also section.

  1. On the Tools menu, click Out of Office Assistant.
  2. Click I am currently Out of the Office.
  3. In the AutoReply only once to each sender with the following text box, type the message that you want to send to other people while you are out.
  4. If you want, create rules to manage your incoming mail.
    1. On the Tools menu, click Out of Office Assistant.

Out of Office Assistant command on Tools menu

 Note   The Out of Office Assistant command does not appear unless you are using an Exchange e-mail account.

  1. Click Add Rule.
  2. Under When a message arrives that meets the following conditions, specify the conditions that the message must meet for the action associated with the rule to occur.
  3. If you want to specify more conditions, click Advanced, select the options that you want, and then click OK.
  4. If you want to specify that this rule must be applied last, select the Do not process subsequent rules check box.
  5. Under Perform these actions, select the options that you want. You can select more than one option.

 Note   If you specify that a message must be deleted, rules that follow the delete rule in the list of rules in the Out of Office Assistant dialog box do not affect the message.

Automatic replies for POP3 and IMAP accounts

If your profile doesn't include a Exchange account, you can combine an Outlook e-mail template with Outlook rules to reproduce the functionality of the Out of Office Assistant. By using this combination, you can use your POP3 or IMAP e-mail account to send automated replies to incoming messages.

 Important   You must leave your computer on and Outlook running for the automated replies to be sent.

  1. On the File menu, point to New, and then click Mail Message.
  2. On the Options tab, in the Format group, click Plain Text.
  3. In the message body, type the message that you want to send as your automated reply.
  4. In the message window, click the Microsoft Office Button Button image and then click Save As.
  5. In the Save As dialog box, in the Save as type list, click Outlook Template (*.oft).
  6. In the File name box, type a name for your message template, and then click Save.
  7. On the Tools menu, click Rules and Alerts.
  8. In the Rules and Alerts dialog box, click New Rule.
  9. Under Start from a blank rule, click Check messages when they arrive, and then click Next.
  10. Under Which condition(s) do you want to check?, select the sent only to me check box and any other criteria that you want, and then click Next.
  11. When you see a dialog box informing you that this rule will be applied to every message that you receive, click Yes.
  12. Under What do you want to do with the message?, select the reply using a specific template check box.
  13. Under Step 2: Edit the rule description (click an underlined value), click a specific template.
  14. In the Select a Reply Template dialog box, in the Look In box, click User Templates in File System.
  15. Select the template that you created in the previous section, and then click Open.
  16. Click Next.
  17. Optionally, select the check boxes for any exceptions to the auto-reply rule.
  18. Click Next.
  19. Under Step 1: Specify a name for this rule, type a name for the auto-reply rule, and then click Finish.

The reply using a specific template rule in the Rules Wizard sends your automated reply only once to each sender during a single session. This rule prevents Outlook from sending repetitive replies to a single sender from whom you receive multiple messages. During a session, Outlook keeps a list of users to whom it has responded. If you exit Outlook and then restart it, however, the list of the senders who have received automated replies is reset.

 Important   For the Rules Wizard to send a reply automatically, Outlook must be running and configured to check periodically for new messages.

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Applies to:
Outlook 2007