Outlook calendar tools

Office 365 help series – Outlook calendars

Calendar tutorials

Learn how simple appointments can be built into powerful collaboration tools. Each video in this 10 part series builds on concepts to help you understand personal use, meetings, scheduling, tasks, public and private holidays, calendar sharing, and iCalendars.

These videos use Outlook for desktop to illustrate functions. The same tools are available in Outlook Web Access. (OWA). Click on the video headers to see bullet point summaries for each video.

1. Creating appointments
  • Appointments vs meetings
  • Creating appointments
  • Attaching files
  • Status, reminders, categories
  • Dragging appointments
  • Print preview and print
2. Calendar views
  • Calendar Views
  • Display preferences
  • Reading pane
  • Search
3. Calendar meetings
  • Inviting attendees
  • Attendee status
  • Categories
  • Rooms and locations
  • Acknowledging requests
  • Managing invitations
4. Scheduling assistant
  • Attendees and resources
  • Attendee status
  • Adding rooms
  • Editing times
5. Calendar sharing
  • Invitations to share
  • Merging
  • Sharing states/permissions
  • Public vs private sharing
6. Advanced tools
  • Calendar as a concept
  • Separating content
  • New calendars
  • Categories
7. Working with tasks
  • Updating events
  • Viewing options and overlays
  • Schedule view
  • Displaying task lists
  • Moving tasks to calendar display
  • Assigning tasks
  • To-do lists and categories
8. Working with holidays

Holidays are appointments that can be used for invitation/attendee/location functions. By assigning holidays to the “Holiday” category, holidays can be managed, published, and shared using the list view.

  • Adding regional holidays
  • Holidays as appointments
  • Deleting holidays
  • Holidays in list view
  • Sorting for duplicates
  • Sort by locations
9. Custom holidays

Birthdays and anniversaries, school dates, and company holidays can be added to calendars as “custom” holidays.

  • Private holidays
  • Business/anniversaries
  • Holidays as invitations
  • Adding to holiday category
  • Copying to calendars
10. iCalendars
  • iCalendar format
  • Content as a list
  • Copy to calendar
  • Save as iCalendar
  • Distributing and email

Webmail goes offline

For business users who want to send and receive email with the simplicity that comes with Windows Live (formerly Hotmail) and GMail, but without the dreary advertising, Office 365’s Outlook Web Access (OWA) comes with simplicity, no ads, and the same tools available to the corporate world that makes OWA a serious alternative to Outlook for Desktop.

Mentioning Outlook stirs memories of an awkward email client that is too complicated to use and impossible to back up. Nor is there a shortage of clients who have worn out two buttons in Outlook – check mail, and send: Many users are only interested in email; calendars, tasks, contacts, etc. are just bloat. If any of this sounds familiar to you, you are not in the alone, and something that many people have hoped for which provides an advertising-free webmail service for commercial use is available to Office 365 users – Outlook Web Access, or OWA.

OWA is the portal for Microsoft’s Office 365. OWA is a web version of Outlook for Desktop which provides to Exchange Email, a service providing 50 GB of email per user account which can be synced across 5 devices – including sent items, which you will never see with POP accounts. Calendars, contacts, and more are all there too, albeit ring-fenced from email. although they are bound to be there. OWA is Microsoft Exchange. Importantly, whereas Google users expose their email to data mining, Exchange email is a secure content system that restricts access to “your eyes only”. Among other reasons, this privacy feature is why Exchange email is used almost overwhelmingly in commerce.

Perhaps the niftiest trick in Microsoft’s web based email client is the facility to run their email in “offline” mode.

outlook web access has a clean interface

Wait a minute. Read that one more time. Offline? Managing email with your web browser – offline? Did Hotmail ever do that? No. Nobody else did, either. That is why everybody needed Outlook for Desktop, or Outlook Express, or Eudora or Thunderbird. In case you still do not believe the proposition, the illustration above shows how offline mode is not more than two clicks away.

Offline email management is a trump card. Do not expect to see an entire mailbox in offline mode, more like a few day’s worth of traffic, but enough to keep you with something to do on the road. It is one feature of many “gimme’s” Microsoft deploys from time to time to keep the corporate world so attached to Exchange.

The great thing about OWA is that if you only want to run email, the browser interface does just that, and beautifully so on iPads. OWA connects directly to Exchange 2013, though, so all the tools that high end users need like shared address books, distribution groups, rules, instant messaging, administrator tools like mail policies and even in-line archiving, are there if you want them too.

