One of the key benefits to using Outlook with Exchange Server is the ability to share your mailbox and public folders with your coworkers. That makes it easy to create and share a calendar, since workgroups can share their calendars with each other and have a group calendar. The basic Outlook calendar interface leaves a lot to be desired though. If you don’t add shortcuts to the Outlook bar, moving between calendars is slow and clumsy and you can’t easily see everyone’s calendar in one window.

Fortunately, there is better way. Outlook Team Calendar 2.2 uses the folder home page feature to provide you with an easy-to-use interface to your team members’ calendars and copies their appointments to a shared calendar, so everyone’s appointments are viewed together in one calendar. The owner’s name is added to the appointment’s subject, so it’s easy to know to whom the appointments belong.

The requirements
Team Calendar requires Exchange 5.5 or later and Outlook 2000 or later. You can use it with offline folders (OST) or personal folders (PST), but it offers no real functionality with non-Exchange installations of Outlook.

Older versions of Outlook and Outlook Web Access (OWA) don’t support the use of folder home pages, so while those users can view the Team Calendar as a normal calendar folder, they won’t be able to use the features added by the folder home page. As long as the Team Calendar administrator has Outlook 2000 or later, you can use Team Calendar.

Installing Team Calendar is about as easy as installations get.

  1. Download Olteamcal.exe from the MSDN Web site and double-click on it to extract the files to a folder on your computer. If you’re planning to use a public folder for the Team Calendar, move the files to a folder on a network share that all team members have access to.
  2. Create a new calendar subfolder in Outlook by right-clicking on an existing folder and selecting New Folder. Select the Calendar type from the drop-down menu and give it a name. You can use it as a folder home page in a mailbox, PST, OST, or public folder.
  3. Right-click on the new calendar folder, choose Properties | Home Page, and browse to Teamcal.htm. Remember to check the Show Home Page By Default For This Folder box. You should use the UNC path if the team folder is in a public folder.

The Team Calendar download includes the registry files needed to localize it for German or French versions of Outlook and instructions for localizing it for other languages.

That’s all there is to it; Team Calendar is now installed.

How Team Calendar works
Team Calendar uses VBScript, the Outlook view control, and collaboration data objects (CDOs) to perform its magic. The first time you view the Team Calendar folder in Outlook, it’ll let you know if the view control or CDO needs to be installed. If you need to install CDO, don’t believe the dialog box when it says you can download CDO—it’s no longer available online. You’ll need to run Outlook setup from Control Panel | Add or Remove Programs. Choose Add or Remove features in the Office or Outlook setup screen—look for Collaboration Data Objects under Outlook. You’ll need access to your original installation files, either on the network share or from an Outlook or Office CD. Installing the Outlook view control is much easier; the latest version will automatically download and install.

As I touched on earlier, appointments are copied to the Team Calendar folder, and the owner’s name is added to the subject line. VBScript and CDO do this automatically when you open or refresh the Team Calendar (see Figure A). If you are using Outlook 2000 SP1 or later, security warnings will request approval to access your address book when you open or refresh the calendar. Unless the network is slow or you have a large team, one minute will probably be enough time.

Figure A
The Team Calendar folder home page puts a pretty face on the calendar folder and gives you the ability to administer your team’s calendars.

Add your teammates
A team calendar isn’t much without a team, so the next thing you’ll do is add team members from the global address list by selecting the Team Members button. I’ve never had the opportunity to find out if there is any real limit on the number of team members; however, the 10-member limit found in earlier versions was removed. You’ll need at least reviewer permissions on each team member’s calendar or author permissions if you want to add appointments to members’ calendars.

The Personalize button leads you to options to personalize the page title, control how many weeks worth of appointments are loaded when the folder is opened or refreshed, and set up filters to control the content that is displayed.

You can view everyone’s schedule by selecting the Team Calendar button or view individual calendars by clicking on the member’s name. You can see an overview of everyone’s schedule, in free/busy format, by pressing the Overview button (see Figure B). If you have author permissions or greater, you can add or change appointments to a team member’s calendar. When you set up team meetings from the Team Calendar, all team members are automatically included on the Schedule tab.

Figure B
The Overview button displays a simple timeline for the team.

The bottom line
Team Calendar provides great functionality for nontechnical workgroups to have a shared team calendar. It’s very easy to install and use, and best of all, it’s free. The actual Team Calendar is usable from older Outlook versions or with OWA and works in a PST or OST, so you can take a copy of your team calendar home with you.