Outlook allows you to mark appointments as private, but the term is a bit misleading because the interface will still display the appointment by subject in Calendar view. You, as the appointment's owner, can open the appointment and view its details, but users you've granted read permission to can't. However, people standing nearby can see those items on your calendar, if they're close enough. If you walk away from your system, someone can access private appointment details just as easily as you can. In this article, I'll show you how to create a custom view that won't display private appointments in Calendar view, for a bit more privacy.
The Private option is available to appointments, events, tasks, and contacts, but we'll work exclusively with appointments in this article. I'm using Outlook 2016 desktop on a Windows 10 64-bit system. You can mark an item as private in Mail 365, but you'll need an administrator to create a custom view for you. There's no downloadable demonstration file for this article.
Word of advice
Private items are still visible on your calendar, your To-Do lists, and so on. By hiding these items, you remove them from sight completely. For this reason, I recommend that you set a reminder when you create the appointment. That way, you won't accidentally forget about the appointment—out of sight, out of mind.
Mark an appointment as private
Before you can set up the custom view, you need a few private appointments to hide. Fortunately, the process is a simple option, set as follows:
- Open an appointment or create a new one.
- Click the Appointment tab (if necessary).
- Click Private in the Tags group (Figure A).
Mark an appointment as private.
At this point, the private appointment is still visible on your calendar (Figure B). If you created a task for the appointment, it will also be visible on your To-Do list, but as a private task. Other users with read permission can't see the appointment's details. If you open an item, you can easily tell if it's private by checking the Private option: When enabled, the icon has a dark background. In addition, screen details display the icon (Figure B). You can't use this option with a single appointment in a series, but you can make the entire series private.
Private appointments are visible in calendar view.
Create a custom view
Right now, you have at least one private appointment that others can see on your calendar, although they can't see the details. This might be an adequate setup for you. If it isn't, you can follow these steps to create a custom view with a filter that won't display private items.
Start by going to the Calendar, clicking the View tab, and choosing Manage Views from the Change View dropdown in the Current View group (Figure C).
Create a new view.
Next, select the view you usually use, Calendar in this case, and click Copy. It's easier to start with an existing view than to start from scratch. Name the new view Hide Private Appointments (Figure D) and click OK.
Name the new view.
In the resulting dialog, click Filter and then click the Advanced tab. From the Field dropdown, choose Frequently-Used Fields and then choose Sensitivity (Figure E).
The Private filter criteria is available through the Sensitivity options.
From the Condition dropdown, choose Not Equal To and from the Value dropdown, choose Private (Figure F).
Choose Private as the criteria value.
Click Add To List, click OK twice, and then click Apply View (Figure G). (You can apply the filter at any time, though.)
Apply the filter before you return to Calendar view.
The calendar no longer displays your private appointments (Figure H). If you can still see yours, you probably didn't click Apply View in the previous step. In that case, just apply the view manually from the Change View dropdown (Figure I).
The view's filter hides private appointments from Calendar view.
You can apply the view manually.
Although the private appointments aren't visible, Outlook will still trigger reminders, so you don't have to worry about forgetting them. To unhide private appointments, simply change the view back to Calendar (or any other).
It's important to note that the custom view will not hide private appointments you've added to your tasks list. You'll need to create a custom view for your Tasks window to inhibit their display. When considering this hiding technique, be sure to think about all the places your appointment (or item) might be visible and accommodate them accordingly.
Although a Private appointment can prevent users from viewing its details, it isn't a serious security feature. A person intent on seeing those details can use VB or another email client. Because the custom view is visible from the Change View dropdown, you might want to give the view a more discreet name than the one we used in this example. It won't stop an intruder sitting at your computer with full access, but our example view name screams, "Look here for the good stuff!"
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Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.