Outlook's Appointments and Time Zones

Last reviewed on May 22, 2013

To many people, Microsoft Outlook really seems really bad at handling time zone changes, and that’s being kind. This is in part because people don’t understand that Outlook uses UTC time for appointments and adjusts the time using the time zone offset configured on the computer.

Note that this is not “an Outlook problem”, as this is how computers, email clients and mail servers handle time zones.

For example, any email client will display this sent time:

Thu, 9 Jun 2005 08:16:24 -0700

as

11:16 AM

on a computer configured for the Eastern Time Zone, which has a -0400 offset during Daylight savings time.

By storing all times as UTC, Outlook doesn’t need to store any other time information in the appointment and uses the local time zone when rendering the view. This allows someone in another time zone to create a meeting request and it will reflect the correct local time.

Outlook does not support an absolute time option for the calendar, which would permit you to enter 2 PM and the appointment would always stay on 2 PM, no matter how many times you changed the time zone.

Older versions don’t have an option for ‘in what time zone?’ so that you could make an appointment for 2 PM and select Pacific time zone and it would show up as 5 PM in your calendar when the computer is using the Eastern time zone. Outlook 2007/2010 allows you to select the time zone the appointment will be held in.

Click the Time Zone button to show the time zone selectors.

Outlook 2007 and up have a time zone selector button on appointments

Update: Microsoft released a tool that will update appointments when you permanently change time zones. It works with all versions of Outlook. Outlook 2007 includes an earlier version of this tool but Microsoft recommends using downloading the new tool for best results. Microsoft Office Outlook Tool: Time Zone Data Update Tool for Microsoft Office Outlook. This tool was released to help users adjust to the new US daylight time dates but works just as well for any permanent time zone change. It’s not recommended for use when you travel between time zones for short trips.

At the end of this article we have a short list of clock utilities that will display multiple time zones,- many more are available at your favorite Windows shareware sites. These are the ones I’ve used and like. In most cases, you’ll probably want to disable the Windows tray clock when you use these, to avoid confusion.

Workaround

There are ways to make Outlook’s use of UTC and time zone offsets time less frustrating with older versions of Outlook.

  1. Learn to use Outlook’s dual time zone feature.
  2. Use a 3rd party clock utility to display ‘local’ time so you don’t have to change the time zone on the computer.

Tip: Never change the computer time to match the ‘local’ time and leave the time zone set for your home time.

Dual Time Zone Settings

You can easily swap the system time between these two zones, if you need to. I prefer to leave the computer time zone alone though and use a clock utility to display the time in a different zone, in part so all day events stay on one day.

To turn on dual time zone display, go to Tools, Options, Preferences tab, Calendar Options, Time Zone button and add a second time zone. Now when you view the calendar in a day planner format, you’ll see two time scales displayed. You can right click on the scale and choose Time zones.. to change zones or swap them.

Dual Time Zone Method

Outlook user: “I travel to multiple time zones. My meetings happen across many zones, so I always schedule per California time. I wish there was a simple drop-down menu that I could configure to allow me to reset my system to India or China or… time without going to the calendar menu and swapping location. I have so many more than two locations that I have to set up the swap function every time I get to a new country so that my system, calendar and alarms work with my new location’s time zone. “

Because Outlook gets the time zone from Windows and uses the Windows zone as its default time zone, you don’t need to go into Outlook to change the zones, you can do it from Windows, which can be done from a command line in a couple of steps:

  1. Press Windows Key + R to open the Run command,
  2. Type or paste the following in the command field (using the desired time zone name) and press Enter
  3. TZUTIL /s "Pacific Standard Time"

Windows 7 saves at least the last 27 entries in the Run command so once you use a command, it can be selected the next time you need to change the zone.

Use Outlook’s dual time zone feature and name the Default zone “Current” or something so you know its not a specific zone then set the second zone to your home time zone and name it accordingly.

Reminder: in Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2010, you can select the zone the appointment will be in when you create the appointment. Press the Time Zone button to access this feature.

