Outlook Life Hacks Gone Bad

Well, I tried to make Microsoft Outlook work for me, but it’s giving me fits. On two separate occasions, I’ve received email from frustrated coworkers complaining that they are receiving unwanted or reminders.

Please let me know when I have important email!

The first thing I tried to do was set up a rule to automatically forward email from my company to my cell phone so I would know to check my account. Well, Outlook (or maybe Exchange) automatically notifies the meeting organizer when someone forwards a meeting request to someone else (or in this case, my phone?!). Every time someone sent me an invitation to a meeting, Exchange was, unbeknownst to me, tattling on me and displaying the private nickname for my cell phone’s email address. Eventually, my manager complained to me about the messages. And for some reason, he didn’t think my suggestion to “just delete them” was funny. So now, I can’t be automatically notified when I receive mail.

Or so I thought!

Well, it turns out that Office 2007 has a feature that allows alerts to be sent to mobile devices using SMS. Outlook can notify me when I have a message based on criteria I set. But here’s the catch–it only seems to work when I have Outlook running. Is this a client-only rule?? How is that useful? If I’m running Outlook, then why would I need a reminder on my phone? Yes, I know, I could be in a meeting and get notified. But what about when I’ve shut down my computer or someone else is using the shared laptop? Sorry, no luck. (At least in my experience, no solution is in sight.)

Please flag my messages for follow-up later, so I don’t lose track of the outcome!

Then, just today, I received an email from a coworker asking why he keeps getting reminders to follow up on messages I sent him in the past. What I did not realize until he complained is that when you flag a message as you send it, the message is flagged for the recipient ! I only wanted to track messages I need to check on later. To do this, I created a rule to flag messages for follow-up after they are sent. My assumption was that “after they are sent” means that the recipients have received their copy, and any changes I make to my copy after that does not affect them. Wrong! Everyone I sent messages to after setting up the rule has been receiving annoying reminders to follow up on the message! I look like an idiot!

My research into the matter found this article about . It offers this helpful tip:

Use discretion when you send reminders to others. Some recipients might not appreciate having reminders activated while they work.

Really? No kidding!!

My GTD trek has caused me to track things I’m “waiting for,” and flagging messages for follow-up seemed like a great idea.

Or so I thought!

Thanks a lot Outlook!

WalMart sign after the dog food scare

I’m always critical of “custom” signs in the workplace–you know, the ones produced by the staff in a business to address the seemingly pressing needs at the time. They include things like:

  • Out of Order
  • Cash only please, and
  • Out for lunch, back at 1PM

They seem to always be signed by the mysterious “MGMT” character (whom I’ve never met personally).

Well, this sign actually contained one very important piece of information–a URL! The web page cited is from the FDA’s official website and contains information about the . Note the presence of hand-scrawled messages at the bottom of the sign. This is all-too-typical of “custom” signs. The world will never learn!


Blogging with Microsoft Office Word 2007!

It seems a little strange, but I’m actually blogging using Word as a client for WordPress. This is actually kind of cool! I was considering investing in a rich-client Windows blog editor. I’ve had WordPress on the backburner for a while, but I may be marching forward now that Word supports blogging. In fact, this opens up some new possibilities for using Word as a client for more than just blogging. Here’s a thought: how about Word as a Journal client?

Imagine journaling in your “favorite” (maybe) word processor and posting to a blog that serves as a personal, private journal. Nobody says that every blog has to be public—you can have private entries too. Just be careful to make sure they stay that way because Google has very prying eyes, finding things you might not suspect. I know, because I have found some things that probably weren’t intended for general public consumption. You’ve been warned.

Nonetheless, it tickles the brain with new possibilities. I wonder how hard it is to write addins for Word 2007 in .NET.

By the way, upgrading to Office 2007 with Outlook 2007 has broken the synchronization with my Palm Zire 72. My version of HotSync with the Outlook conduits does not support Outlook 2007. No support information was available on Palm’s website. Interestingly enough, Palm claims that the latest version (for the Zire 72 anyway) of . Now, maybe I’m not running the exact same version (I have version 4.1.4 rather than 4.1.4E ), but I’m skeptical about the claim about incompatibility since I am indeed running the software on Windows XP Media Center.

I do have a solution to my synchronization problem, however. It is ‘s , which claims to be compatible with Outlook 2007 and Windows Vista. I’ll probably be dropping the $29.99 for the software soon.