Software

Outlook's offline folders make life easier for mobile workers

Offline folders let you work with Outlook items just as though you were connected to the server--a big advantage when you're on the go. Here's a look at how to enable the feature and synchronize folders in Outlook 2000, 2002, and 2003.

Tech Toolshed's new PDF resource "Outlook tips for road warriors" describes 12 ways that users can maximize productivity when using Outlook outside the office. The guide covers techniques for Outlook 2000, 2002, and 2003.

Working efficiently with Outlook is a real challenge for users who are traveling or working offsite. One good strategy for avoiding slowdowns is to take advantage of Outlook's offline folder feature. Here's a look at how to put this timesaver to work.

Set Outlook to work with offline folders

Offline folders allow you to work with Outlook items just as if you were connected to the server. To enable this feature, follow the steps below for your version of Outlook.

In Outlook 2000, do the following:

  1. On the Tools menu, select Services.
  2. Double-click Microsoft Exchange Server to access its properties.
  3. Click the Advanced tab, select the Enable Offline Use check box, and click OK.
  4. Click OK to close the Options dialog box and then restart Outlook.

In Outlook 2002, do the following:

  1. On the Tools menu, select E-Mail Accounts and then click View Or Change Existing E-Mail Accounts and click Next.
  2. In the Accounts list, highlight Microsoft Exchange Server and click Change.
  3. Click More Settings.
  4. Click the Advanced tab and then click the Offline Folder File Settings button.
  5. In the File box, type the path to create an .OST file where your offline folders will be stored on the local computer (or accept the default) and click OK.
  6. If the file does not exist, you’ll be asked if you want to create it. Click Yes.
  7. Click OK, click Next, and then click Finish.

If you're permanently connected to a LAN, it's a good idea to set up offline folders, too. If the LAN goes down, your mail, contacts, and calendar will still be available.

In Outlook 2003, do the following:

  1. On the File menu, select Work Offline.
  2. In the Set Up To Work Offline dialog box (Figure A), click OK.
  3. The next dialog box informs you that Outlook has completed the setup for offline use. If you want to create an .OST file on your computer and copy the server data to it now, click Yes. Otherwise, click No. If you choose not to copy the server data to the .OST immediately, you can do it later by pressing [F9].

Figure A


New offline folder format

Outlook 2003 supports a new format for offline folder files that lets you store more data. However, the new format is not compatible with older versions of Outlook. Outlook will choose which format to use when creating the .OST file, based on administrator settings, Exchange server version, and the formats of data files being used by your Exchange profile.


Automatically synchronize offline folders


When you're connected to the network, you can automatically synchronize your offline folders with the server at specified times. This updates the folder on your local computer with its corresponding folder on the Exchange server to ensure that the contents of both are the same.

In Outlook 2000, do the following:

  1. On the Tools menu, select Options and then click the Mail Services tab.
  2. To synchronize folders automatically when you close Outlook, under Mail Options select When Online, Synchronize All Folders Upon Exiting.
  3. To synchronize folders at set intervals, select When Online, Automatically Synchronize All Offline Folders and specify a time interval in minutes. (The default is 60.)
  4. To automatically synchronize when offline, select When Offline, Automatically Synchronize. Specify whether to synchronize all folders or just mail and calendar, and then select a time interval and click OK.

In Outlook 2002 or 2003, do the following:

  1. On the Tools menu, select Send/Receive Settings and then click Define Send/Receive Groups to open the dialog box shown in Figure B.
  2. In the Group list, select a group. (The default is All Accounts.)
  3. To set up automatic synchronization when online, under When Outlook Is Online, select Schedule An Automatic Send/Receive Every X Minutes. Specify a time interval. (The default is 5.)
  4. To set up automatic synchronization when offline, under When Outlook Is Offline, select Schedule An Automatic Send/Receive Every X Minutes. Specify a time interval. (Again, the default is 5.)
  5. To synchronize when you close Outlook (when online), select Perform An Automatic Send/Receive When Exiting.

Figure B

Manually synchronize offline folders

You can manually synchronize your offline folders at any time.

In Outlook 2000, do the following:

  1. On the Tools menu, select Synchronize.
  2. Click All Folders or This Folder.

In Outlook 2002 or 2003, do the following:

  1. On the Tools menu, select Send/Receive.
  2. Click Send and Receive All to synchronize all folders.
  3. To synchronize a group of folders, select the name of the Send/Receive group. (Groups are created via the Send/Receive Settings option on the Tools menu.)

When using Outlook 2003 Cached Exchange mode, Outlook stores a copy of your Exchange mailbox in a file with the .OST extension on the local hard disk. The data in this folder is synchronized with the server automatically, so you don’t need to synchronize folders automatically or manually.

About

Jody Gilbert has been writing and editing technical articles for the past 25 years. She was part of the team that launched TechRepublic and is now senior editor for Tech Pro Research.

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