Welcome (back) to my blog.  I received one particularly intriguing question this week that I would like to explore in this post.

Q. Is it possible to customize user data in Outlook without requiring the user's permission?

A. First, let's explain the question.  In Outlook, when one user sends a meeting request or delegates a task, the recipient has to explicitly accept the request.  One customer at my event this week is seeking a way to track task management in the organization without all of the Inbox clutter and acception requirement.

At first, I wasn't positive that we could do this with Outlook 2003 and Visual Studio 2005 Tools for Office (VSTO 2005).  After all, it simply allows us to create Outlook Add-Ins to end-user machines, so how could we accommodate such a lofty objective?

I did a thorough search of the VSTO 2005 Developer Center and, although there are lots of great articles and resources, like the VSTO 2005 Outlook Samples and the VSTO 2005 Outlook Hands-on Labs, I couldn't find a conclusive answer.  I was about to give up and post a boring, "I'm not sure this can be done" blog post, but I didn't want to let you all down.  So, in a stroke of genius, I had an epiphany* - the new Outlook 2003 managed add-in model supports automating Outlook, including discovering application events.  Very simply, an add-in could be developed that would detect incoming email messages (e.g. tasks) from certain members of the organization (e.g. "the boss") and conceivably auto-accept said messages.  I haven't had the chance to test this, but can anyone think of a reason why this wouldn't work?

* After all, it's smarter to be lucky than is lucky to be smart.