Problems with adding Outlook holidays

Outlook adds holidays from various countries but it’s not very clear or clever about it.

Recently we’ve been looking at Outlooks Holiday support. We thought it would a simple matter of clicking ‘Add Holidays’ but instead we found an old-fashioned, unclear and poorly designed system that’s causes lots of hassles and frustration.

From File | Options | Calendar | Add Holidays … then choose the holidays for countries you wish to add to your default Outlook calendar. It’s from here on that the problems arise.


Which Calendar?

There’s no choice of calendar for adding holidays. It’s the default calendar or nothing.

To move holidays to another calendar, use the tricks in our Delete Holidays article to find the newly added holidays. Instead of deleting the holidays, move them to the calendar of your choice.


Which Holidays?

As we’ve already noted, the list of holidays supplied by Microsoft includes some curious entries like Groundhog Day and Administrative Professionals Day (in the US) that aren’t really holidays at all.

There’s no way to choose the holidays to add, all you can do is add them all and delete the ones you don’t want.


Holiday Dates

Even the date range of the added holidays is kept a secret, at least from the casual user.

Outlook 2013 adds holidays between 2012 and 2022 (or equivalent) but that’s not on any dialog box or screen for the user to see.

Outlook 2010 adds holidays between 2009 and 2020.
Outlook 2007 has holidays between 2006 and 2012.

The holidays added by Microsoft are ‘one-off’ addition from a list created by Microsoft when the software or major update was released. Any later changes to holidays (additions, deletions or changes) aren’t automatically changed in Outlook. That’s not usually a problem because the dates are fixed and even the extra ‘Observed’ days (e.g, when the holiday falls on a weekend) are usually decided way ahead. However there can be changes so it’s worth keeping in mind that the Outlook holidays might not be 100% accurate.


Category

All added holidays are automatically linked to the Holiday category in Outlook. That gives you another way to find or filter; using the Holiday category.


The Add Holidays warning

When you add holidays you’ll probably get a warning like this:

http://img.office-watch.com/ow/Outlook%20holidays%204.png  image from Problems with adding Outlook holidays at Office-Watch.com

Many people, understandably, think that this means Outlook has detected duplicates between the holidays about to be added and existing calendar items. Sadly, that’s not the case.

That warning appears if Outlook detects the presence of any holidays, not necessarily duplicates for entries about to be added. Unfortunately, it’s not even clear what triggers this warning message.

You’re left with little choice but to choose ‘Yes’ to add holidays. In fact that’s the official advice from Microsoft “If you see a message that says holidays are already installed and asks if you want to install them again, click Yes.


How Outlook holidays work

When you ‘Add Holidays’ all you’re doing is loading data from a text file supplied by Microsoft when you installed or last updated Outlook.

Outlook.hol is in the Office program files and language variant folder (e.g. C:Program FilesMicrosoft OfficeOffice151033 ). It’s a plain text file (not even XML, which gives you an idea how old this Outlook feature is). Do not double-click on the file because it will open in Outlook. You can open it in any text editor but we’d strongly NOT suggest making any changes. Far better and safer to change the holiday information after adding them to a calendar.


Improvements

This is a part of Outlook that hasn’t been revised for many years. It is desperately overdue for updating to something more appropriate for such a mature product.

Perhaps a wizard to take users step-by-step through the options (choose countries then date range, holidays, category and calendar to add into)? Since this option isn’t used often, a wizard with lots of explanatory text would seem appropriate.

An option to download an updated holidays file at the time of use would make the information more reliable and up-to-date.

Office-Watch.com ‘General Ledger’ (seriously that’s the name he gave) suggests:

Maybe Microsoft can implement some kind of rating system to identify the relative importance of holidays:

1. Holiday recognized by federal government and most businesses. New Year’s Day, Labor Day, etc.

2. Holiday recognized by federal government but not most businesses. Martin Luther King Day, President’s Day.

3. Holiday not recognized by federal government but is recognized by some businesses. Columbus Day.

4. Days of Interest such as Tax Day.

“Valerie” says:

easy solution is for Microsoft to add an additional calendar – US non-major. This allows the users to choose to add it…or not.

Want More?

Office Watch has the latest news and tips about Microsoft Office.  Delivered once a week.