One of the first questions people ask when they begin using the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Outlook Client is “how can I control what CRM data appears in Outlook”? Syncing too much data can reduce performance, but you also want to have information at your fingertips when you need it.
In Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011, the Outlook Data Filters feature allows users to take control of what CRM data appears in Outlook. In CRM 4, users had the ability to specify what data they wanted to take Offline (i.e. when they weren’t connected to CRM), and in CRM 2011 we’ve expanded this feature to also allow users to specifically control what data syncs to Outlook’s own folders, like the Calendar and the Tasks pane.
This blog post explains what the filters are and how to use them effectively. You should read it if you would like to see additional CRM data in Outlook or Offline mode, or conversely, if sync is taking longer than you’d like.
Warning: With great power comes great responsibility. If you run into any issues, follow the instructions in the “Resetting your Filters” section to reset your filters to your organization’s standard settings.
The Filters Dialog
The filters dialog can be accessed in Outlook 2003 and 2007 by navigating to CRM->Outlook Filters, and in Office 2010 by going to the File backstage menu, then clicking CRM, pressing the ‘Sync’ button dropdown and selecting the ‘Outlook Filters’ option.
Office 2003 & 2007
After you open the filter dialog, you’ll see something like this:
You can see that the dialog contains a list of rows (these are the filters) for different Outlook entity types, such as Contact, Task and Appointment (note that email is synced with CRM differently and is not managed by this feature). There is also a dropdown which lets you change the view to show Offline Synchronization Filters … what are these? Time for some definitions:
Outlook filters affect CRM items which have counterparts in Outlook, like Tasks, Contacts and Appointments. They control what data gets synced to Outlook folders, such as the Contacts folder or Calendar.
Offline filters affect the CRM folders in Outlook, and they specify what data gets stored on your machine when you disconnect from the internet (a.k.a. “Go Offline”). If you’re always on the move and you find that you’re missing CRM data while Offline, you’ll want to modify your Offline filters.
Alternatively, if you’re finding that going Offline is taking a long time, you can remove or deactivate some of your data filters to reduce the amount of data which needs to be synced.
You also might be wondering what that ‘System Filters’ tab is referring to:
These filters belong to you, and they dictate what information gets synced down from CRM to Outlook.
These filters are set by the system administrator, and they apply to everyone.
Modifying a Filter
Filters work cumulatively – each filter defines a set of data which will sync to Outlook. For example, click on the ‘My Outlook Contacts’ filter and a new dialog will come up showing the filtering conditions for this filter. You can see that we’ve specified that any Contact which is owned by us and which is set to be Active will be synced to our Contacts folder.
Now, let’s say that we didn’t want all of our CRM contacts to appear in Outlook, but only the Contacts from our hypothetical partner firm, Contoso. We’d add another clause to the filter condition as follows:
After adding this condition, we can Save and then close the dialogs – next time you sync with CRM, all CRM Contacts (including Outlook contacts which you’ve tracked) will disappear from your Contacts folder unless they belong to Contoso.
Creating a new Filter
So modifying filters is easy enough, but what about adding new ones? As we said, filters are cumulative, so if you create multiple filters for a single entity type, then entities which match any of the filters will be synced.
By default, Outlook will only take the accounts you own Offline, even if you have access to other accounts. Let’s run through creating a simple filter that will make sure that all accounts which were modified in the last week are synced Offline. We’ll leave the existing filter in place as well so that you’ll still get all of your personal accounts, even if they haven’t been changed recently.
To start with, choose “Offline Synchronization Filters” from the dropdown and then click “New”.
You’ll see a new filter dialog come up. Account should be selected as the default entity, but you can pick another entity type from the dropdown if you wish:
Then we can go on to define some conditions for our filter, namely that the “Modified On” date should be within the “Last 7 Days”.
We can then save the filter, which prompts us to choose a name.
Once you’re done, hit “OK” and close the filter dialog and you should see your new filter in the list!
Resetting your Filters
What if you’ve blundered somehow, and messed up your filter settings? You can go back to the way things were by opening the filters dialog again and clicking More Actions -> Reset Data Filters. This will restore your filters to the default filter set for the organization.
The downside of this is that you’ll lose all of your new filters and modifications, but that’s the point of reset, right?
But wait… there’s more
We’ve covered some basic scenarios which leverage the Outlook Data Filters feature, but there’s plenty of extended functionality. Most of the latter is targeted more towards ‘power users’, so in general, we recommend keeping things simple.
If you have any questions, feel free to post a comment or create a thread on the forums. Technical details about filters can be found in this MSDN article.
It's great that we now have the Outlook filters available and it's ok that these are available for the users, but it's still a mystery to me why MS has made the Offline filters available for the users to mess with?
In my opinion, these should be controlled and set from an administrator side and not be up to the user to deal with.
I might be wrong, but I still haven't found that I can manage the offline/outlook filter settings centrally in CRM 2011.
While there is no out-of-box UI for administrators to do this, there are SDK commands they can use to control user's filters. You can see more information about these commands here: