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It’s easy to add an appointment directly from a web link – if the web site will do it.
Some web sites have links which let you add an appointment directly to your copy of Outlook.
There are various ways to do it. One requires the installation of some additional software from Infuzer which works OK but it excessive for the needs of most people.
The simpler way uses standardized ICS files – which are small files of appointment information. Outlook (and some other calendaring programs) can read .ics files and create an appointment.
This option isn’t used as much as it could be and we were pleasantly surprised to see a simple and effective use on the American Airlines site. The innocent ‘Send to Outlook’ button after you’ve made a booking opens up wonderful possibilities.
Here’s how it works from an AA.com example, the same method works on any other site which supports .ics files. We wish more sites would make use of this simple feature.
Click on ‘Send to Outlook’ to download an ics file with your airline reservation details in it. Because the ics file is tiny (usually just a few kb) and for immediate use, you can click the ‘Open’ button (usually file downloads need the ‘Save’ option despite the alluring ‘Open’ button).
When you open an .ics file it will create an appointment in Outlook (Outlook will start if necessary) and details added to some fields.
All too often the information supplied via the .ics file isn’t well formatted and you’ll need to re-arrange it to suit your needs and take advantage of some features in Outlook.
The changes we’d make to a ‘raw’ airline booking ics file include:
- Ensuring the airport names are clear. The three letter codes are fine for common airports but you might want to expand them for airports less familiar to you.
- Put the flight number, times and booking reference into the location field. This makes them easy to find on PDA’s and phones that are sync’d with Outlook.
- We put the flight times into the location field because the appointment times can be changed inadvertently. An accidental click of the mouse can move an appointment to say nothing of Outlook’s alarming tendency to adjust appointments due to its spotty time zone support.
- Double-check the time and dates – they should be correct but may not be. The .ics file supplied usually doesn’t state the time-zone of each start and end. Appointments are added as local time only, as defined on your computer at the time you create the appointment. You may need to adjust the start and end time to reflect the correct time-zones. Outlook 2007 (at long last) has proper time zone support – click on the Time Zones button and select the appropriate zone for arrival and departure.
- Edit the notes field so the relevant information is near the top. Keep in mind that some PDA’s and phone cut off the notes to a fixed limit. You don’t want pleasantries like ‘Thank you for booking with us’ and promotional text to obscure the info you need.
- Change the reminder from the Outlook default to something appropriate. In the case of a flight you’ll probably need a 3 hour reminder at least.
- If you use Categories in Outlook, tag it to any categories you want.
- More on Outlook, time zones and Worldmate
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- Outlook 2007 – time zones get marginal improvement
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