By Popular Demand


From Hank Leukart:


Working at Microsoft is the most fun when we get to fulfill customers’ dreams – or at least their software needs.  Sometimes, we hear a feature request so often from so many different customers that it becomes clear that it’s a feature we need to deliver.  Nevertheless, some customers’ feature requests are so small and simple that they never seem to fit into our grand visions.  With every software version, we try to innovate with ground-breaking features, and occasionally, we forget about the simple features for which customers are clamoring.


When this happens, there’s usually a Microsoft Program Manager running around at the last minute trying to sneak in tiny features before we finish a product to make sure our customers are happy.


Sometimes, that Program Manager succeeds.  In my case, I am proud to announce that Outlook appointments and meetings now have time zone controls, allowing users to schedule appointments and meetings in the context of another time zone.


It’s a small thing – but it will help a lot of people.


For example, imagine that you work in Seattle but often schedule conference calls with co-workers in Kathmandu.  Your co-worker in Kathmandu sends you an e-mail asking you to schedule a conference call at 2 PM.  Of course, your co-worker wants the call to take place at 2 PM in his local Kathmandu time, but a meeting like this is difficult to schedule in Outlook 2003.  To schedule such a call in previous versions, you must create a new Meeting Request and then mentally calculate what time 2PM Kathmandu time is in Seattle – in this case, it’s especially hard because Kathmandu uses a time zone 5 hours and 45 minutes ahead of Greenwich Mean Time, so the meeting should be scheduled at 2:45 AM Pacific Standard Time.



In Outlook 2007, it is much easier to schedule such a meeting.  A customer can simply create a new Meeting Request, click the Time Zones button, choose 2 PM for the meeting’s start time, and then select Kathmandu from the list of time zones.  That’s it!


We also know that business travelers like to add flight itineraries to their calendars.  This feature also helps that problem, because appointments can be created with a start time of 9 AM in Seattle and an end time of 5 PM in New York City.


Yes, it’s a simple feature – but sometimes, simple features that solve small problems are exactly the kind of features our customers want.  More importantly, this feature is only one building block toward better support for cross-time zone scheduling in Outlook.

Comments (24)

  1. Kdbertel says:

    Seriously awesome. I’m kind of curious how this shows up when you view the meeting later, though.

    And, is there a way to check what the local time will be before committing to making the meeting? Sometimes it might be "Oh, I don’t want my meeting to be at 5 in the morning. Can we postpone it an hour?" But it’s just a thought.

    This is seriously cool.

  2. AdamB says:

    I saw this in the latest beta and thought:

    "Why didn’t they ever do that before?!"

    This is AWESOME thank you so much it makes scheduling calls across the country much easier.

  3. Patrick Schmid says:

    Thank you very much Hank for the feature and the blog post!!

  4. SelfishGene says:

    This is the first time I’m seeing the Ribbon on an Outlook window, and I must say it looks pretty bad. A scattered toolbar has been replaced with a cluttered ribbon bar. Now I have to look at the form itself PLUS the "options" section on the ribbon. Does this make sense to anyone? It was better to have the Reminder and Free/Busy under the Start/End time.

    Also, Appointment/Scheduling were previously tabs… now they are huge buttons on the Ribbon. So now some buttons on the Ribbon function as tabs, others as on/off toggles, and yet others as regular buttons.

    I was excited about the Ribbon when I first saw, but now it looks like it can also become a mess very easily.

  5. Bryan says:

    Oh, Hallelujah!  I can’t believe something so critical to effective time management in this connected world is considered a tiny feature to sneak in just before release.

    Given Outlook’s dominance in enterprise calendaring, I think more meetings have been missed due to lack of this feature than anything except Daylight Saving Time.

    Thank you for looking out for the "little features."

  6. Jan says:

    Great stuff!

  7. John says:

    Thank you so very much! I was very hapy when I saw the various timezone features added. keep up the good work

  8. Jeff Bridges says:

    Thank you, Melissa.  This will be very helpful.

  9. You can’t imagine how HUGE this is!  Working in today’s connected business environment, I no longer have to be a timezone wizard to nail down my daily meeting schedule while trying to figure out the appropriate timezone for my customers or colleagues.

  10. David says:

    This is great news.  Now how about better support for when you move to a new time zone.  As it currently stands, all day-long calendar entries (e.g. birthdays) will become a 2 day event after the timezone is changed.  Is there a work around for this?

  11. Stu says:

    Hello – Thank you for the new UI.

    We tried to use the Outlook Beta 2 with Exchange 2003 SP2 on our network.

    The indexing to be specfic seemed to be not working. We use this to mine as we use the product.

    A) Using the activities tab on the contacts does not return the proper results.

