Outlook Custom Forms – first attempts

I have always struggled with the great divide between Microsoft Outlook and our other information systems. Outlook can do so much, but I hesitate to make full use of it because its information is not stored in a way that is easily accessible to our web site. I also have not been too keen to fully immerse myself into the VBScript required to write a set of export routines to migrate data in that fashion.

I was pleased this week to discover a middle ground — Outlook custom forms. While they don’t improve the portability of information between Outlook and other systems, custom forms do give us some of the qualities of web forms within Outlook. I can create new data fields that don’t already exist in Outlook. I have full control over the layout of a calendar entry form, for instance. I can perform data validation and require certain fields. My main resource so far has been this Microsoft article.

As this is a new area for me, I could use some tips on how to get them to behave well. I have been stymied by the following problems:

  • I am not allowed to delete custom fields that I created yesterday.
  • I cannot create a scrolling text field with word wrap for free-form text entry.
  • A moderated calendar with a custom form shows the custom form to the user who is making the initial data entry but not to the moderator who receives the email notification containing the new event.
  • I have pulled away from setting up rooms and equipment as resources, because users must find them amongst all our users and groups in the Global Address List, whereas I can present the user with only the relevant options if I use a simple value list that is not linked to Active Directory objects.

Please let me know if you have some experience in this area!

Outlook screen 1

Outlook screen 2

One comment

  1. Steve says:

    Being a programmer, you’ll probably get something useful. I spent some time with Outlook 97/2000 trying to see if I could make Outlook/Exchange function as a mail-enabled problem tracking database using custom forms. What a disappointment!

    The screenshots bring back the memories…good luck!