Q: I work in a small CPA firm, and my partners and I have busy schedules. We occasionally need access to each other’s schedules, which we keep in Outlook 2007. Our computer consultant has suggested that we set up a Microsoft Exchange Server so we can share our calendar information, but this solution is expensive and seems complicated. Is there a different approach that is easier and costs less?
A: While Exchange Server is a good solution that provides many advantages, Outlook provides an easy solution to this problem called Send a Calendar via E-Mail. To use this feature, open Outlook 2007 and click on Calendar in the Outlook Navigation Pane. Select the option Send a Calendar via E-mail… as shown in the screenshot below (in Outlook 2010, select E-mail Calendar from the Share group on the Home Ribbon).
This action will launch the Send a Calendar via E-mail dialog box shown at the top of the next column. Select the date range you would like to send and click OK. (In your situation you will probably want to select the Whole calendar option from the Date Range dropdown menu.)
Outlook will compile your calendar into a file using the iCalendar format and prepare it for sending to your recipient. The resulting e-mail will appear as follows:
When the recipient receives and opens the e-mail containing the calendar information, a button labeled Open this Calendar will be displayed in the menu. Simply click the Open this Calendar button to display it side by side next to your calendar in Outlook or, for a different view, select the Overlay option from the Arrangement group on the View menu to display both calendars in Overlay mode as shown below.
To complete the sharing process, have your partners share their calendar with you using the same procedure. Each person will need to repeat this process periodically to keep one another updated, but if this updating process requires too much effort, then an Exchange Server solution or Google Apps Sync for Outlook might be a better choice.
Note: Many third-party, add-on products provide a synchronized calendar solution without the need for Exchange Server such as 3StepShare, Group Calendar, Office Calendar and ShareO.
Another option is using Google’s free Calendar tool (which is different from Google Apps Sync mentioned above) in addition to Outlook. While it would require keeping two calendars, the tool allows users to share calendars, send invitations and set reminders. Google offers three synchronization options between its Calendar and Outlook. For more information, go to google.com/support/calendar.
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