You might be disappointed that this does not mean the end of Outlook for desktops. Outlook still has a place, and if anything has upped the ante  as a portal not only for email, but for user access to Office 365 to document folders and Sharepoint mind boggling services ..but that is for another few articles.

For a thirty trial of Microsoft Exchange and OWA, contact Steve Galloway on 07834 461 266 or Fred Dreiling on 07919 340 570. No credit card required for trial services.

WordPress update error

When updating to a new version of WordPress, the installation hangs and system returns the following message when users attempt to view the public web site:

Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance. Check back in a minute.

In WordPress dashboard, the screenshot below shows how WP hangs at “copying required files” when updating to a new WordPress version:

wordpress update error

Cause of the Maintenance Message

During an automatic upgrade, WordPress places a file in the blog root directory called “.maintenance” to prevent visitors from being confronted with ugly, broken pages during the upgrade process. That’s a great little built-in feature, but if the upgrade gets interrupted or fails for any reason, that file doesn’t get deleted and nobody, including you, can access your blog. No worries, this is (most likely) the simplest fix on Earth.

Removing the Maintenance Message

Delete the .maintenance file from WP’s root directory. In this example, WordPress in installed in \public_html\:

deleting corrupt file

Google’s mobile-friendly update affects web site owners

From 21st April Google searches will prioritize web sites that are optimised for mobile browsing. The effect will be to weight results against web site owners whose sites do not deliver “mobile friendly” content.

A mobile friendly web site, like the one below from our design studios, is one which renders its layout “on the fly” according to the dimensions of the device asking for content. This may include resizing images, changing column widths, and re-arranging layout so that information can be optimally displayed on tablets or mobile phones.


Until recently, web sites have been developed primarily for desktop and laptop display. This poses problems for users who want to view web sites with small screens and Google thinks this matters.  For instance, users might have trouble using page links that are designed for mouse clicks rather than index fingers. Also, without changing column widths to suit small screens users may have to scroll across a screen several times on a tablet or mobile phone to read one line of text before scrolling back to return the left margin for the next line.

A mobile friendly, or mobile-responsive site, is capable of re-ordering textual and graphical content to deliver a web page in the best format for the device that is calling for the content whether the device is a mobile phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, or even a large television screen.

Business decision makers still tend to rely on a desktop layout when deciding on a new web site. However, Google’s attitude is that “desktop” searches are rapidly losing pace to searches from other devices. Google’s findings are based on their own statistics. The proliferation of devices available to consumers means that modern web sites need to deliver alternate layouts to deliver a good experience to users. The web site below, again from our design studios, shows that a fully mobile responsive web site is capable of re-positioning headers, navigation bars, and image sizes. In this case, the web site’s “sidebar” has been also been replaced in the mobile phone layout so that a user scrolling down the page would find the sidebar positioned at the end of the page.


In this way, the choice of desktop layout that the decision maker opted for when choosing a web site is irrelevant to other devices. According to market analyst Comcast, the number of mobile devices using the Internet exceeded conventional desktop machines in 2014, and with smart-phone ownership in countries like the UK and USA already in the hands of 60% of the general public, search engines are responding to user trends which indicate an increasing reliance on portable and mobile devices.

As Google responds to increasing search requests from portable devices, it is weighting its output to take account of the format of available information its searches output.

Regardless of the techniques businesses use to improve their “relevance” to search engines, Google’s announcement means that web sites which are not optimized for mobile devices are being discounted.

Google makes changes to its algorithms twice a month on average. The search engine emphasizes search results that connect users with relevant content in an easily interpreted formats. Google’s new attitude recognizes for the first time that web sites designed on the basis of desktop appearance alone no longer meet the needs of a market that is predominantly “mobile” based. Web site owners may argue that end users still rely on desktop machines for their web sites. Google says that this is just not the case any more and their move to prioritize mobile friendly sites suggests that reliance on desktop layouts only is a moot point if consumers have found other competing content that has been positioned by Google for formatted delivery specific to devices that searched for results in the first place.

Read Google’s announcement here.

Outlook Web Access (OWA)

Microsoft Outlook Web App (or Outlook Web Access) is a browser-based email client. Outlook Web App (OWA) lets users access their Microsoft Exchange Server mailbox from almost any web browser. The tools has proven immensely popular, and in some cases organisations forego the deployment of desktop versions of Outlook in favour of OWA’s clean and intuitive presentation.

Additionally, OWA connects you to your contacts, calendars, tasks, and Office 365 tools like Sharepoint, Word online, Excel online etc., and other management facilities for handling your Office 365 accounts. Depending on user rights, some users have access to advanced services which permit network administration of in-house and third party installations.

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