Do your students want to create “libraries” of information to share with their coworkers and friends? Would they benefit from a discussion area to talk about upcoming events, find solutions for problems, or chat about the latest version of the company’s software?

When it comes to sharing information, Outlook provides just the tool: public folders. Posting information to public folders is a simple task, and because they can be accessed right from the folder list or Outlook bar, it’s easy to check them frequently.

How do I create a public folder?
Frequently, system administrators are the people who set up public folders. Your students may not have the proper permissions, or level of access, to set up their own public folders. The process is very easy, however, and most administrators are glad to oblige when the need arises.

If you’re not sure if you have the permissions to create a public folder, try it anyway! You may get a warning message, but there’s no harm done. If you get a message saying you don’t have the proper permissions, contact your system administrator and ask him or her to either give you the proper permissions or create the folder for you.

Outlook will let you know if you don’t have permission to create a public folder.

If you do have “create” permission, the following steps can be used to set up a public folder.

  1. Click the File menu, choose New, and then click Folder.
  2. In the Name box, enter a name describing the contents of the folder.
  3. In the Folder contains box, choose the type of item the folder can contain. In most cases, this will be mail items.
  4. In the Select Where To Place The Folder box, click the public folder you want your new public folder to appear in. You can create folders within folders to organize your information.

Gatekeeping: Controlling access to public folders
Once you’ve created the public folder, you’ll want to set up permissions. You must be the owner of a public folder in order to assign its permissions, because they act as gatekeepers, and control what others are allowed to do in your folder. To set up the permissions, first right-click your public folder, choose Properties, and click the Permissions tab.

To set permissions that will apply to anyone, click Default in the name list at the top. In the Roles box, select the role you want to assign to everyone. Notice that as you change roles, the check boxes change to allow or deny access to do things like create, edit, or read items. You also may create a “custom” set of permissions by clicking in the boxes to select what a user is able to do.

If you’d like to deny everyone but a select group of people access to the folder, choose None in the Roles box while Default is selected in the name box. Then click the Add button. The screen you see is the Address Book, and works the same way it does when you’re addressing e-mail messages. Double-click on the names of people you want to have access to your public folder, and click OK.

Now you’re ready to set the permissions for those people. Make sure a name is selected, and choose a role with the options you want them to have. The Edit and Delete boxes at the bottom show which items this person will be able to edit or delete: None, Own, or All.

Next, you’ll want to send those with folder permissions an e-mail message letting them know where your folder is located and the discussion topic. You can include a shortcut to the folder in your e-mail message to direct them to the folder. To send a shortcut in a mail message:

  1. Create a new mail message and minimize it.
  2. Click and drag the public folder’s icon on top of the minimized message’s button in the taskbar.
  3. Wait for the message to open, and drag the shortcut into the body of the message and release the mouse.
  4. Address and send the message as usual.

Yadda yadda yadda: Communicating via public folders
When you’re ready to post messages in your public folder, you are back in familiar territory. It’s just like sending and receiving messages, except you use the new post button, or click the File Menu, choose New, and click Post In This Folder.

Your students will have a great time creating and participating in these simple forums in class, and they’re sure to find many uses for them at work. If they’ve never explored the public folders section of their folder list, they may discover a new wealth of information has been right under their nose.
Have you found a handy use for Outlook’s public folders? Have you come up with an innovative class exercise to help your students learn the process? Send us an e-mail with your bright ideas and comments, or post your thoughts below.