I’ve been playing around with my old Windows Mobile 2003 smartphone for a little while now and have been quite impressed with Exchange ActiveSync keeping my e-mail, contacts, and calendar up to date. One thing that has been missing is the ability to query the Global Address List for users.Luckily, Microsoft have thought about this and released Microsoft Global Contact Access for Windows Mobile 2003 or higher. The same features are included in the Messaging and Security Feature Pack for Windows mobile 5. Not only do these add-on packs enable over-the-air Global Address Book queries, but they also allow users to view the free/busy scheduling information of their colleagues and to schedule meetings with multiple attendees. This is quite a big improvement over the standard functionality and it’s free!

Installation of Microsoft Global Contact Access is relatively straightforward. Make sure that you have the most recent version of ActiveSync installed on your computer and that your mobile device is paired with the computer. Now download the Global Contact Access installer from here.

Once downloaded, unpack the archive to a temporary location and run Setup.exe to start the installation. ActiveSync will ask for verification that you want to install the program; click on OK.

Now that it’s installed, Global Contact Access needs to be configured before first use. To do this, go to Start | Programs and then use either Find Contact Online, New Email or New Meeting; all of these functions have been added by Global Contact Access and make use of the online lookup features. When you launch one of these applications for the first time you will need to enter your Exchange user name, password, domain, and server address (this is the Outlook Web Access address). There are a few check-box options: Save Password, Forms-based Authentication, and ISA 2004.

To use the Global Contact Access online features, you will need to change the way that you create new mail and appointments. Rather than creating a new e-mail directly from the Inbox, we now need to use the ‘New Email’ function found under Start | Programs:

  • Highlight the Find box and enter the recipient’s name.
  • Tap on Find and the Global Address List will be searched for matches.
  • Tap on the desired recipient and select whether they should be entered in to the To, Cc or Bcc fields.
  • Search for and add any other recipients.
  • Finally tap on Done and a new, blank e-mail will be created.

If you want to create a new appointment with multiple attendees from the Global Address Book then launch New Meeting, again found in Start | Programs:

  • Highlight the Attendees box.
  • Tap on Options | Find Contact Online
  • Enter the attendees name and tap on Find.
  • Select the desired attendee from the search results and then tap on Done.
  • Once all of the desired attendees have been added go to Options | Free/Busy to check the availability of all those invited to the meeting.
  • If users are unavailable the AutoPick functions will help find a suitable time with all attendees being available.
  • Tap on OK to exit and then Send to send out the relevant meeting requests.

For simply looking up users in the Global Address List use the Find Contact Online feature, which is again found under Start | Programs. This is pretty useful for looking up users details such as office location or Phone/Fax numbers.

Giving users the ability to query the Global Address Book while on the road is definitely worthwhile. Using Microsoft Global Contact Access is quite simple, but I wish these features had been integrated more tightly with the inbuilt e-mail, contact and calendar applications. Users will most likely want to put shortcuts to the online features on their Start menu so that they don’t have to browse to the programs folder each time they send an e-mail. My only real complaint is that looking up contacts can be slow. This is mainly due to the fact that only one user can be selected from the Global Address Book at any time, so a new search is required for each addition which becomes quite cumbersome if you need to lookup multiple recipients.

Windows Mobile 6 has just been released and I’ve heard it has some great new functions when used in conjunction with Exchange Server 2007. If you’ve already started using these then I’d love to hear your comments on what’s been improved and what hasn’t.