Fix Appointment Times

Microsoft released a tool that will update appointments when you permanently change time zones. It works with all versions of Outlook. Outlook 2007 includes an earlier version of this tool but Microsoft recommends using downloading the new tool for best results.
Microsoft Office Outlook Tool: Time Zone Data Update Tool for Microsoft Office Outlook

If you prefer to control the time changes yourself, use the following method:

If you create appointments when the computer clock is set for the wrong time zone, or if you move to a new time zone, you can’t change the time zone without messing up the appointment times and all day appointments will span two days. You can export the calendar to a non-Outlook format (Excel or CSV works well), then change the time zone settings and import the items back into Outlook.

  1. Set the computer’s time zone and daylight time settings so the appointment times are correct.
  2. Go to File, Import and Export and follow the wizard to export the calendar to an Excel or CSV format file. Do not export to a PST.
  3. Correct the computer’s time zone and daylight time settings so the time zone is correct for your location.
  4. Create a new calendar folder in your mailbox, if desired, and move the calendar items to it. Otherwise, delete them.
  5. Import the calendar items you exported earlier.
  6. When you are satisfied that the appointments are correct, delete the new calendar folder and all of the old appointments in it.

User Comments

Michael had this to say about time issues affecting Outlook users in a Citrix environment:

This is a fairly common issue being reported in relation to Outlook, but the Citrix solution is actually quite simple; We recently came across the issue on XenApp6 where the ‘use local client time’ policy wasn’t applying. AD GPO worked for the host OS, but not within published apps. We managed to discover that the issue could be resolved by assigning the ‘use local client time’ policy through AMC / Delivery Service Console, not just the Citrix client policy.”

Problems

Always use the correct time zone and DST settings for your location. If your time zone does not honor DST, don’t choose a time zone with the correct offset and disable DST.

Time zones that do not observe daylight  saving time and Outlook 2010 (MSKB)

The following is from Scott in the Cayman Islands. They use the same time zone as Bogota but feel the Bogota time zone name makes them look untrustworthy, so they used Eastern US instead and disabled DST. This caused issues with appointments and I suggested they edit the time zone name in the registry to add their location. The keys are at HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Time Zones\.

Thank you for your feedback. With the information you provided I was able to find a working solution. Unfortunately changing the name did not seem to work as well as I had hoped as the old name would still creep in. But the idea was spot on! I simply created a NEW time zone called Cayman Islands and set it up with the same settings as Bogota’. I used the TZEDIT tool found here: http://www.softshape.com/cham/manual/tzedit.htm to create the time zone.

I then created a script to push this to all my desktops overnight, and manually added the hive on the relevant servers. Tests internal and external show what I would expect to see even across Time Zones. The fact that my “Cayman Islands” zone is not on outside computers does not appear to be an issue as it is seems to Use TZ information sent and not an internal reference based on a name. (as I would expect)

Never change the computer’s time and leave it on your home time zone. You may not be able to connect to network resources if the time is off by more than a few minutes. Servers pay a lot of attention to the time zone offset – the servers don’t care if your machine is set for London’s time zone while in Seattle, as long as the time is correct for your time zone offset.

It’s also very annoying to other users if you send an email dated hours before or after you really sent it.

Tools

1st Clock

Windows tray clock replacement with customizable time and date display. Pro version displays multiple time zones in the taskbar or in a tool tip. Supports alarms and has a fly-out calendar (with the day # of year. Free "lite" version also available (additional time zones display only in a tooltip).

Chameleon clock

Features similar to 1st Clock but has a nicer looking pop up calendar. (Use either of these clocks and calendars if you are in the habit of clicking on the time to see a calendar - you won't have to worry about hitting Ok to close the dialog instead of Cancel.)

Microsoft Time Zone

Displays the time in different time zones in a taskbar tooltip balloon. Also lets you check future dates and times in other time zones without changing the system clock using the 'Find time in' menu option - handy for creating an appointment from details sent in a message. For Windows XP only. (Free)

Time Zone Data Update Tool for Outlook

This tool will help adjust calendar items in Outlook after the operating system has been updated with new time zone definitions. It can also be used for adjustments of calendar items based on changes to the user's time zone settings or when the user moves to another time zone. Works with Outlook 2003 and previous versions.

TrueLaunchbar

Quick Launch bar replacement, use the time plug-ins to display the time on the task bar or fly-out. This also makes a nice replacement for the Office toolbar, which was removed from Office 2003.

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.

If the Post Coment button disappears, press your Tab key.