Why don’t Outlook calendars and contacts show in Windows?

Windows has some nice features for quickly showing your appointments, calendar and contacts/people lists so why don’t they show that information that’s in Outlook for Windows on the same computer?

In Windows 10, clicking on the date/time in the bottom right-corner (the taskbar) you’ll see the monthly calendar and either a ‘Get Started’ prompt or a blank calendar.

“Set up your calendars to see where you need to be.” (left) or a blank calendar (right)

That message might be surprising if you have Microsoft Outlook for Windows on the same computer with your calendar showing there.

We often hear from readers asking why the calendar they setup in Outlook for Windows doesn’t automatically show up in Windows.

That brings us to the important point about Windows and Outlook both from Microsoft.

Windows and Outlook are separate

Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Outlook are totally separate.  The two products don’t ‘talk’ to each other in any meaningful way.

Yes, they come from the same company.  Yes, Microsoft loves to talk about the ‘Microsoft Advantage’ of using all their products.  But the hard reality is that Windows and Office development teams work very separately and sometimes at odds with each other.

Windows Calendar and People (Contacts) apps overlap a little with Outlook for Windows.  Outlook has more and better features but there’s some convenience in have the same info appear in Windows.

If your calendar and contacts are saved to a cloud service (Microsoft 365 hosting, Outlook.com, Gmail etc) then you can use Windows Calendar & People to show the same details as appear in Outlook and other synchronized devices.

Customers have to setup Windows calendar and contacts separately to Outlook accounts.  Even though it means the computer is connecting twice to the same online account to get the same information. For example, a new appointment is synchronized to your computer twice, once by Outlook and again by Windows.  The amount of duplicated data is usually trivial but it’s still a horrible waste.

This isn’t the first time Window and Outlook don’t play nice together. Remember Live Tiles in Windows? Microsoft was pushing developers to make Live Tiles to enhance the Start Menu but it was hard to take them seriously when their own Office team wouldn’t make Tiles to show Outlook data on the Start Menu.

Why use Outlook and Windows apps?

Windows People and Calendar can sync with non-Microsoft accounts like Gmail, Yahoo and Apple iCloud.  Outlook for Windows will only work with email from those ‘foreign’ services.  More on that in a moment …

Using Windows apps makes your calendar and contacts (People app) available even if Outlook isn’t running.   Outlook for Windows is such a resource hog, some users close it down when CPU and memory are needed for other programs.  

Having upcoming appointments appear in the taskbar is very quick and convenient.

Windows apps have wider coverage than Outlook

Windows apps will show calendar and contacts information that Outlook won’t.

Outlook for Windows will only synchronize with email folders for non-Microsoft accounts.  We demonstrated this recently as a limitation in Outlook linking to a Gmail account.

Google Gmail, Yahoo and Apple iCloud accounts can link with Windows Calendar, People and Mail apps.  As well as Outlook.com and Microsoft 365/Exchange Server accounts which Outlook already recognizes in full.

Confused?  Don’t blame yourself, it’s a ridiculous mess.  Here are some summary tables.

Gmail support in Windows 10 and Outlook

This applies to free Gmail accounts.  Paid accounts can use Google Workspace Sync for Microsoft Outlook to sync fully.

Yahoo accounts in Windows 10 and Outlook

iCloud (Apple) in Windows 10 and Outlook

Outlook.com / Microsoft 365 hosting / Exchange Server

All Microsoft hosted services synchronize fully with both Outlook for Windows and the Windows 10 apps.  As they should.

Small light at the end of the tunnel…

Outlook 365 for Mac with the new look does fully support email, calendar and contacts for Gmail and iCloud (the latter with a little tinkering).

Perhaps that means similar features will be added to Outlook 365 for Windows?  Let’s hope so.

Connect Outlook with Google’s Gmail
Outlook for Mac vital tips and traps with Gmail
How Important and Star Gmail messages appear in Outlook
Outlook settings you need to ‘fix’ for Gmail accounts

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