    B) The right click on the favorites folder does not have the option for a search or an advanced search.

    C) The "Contacts" field on the contact card – first page of the general tab is missing. will this be restored.

    Please advise status. Thank you.

    Stu.

    admin@murphypc.com

    .

  12. Richard says:

    Answering David’s question:

    Probably with few bucks (10) you can easily get rid of your problem… You can try the Reminders in Anniversary (outlook add-in) that will do what you want.

    http://www.rsoutlook.com/us/prods/prod04.html

    About this feature is really awesome but how do we activate it? Is it necessary to have an Exchange Server connection?

    Thank you

  13. Jared Brown says:

    In response to Stu:

    Hi Stu, let me try to answer your questions…

    A) The Activities tab of an Outlook Contact does not use the indexed search.  It crawls your items to populate the list.  This should behave as it does in Outlook 2003.  

    B) I’m not an expert on search, but it looks like none of the folders in Outlook 2007 have a context-menu option for search.  The Search UI is visible above the items in a folder when the folder is selected.  So to search in a favorite folder, simply navigate to that folder and enter your search query in the search pane above the list.

    C) The "Contact Linking" feature you are looking for is turned off by default but it is available.  Navigate to tools->options->contact options and check the box "Show Contact Activity Information on all forms".

    Good luck!

    Jared Brown

    Microsoft Outlook

  14. Thomas Wenzl says:

    Even though I’m very excited about Office 2007 in general, I think this feature was the only one that really got kicked me out when I first recognized it (a friend of mine told me a similar story). :-) I know so many people (incl. me *g*) who have been waiting for this "tiny feature to sneak in just before release" for so many years.

    I just wonder – as so many people do – why it took you so long to get it into Outlook. This more global and connected world didn’t start just some months ago – and the problem with time zones is even a national one in the US *SCNR* 😉

    Regards,

    Thomas

  15. this is awesome. works an absolute treat.I’ve just had to schedule a trip halfway round the world, a series of meetings and then some follow-up calls with the folks I’d met with for when I got back home – and fit that round some local trips to the dentist and… thanks to OL12 not a single missed appointment or double booked moment.

    ironically when one of the folks I’d met with (using OL2003) scheduled a call they got the timezone difference the wrong way round (so I’ve got a very early call to look forward to) but it just serves to stress what a great feature this is.

    now if only it would work with a little map, or on place names rather than having to scroll through a list of GMT-nn (How am I supposed to know the folks I want to connect with in Seattle are in PST which is GMT-8 when I’m not from around there!) – Hey, maybe that’s a thing… if they’re in my address book work out ‘their’ timezone if I’m booking a meeting with them and offer that as a sanity check 😉

  16. I begged, I ranted, I wrote scenarios of wy we needed this – and when I saw it I mailed the team and said thank you!

  17. P Cause says:

    I travel internationally a lot and this feature is great.  I’m using it but I find that in the public beta it seems a bit fragile.  No easy way to name time zones, so you have to scroll.  When I change time zones it sometimes changes the date in a strange way and changes end times in stange ways.  Know you’ll fix the issues.

    One NEEDED feature is a way to leave these boxes "on" all of the time!

  18. Tom says:

    I second David’s comments on moving between time zones.  I just moved from Missouri to Korea and all of my all-day events are hosed.  The Office help solution of editing each and every one doesn’t cut it.

  19. Daniel Hawkins says:

    I think this feature is great, and many other similar small features of this nature could really enhance Microsoft’s image.  Many people feel that although Microsoft’s products can do all sorts of complex things, they fail to provide simple time-saving automations for people.  Perhaps the next release should identify these issues first, and not have the product manager running around at the last minute.

  20. Hirlpoo West says:

    I’ve been using Office 2007 since sometime between Beta1 TR and Beta 2.  (I’m currently…

  21. Nathan says:

    But what about all day appointments?  Sure this makes scheduling an appointment easier across time zones, but what about when I schedule an all day appointment in California, and those in NYC think it spans two days.

  22. David says:

    While definitely an improvement, I think there’s still another half of the issue that’s unaddressed.  There needs to be something like an "always at local time" checkbox, or maybe a "local time" timezone on this new feature.  Sometimes, I want to track something locally regardless of the timezone.  I run into this problem a lot with my recurring appointments and tasks (e.g., my "enter time & expenses for the day" task should remind me at 5:00 local time no matter where I am).

  23. Peter Langtry says:

    Very nice…

    Something better would be time zone and current local (to contact) time controls for contacts.  Knowing that if I send an email from Honolulu at 7 am to a collegue in Tokyo I can be pretty sure that it won’t be answered for a few hours as its about 3 am there (I can also be pretty sure that calling would be a bad idea).