Last reviewed on August 12, 2015   —  20 Comments

Do you want most of your new appointments to use Free (or Tentative or Out of Office) as the default for the "Show as time" instead of Busy?

Outlook doesn't have an option to set the "Show time as" default but you can create a custom appointment form with "Show time as" set to Free, Tentative, or Out of Office, then publish it and set it as the default appointment form.

You can use a macro to set the Free/busy (or other fields) when opening a new appointment form or adding a new appointment to the calendar. See Change the All Day Event Default Free/Busy for code samples.

How to create and publish a "Free Time" custom form

First, go to File, Options, Customize Ribbon and add a check to Developer ribbon on the right.
Enable the Developer ribbon

Step 1: Go to the Calendar folder

Open the calendar folder you want to publish the form in. This makes it easier to publish the form because it gets published to the folder you are "working" in.

Step 2: Create custom appointment form

Open a new appointment form and change Show as time as desired.
Show time as Free

Step 3: Publish the form

Publish the form using the Publish form command on the Developer ribbon
Use the Publish form command on the Developer ribbon

The default location should be calendar so you just need to enter a name for your form.
Publish to Calendar folder

Step 4: Set the new form as default for new appointments

Right click on the calendar folder, choose Properties and select the form from the dropdown to set it as default.
Set the form as default on the Properties dialog

Now when you create a new appointment, the Free/Busy time will default to your desired setting, Free in this example.

Video Tutorial

Multiple Calendar folders

The form is published to a Calendar folder and the default applies only to that Calendar. If you use multiple calendars you need to set the form as default for each calendar.


  1. Peter says

    Hi Diane, Thanks for the article, quite helpful!

    However for my purposes I need the custom form applied on an Exchange level on a Room Mailbox, basically I want all appointments in the Room Mailbox to be shown as Free. I've tried logging on as the mailbox and following your instructions, it works great when creating appointments directly in Outlook. However, when I invite the Room to an users appointment, or directly create the appointment from a users Outlook in the Room calendar, it still says busy. Even if I create a custom form for the shared room calendar in a users Outlook, it doesnt make any difference.

    Can you think of another way I could do it?

    • Diane Poremsky says

      I'll see what i can find out - but I think the organizer would need to use the same form.

      BTW, if you are doing this so the calendar will accept conflicting meetings, you can set it to allow conflicts with the Set-CalendarProcessing cmdlet:
      Set-CalendarProcessing "Room Name" AllowConflicts $true

  2. HarleyDavis says

    I use a department calendar (equipment calendar set up with permissions by group to act like a corkboard calendar) to book events, then add the rooms. In order for the events to show up as the desired value by default, you must publish the form on the calendar booking the event. This has proven a masterful sort of addition for me. I now set it to show the time as either out of office or busy. I set users to the Out of office form.

  3. Steve Ward says

    Can I change the default entries in the Options section of the Event Tab in MS Oultook Calendar from: 'Free - Tentative - Busy - Out of Office'
    to: 'Free Time - Work Busy - Personal - Tentative - Out of Office'?

    • Diane Poremsky says

      No, the Free/Busy entries are not configurable at all. Outlook 2013 adds a new FB option - Working Elsewhere.

  4. Doug Fawley says

    I'll add to the thanks. I've tried to crack this nut for a long time - I never would have figured it out if I hadn't found your article. THANK YOU.

  5. katie says

    I've been trying to figure this out for way too long. Your instructions were simple and easy to follow. Many thanks!

  6. Gert says

    This is particularly useful when you use an app on your smartphone that mutes the phone whenever your calendar is marked busy. I was currently having way too many mute times and thus missing phone calls, whereas I really only need to mark a few meetings as busy-do-not-disturb.

  7. Rosanne says

    This worked for me, however the "show developer" option for me was under "tools", "Options", "Mail Format", "editor options". Other than that difference, it worked great. Thank you.

    • Diane Poremsky says

      Yeah, if you use Outlook 2007, everything is on the Tools menu, not File.

  8. Zelma says

    How does one add in another option to the calendar, i.e. on top of "Free", "Busy", "Out of office" and "Tentative" I want to add in "Working from home" to allow others to recognise I am available, but just not in the office?

    • Diane Poremsky says

      You can't edit that list - but if you upgrade to Outlook 29013, you have the option for Working elsewhere. If upgrading is not in the cards, I usually recommend coding the subject or using categories to help people know 'out of office' is really 'working from home'.

  9. Angelina Noccetti says

    the reminder time that is set to 18hours by default does not change even if I put 15 min and publish the setting. The free busy change does...but not the time

    • Diane PoremskyDiane Poremsky says

      18i hours is for the all days events - it's hard coded by microsoft (in some cases it's 12 hours reminder, depends on how you open the event).

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