The 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 is our excuse to show-off some features in Outlook for Windows/Mac. How to add past events, post events in other time zones, get reminders of upcoming anniversaries and set reminders for longer times than Outlook allows.
Adding Past Events
Outlook can save details of past events. That it’s in the past doesn’t matter to the software, it’s just another calendar entry with a start and end time.
A past event can be anything you like. In an organization it could be the founding date, launch date of an important product, moving to new premises. Individuals could also record important events like moving into family home, moving to new city, divorce etc. Birthdays are handled by Outlook Contacts.
Here’s an event covering the time the Lunar Module was on the moon from touchdown “The Eagle has landed” to launch back to the Command Module.
We’ve added the details in the Notes field in case Outlook messes it up later. That’s too easy to do. A calendar item can get accidentally dragged around.
Outlook can’t cope with seconds in events (understandably). The text note can include the extra detail that us proud NASA nerds insist upon.
Landing (LM lunar landing): July 20, 1969, 20:17:40 UTC
Return launch (LM lunar liftoff ignition): July 21, 1969, 17:54:00 UTC
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Enter event in a different time zone or UTC
All NASA events are recorded in two time scales.
- MET or Mission Elapsed Time (or GET Ground Elapsed Time) is the hours/minutes/seconds from liftoff (technically ‘Range Zero’). That doesn’t concern us.
- NASA also gives the timeline in GMT aka UTC (there’s no difference between the GMT/UTC for our purposes). Sometimes events are listed as Houston, Texas time (UTC -5 US Central) because that’s where NASA Mission Control was and still is.
GMT/UTC is easy for anyone in the world to understand because they can simply adjust by the time zone difference in their region (e.g Sydney, Australia is +10 hours). UTC/GMT doesn’t change for daylight saving/summer time.
Outlook will automatically display the event in the correct date/time for the time zone set in Windows/Outlook.
Nerd note: Outlook smarties know that all calendar items are saved as UTC plus a time zone adjustment. That happens in the background and regular users don’t need to know or care about it. Outlook always displays the event in the current time zone.
Outlook can save events specifically in UTC or ‘Co-ordinated Universal Time’.
Click the Time Zones button option to display the long time zone list. Scroll to ‘(UTC) Co-ordinated Universal Time’ – NOT the neighboring UTC +00:000 for Dublin etc.
Here’s the landmark event, recorded in Outlook.
First foot on the moon (1st step taken lunar surface (CDR). “That’s one small step for a man…one giant leap for mankind.”) 21 Jul 1969 02:56:15 UTC
Anniversary Reminders, yearly, 5 years or each decade.
Once you have a past event in the calendar, how to add reminders of anniversaries?
Outlook doesn’t have a direct way to alert you to the anniversary of a past event.
The workaround is the Recurrence option. Recurrence mostly gets used for repeating appointments into the future like a weekly meeting or monthly appointment.
The same option can be set to remind you about the anniversary of a past event.
For any past event, click Recurrence in the calendar item.
Recurrence Pattern: Yearly
Recur every nn years: the default is one year.
Range of recurrence: if you don’t want past anniversaries cluttering up the calendar (e.g. between 1970 and 2018) change the Start date to before when you first want an anniversary reminder to appear. For example 1 July 2019 to start reminders in 2019.
The reminder will pop up wherever you have the calendar installed. Here’s the 2018 reminder that showed up in Outlook Web Access.
That’s better than Outlook 365 for Windows which (still) counts in weeks.
Reminders every 5 years or each decade
Maybe you don’t want a reminder every year, just on the major milestones every five years or decade.
No problem, change the Recur every nn years to 5, 10 or any other gap you like.
The recurrence pattern appears in the calendar item.
Longer Reminders before an anniversary
Recurrence will remind you of upcoming anniversaries at the date/time they happened.
Most likely, you’ll want advance notice to plan a celebration, invite guests etc.
That’s where Reminder comes in. The pull-down list has options from 0 minutes up to 2 weeks.
You’re not limited to those choices. The reminder length can be any value as minutes, hours, days or weeks (not months).
The simple way to make a custom reminder time is to select a list entry with the scale you want (e.g. weeks) then type in the number you prefer (e.g. change 2 weeks to 4 weeks).
We tried various reminder values for ‘weeks’ up to a ridiculous ‘100 weeks’ and Outlook was OK with it.
The Birthday/Anniversary alternative
Before Outlook experts jump in to email us … there is another way to remind of past events.. It’s not as flexible or detailed as recurring event but we mention it for the sake of completeness.
Make the event a Contact and use the Birthday and Anniversary fields to setup reminders.