One of the biggest features of Exchange in an enterprise environment is the shared calendering and collaboration features.  I can see when other people are busy or free, and setup meetings with them and even book a conference room all right from a Meeting request. 

Although these are sent to the client as “emails”, Outlook displays them differently, as Meeting requests with associated time/location/date etc. metadata.  If you need the notes in the meeting request, reply to it, it then becomes a regular email.  If you need someone else to attend the meeting, forward it.  If you need to decline the meeting but want to let someone else know that they should attend instead, decline it, edit the response, type in your reason and cc: the other person.  Now they will get the decline notice and the message.  You can also just forward them the original meeting request so it shows up on their calendar.

Conference Calls

Microsoft provides conference bridge services to anyone who may need to setup a conference call.  Because I do so many of them, I’ve created a separate email signature that includes my dial in information.  When I’m sending out a conference call request, I flip my signature and a nice text box shows up instead that includes the call in #, the passcode and the local # to dial.   Like this:

Dial In Information::

Toll Free:

866 xxx xxxx

Participant Passcode

xxxxxx

Notifications

One of the cool features I liked about Outlook 2003 when I was first dogfooding it was the small notice bar that would pop up for a few seconds every time I got an email that let me know who it was from and what the first few words of the email were… but as time went on I realized that this decreased my productivity.  I’d always be looking when something popped up and would feel the urge to reply immediately, taking me away from the task I was working on.  So all notifications of any kind, are now turned off.  I don’t take Outlook offline like some folks do, I check occasionally to see what’s new in my inbox throughout the work day.  Our team internally will generally communicate by Microsoft Office Communicator (IM for the enterprise) anyway so I don’t miss anything critical.

Knowing where to go

It was great that my Outlook always knew about all my meetings and when they were and where they were, unfortunately it’s not always convenient to check your laptop, for example, say when you’re driving. That’s why I find having a Microsoft Smartphone essential.  I have my trusty Audiovox SMT5600 that I upgraded to Windows Mobile 5.0 and its still kickin’ butt over most of the phones on the market out there.  I’m waiting for a while before upgrading.

I sync my phone every day or two with my Laptop, if you have a data plan and your Exchange server is setup for it, you can do it over the air as well.  By default, 15 minutes before every meeting I get a beep reminding me.  If it’s an in person meeting it tells me which conference room it’s in (and which building, the MS Campus is quite ginormous) or if it’s a conference call, what the dial in information is.  I can’t tell you how many times its saved me!!!

If you have some deadly Outlook tips of your own, please post them below :)