Useful shared calendar improvements in Outlook

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Microsoft Outlook is in the final stages of a major improvement in the ‘plumbing’ behind synchronizing calendars across an organization. Leaving aside a particularly outrageous Redmond boast, the changes are welcome enhancements.

Outlook and Exchange Server can have difficulties coping with fast changing appointment and meeting arrangements.  When several people are editing a shared event at the same time, it’s possible for the changes not to appear fast enough for all involved.

The changes mean that shared and delegated calendars should update much faster across all the Outlook’s (Mac, mobile, web and now Windows.

The ‘Microsoft 365’ improvements go beyond speeding up calendar sync.  Other goodies have been added.

Repeating calendar improvements

A big change is how recurring appointments are handled.

Until now, changing an appointment series meant past event details would be altered to match the series for future meetings. There was a warning message like this:

“If you changed specific appointments in the series your changes will be cancelled and those appointments will match the series again.”

That was obviously silly and could cause legal troubles but it’s how Outlook/Exchange Server worked.  Now past recurring appointments keep their settings and notes.

Other shared calendar changes

Changing the attendees to a meeting meant getting a choice of sending the edits to all involved or just the new/removed attendees.  Now Outlook figures that out automatically though we’re not sure removing that choice will suit everyone.

Draft calendar items were saved in Drafts folder.  Now a draft (unsent) shared appointment is saved in the shared calendar but only visible to the event creator.  Only when the event is sent/shared will it appear for others.

If someone declined a appointment then changes their mind, the organizer can now easily resend the invitation.

Meeting attachments get some smarter control.   A meeting invitation can be replied or forwarded with the meeting attachments but more files can’t be added.

Who gets the shared calendar improvements?

These improvements need changes to both the server mailbox hosting and the email software. 

Microsoft 365 hosted email and accounts have the server technology necessary.

Outlook 365 for Mac, Outlook mobile apps and Outlook on the web already support the faster shared calendars.

Outlook 365 for Windows is the last to gradually get these features, Office 365 version 2103 or later is required (March 2021).  Over the last few months, it’s been enabled a greater proportion of users.

How do you know if the improvements are working?

You don’t.  Outlook for Windows now defaults to using the ‘Microsoft 365 features’ but there’s no obvious way to know if the new technology is working with the matching Exchange Server features. During the testing, affected calendars got a little ‘Preview’ tag but that’s gone now the improvements are mainstream.

Turn on in Outlook for Windows

Go to Account Setting, choose an Exchange Server account then Change | More Settings | Advanced.

Make sure ‘Turn on shared calendar improvements’ is ON.

The setting is probably on already unless the IT admins have disabled it.

Microsoft hype in full overdrive?

We’ve seen plenty of Microsoft hype over the years but the boast about shared calendar improvements is in a class of it’s own for excess and historical ignorance.

According to Microsoft the changes are:
“..arguably the biggest change to Outlook for Windows since its initial release in 1997.”
Really?  It’s not a particularly good argument unless you ignore most of Outlook’s history.

Are customers supposed to believe this change is bigger than ActiveSync?
Bigger than the better database engine?
Bigger than the 2003 change of Outlook data files (expanded beyond the old 2GB limit)? 
Bigger than auto-configuration for new accounts?
Bigger than the Office development team taking Outlook from its original home in the Exchange Server team?

The boast is especially outrageous if you consider the shared calendar ‘improvements’ as Microsoft fixing limitations in their calendar sharing tech which could not properly cope with more complicated and popular use.

Shared Calendar Improvements – the video

No Microsoft announcement is complete without a video. At least this little movie is more informative than the usual Redmond production.

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