How to use Outlook 2000's Net Folders

Last reviewed on June 3, 2013

The Net Folders feature in Microsoft Outlook 98 and Outlook 2000 allows you to share information with other people via e-mail — even run a mailing list!

You don’t need to be using the same e-mail system. You can use Net Folders to share with people on the Internet, as well as with your office colleagues.

Possible uses:

  • Share a folder containing appointment items to create a calendar for your office workgroup or hobby club
  • Share a folder containing message items to create a broadcast mailing list (if you don’t allow anyone else to post to it) or a discussion group (if you do allow postings)
  • Share a folder containing task items to help your community committee keep track of its project deadlines

Setup | Usage | Notes | Limitations | Known Problems | More Information

Setup

Microsoft Outlook 2000:

Net Folders is normally installed on demand, the first time you use the feature. You can also explicitly install it by running Outlook setup again. See OL2000: Net Folders Feature Not Retained After Upgrade.

Microsoft Outlook 98:

Download the Net Folders component from the Web or CD, following the instructions on our Components page.

Mail server:

You must be able to exchange e-mail with the people that you want to see your Net Folders. If you want to use Net Folders in your office, but don’t have e-mail connectivity there yet, check out these solutions:

Contacts:

The people you want to share the folder with need entries in your Contacts folder marked so the messages that Net Folders sends will go in rich-text format. In Corporate/Workgroup mode:

  1. In the Contact item, double-click each underlined E-mail address.
  2. Check the box for Always send to this recipient in Microsoft Outlook rich-text format, and then click OK.
  3. Close and save the item.

In Internet Mail Only mode:

  • In the Contact item, make sure that the box for Send plain text only is not checked.

Usage

Net Folders commands are divided between two separate dialogs. Subscriptions and permissions are controlled by the Net Folder Wizard, accessed through the File | Share command. The frequency and size of updates are controlled by the Properties dialog box for the folder (File | Folder | Properties), on the Sharing tab.

To set up the Calendar, Contacts or Tasks folder for sharing via Net Folders:

  • Choose File | Share and the appropriate folder, then follow the instructions in the Net Folder Wizard, adding names from your Address Book and giving them various permissions.

To share any other folder:

  1. Switch to the folder first.
  2. Choose File | Share | This Folder, then follow the instructions in the Net Folder Wizard.

To change the frequency or size of Net Folder updates:

  • Bring up the Properties dialog for the folder, then click the Sharing tab.

To send an update right now (whether you’re the owner of the folder or a subscriber):

  1. Bring up the Properties dialog for the folder, then click the Sharing tab.
  2. Click Send Updates Now.

To change subscribers or permissions:

  1. Switch to the folder if it’s not Calendar, Contacts or Tasks.
  2. Choose File | Share and the appropriate folder.
  3. Use the Add, Remove and Permissions buttons on the Net Folder Wizard.

To accept a Net Folders subscription:

  1. Open the message in the Inbox named "New subscription to <name of folder."
  2. If you want the folder to be created as a top-level folder in your mailbox or Personal Folders (on the same level as Inbox), change the name if desired.

    -or-

    If you want the folder to be a subfolder, click the Local Folder Name button at the bottom of the message. To use an existing folder, select it in the Select Folder dialog box. To create and use a new folder, click New, create the new folder, then select it.

  3. Click the Accept button on the subscription message.

To cancel a subscription:

  1. Bring up the Properties dialog for the folder, then click the Sharing tab.
  2. Click Cancel Membership.

Notes

When you add a subscriber to one of your Net Folders, an e-mail message is generated to that person. It will add a new folder to that person’s folders, matching the one you shared (assuming the subscriber already has Net Folders installed). Any views or forms associated with the folder are also replicated to subscribers.

Whenever you add items in the shared folder, an e-mail message is sent to all subscribers. Copies of the new items are created in the subscribers’ copy of your folders the hidden Rules Wizard rules. Net Folders also handles modifications and deletions. Items that were updated are shown in bold as unread.

Depending on the permissions you granted when you added subscribers to your folders, other people may be able to add, modify or delete items, turning the folder into a collaboration forum.

"Minimal" permission (for sending to someone who doesn’t have Outlook 98) is not available in Contacts, Calendar or Tasks — only in folders that contain message items.

Limitations

Net Folders cannot be used with an IMAP mail server. Net Folders depends on Rules Wizard to function, and Rules Wizard doesn’t work with an IMAP mailbox.

Microsoft warns that Net Folders cannot be used from two different computers to access the same mailbox. This sounds like it would limit their usefulness in synchronizing two copies of Outlook, but I haven’t tried it yet.

You can’t share your Inbox with Net Folders, because of the danger of causing an infinite loop.

If you subscribe non-Outlook users to a folder shared with Net Folders, they will receive the updated items as e-mail messages in their Inbox. Outlook 97 users should be able to open any item, but users of other e-mail programs will be able to read only shared e-mail messages. Therefore, users of e-mail programs besides Outlook 97 and 98 should be subscribed only to folders containing messages.

You cannot use Net Folders to share any folder in your Exchange Server mailbox. However, Exchange Server users can add a Personal Folders .pst file to their profiles (Tools | Services) and share any folder in that .pst file. Subscribers, even contributing subscribers, can have the Net Folder in their mailbox. It is only the original publishing folder that must be in a .pst file.

If you want to use Net Folders contacts and journal folders to create a group public journal, you will encounter some of the same limitations as Exchange Server Public Folders. See Creating a Public Journal for Microsoft Outlook. At the very least, each user will need to change the properties of the local copy of the shared contacts folder so that it includes an Activities group that points to the local copy of the shared journal folder. Also see:

It can take a very long time for a Net Folders update to complete, because it runs as a background application and has to wait for other Outlook tasks to complete. Microsoft says they have seen it take as long as 24 hours and recommends that you limit sharing via Net Folders to no more than 8-10 computers.

Known Problems

For checklists, error messages and maintenance issues, see:

Sometimes a folder will stop being shared. Subscribers receive a message such as:

The "Slipstick Outlook/Exchange items" Net Folder, which is administered by Sue Mosher is no longer sending you updates. If you have any questions, please contact the administrator of this Net Folder.

If you use File | Share to try to access the subscriber list, you see a message that the folder cannot be shared. While we don’t know yet why this occurs, it can apparently be fixed by disabling the Rules Wizard add-in, restarting Outlook 98, then re-enabling Rules Wizard. Follow these steps:

  1. Choose Tools | Options, then switch to the Other tab, and click Advanced Options.
  2. On the Advanced Options tab, click Add-In Manager.
  3. Click on Rules Wizard to deselect it, then click OK three times to close the dialog boxes.
  4. Exit, then restart Outlook.
  5. Repeat steps 1-3 to re-enable Rules Wizard.

If that does not fix it, try using Add-In Manager to disable, then re-enable the Net Folders add-in, as well as Rules Wizard.

More problems

More Information

Written by

Diane Poremsky
A Microsoft Outlook Most Valuable Professional (MVP) since 1999, Diane is the author of several books, including Outlook 2013 Absolute Beginners Book. She also created video training CDs and online training classes for Microsoft Outlook. You can find her helping people online in Outlook Forums as well as in the Microsoft Answers and TechNet forums.

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