Scheduling Resources for Outlook

Last reviewed on December 8, 2013

If you have resources, such as conference rooms, that you want users to be able to book as they invite people to meetings, you can use several possible methods:

  • Maintain the resource as an Exchange Server mailbox and …
    • … use a server-based script or event sink to accept bookings, or
    • … set it up as a resource so that Outlook 2000 and later can book it directly
    • … use a delegate to handle meeting requests automatically or manually, or
    • … allow at least some users to add and edit items in the resource’s calendar directly
  • Maintain the resource as an Exchange Server public folder holding appointment items

Mailbox + script | Direct booking | Mailbox + direct creation | Mailbox + delegate
Public folder (direct creation) | Tools | More Information

Exchange 2007

Exchange 2007 includes a suite of tools which assist you in booking appointments that Microsoft refers to as “Calendar Concierge”. They aren’t new tools but are more reliable than in previous versions of Exchange. They are:

  • Scheduling Assistant – allows you to schedule meetings using a color-coded interface
  • Calendar Attendant – helps ensure the reliability of calendar items
  • Resource Booking Attendant – automates resource management, such as conference rooms, projectors, and televisions.

One change end-users notice is the Scheduling Assistant replaces AutoPick Next with the Suggested Times pane.

Microsoft Exchange 2007 Calendar Concierge:
http://www.microsoft.com/exchange/2007/evaluation/features/calendarconcierge.mspx

Mailbox + script

For Exchange 2000 and 2003, both free (AutoAccept Sink for Exchange) and commercial (Exchange Resource Manager) event sinks can automatically accept and decline meeting requests for resource mailboxes.

For Exchange 5.5, the AutoAccept Utilitiesby Robert Strong handle recurring meeting requests, allow you to restrict access to a particular resource through a distribution list and perform optional diagnostic logging to a folder in the resource’s mailbox. Custom attributes on the resource mailbox control the optional features. A setup wizard is included.

If you are booking the resource with a script, you should not open the Calendar folder directly. Doing so may cause the free/busy information for the folder to become corrupted. See XCLN: Resource Calendars Display Incorrect Free and Busy Times.

Direct booking

Outlook 2000 and later versions allow users to directly book resources without the need for a script or delegate.

To set up a resource calendar folder for direct booking, create an Exchange mailbox for the resource, then use Outlook 2000 or later to log directly into the resource mailbox and set the Resource Scheduling options in Tools | Options | Calendar Options. Create a single item in the calendar to make sure that something shows up in its free/busy time for you to check. Also grant the Author role on the Calendar folder to everyone you want to be able to book the resource. The easiest way to do this is with a distribution list or security group in the Global Address List.

The clients must book all appointments with a specific Outlook technique: On the Attendee Availability tab of a meeting request, click Invite Others to add one or more resources to the Resources box. Make sure you add them as resources. If you add them as required or optional attendees, the resources will not be automatically booked.

TIP: Using your Exchange Server administration tool, set the mailbox to not accept messages from anyone. (A distribution list or security group is good for this.) That way, if users forget and add the resource as a required or optional attendee, the request will bounce back to them from the resource mailbox.

If you choose more than one resource — such two comparable conference rooms — you can click AutoPick and have it find the next available time for either resource.

Also see:

Mailbox + direct creation

Direct creation simply means that you grant certain users Editor access to the resource’s Calendar folder. They can then create meetings directly in the resource’s Calendar. See:

If you use the direct creation method, see How do I keep from sending a mail message to someone on the Attendees list for a meeting? for a technique to prevent yourself from getting a meeting request message for meetings you are creating for someone else.

Mailbox + delegate

With Outlook 97 and 98, if you are not using an autoaccept script or event sink and want an Outlook resource to accept meeting requests automatically, the resource must be assigned to a delegate, and that delegate account must be running Outlook and stay logged into the Exchange Server at all times.

Don’t worry; this doesn’t mean that you need a dozen systems running Outlook just to book the dozen conference rooms. A single computer running Outlook all the time, perhaps that of your receptionist, can act as the delegate for several resource accounts.

For best results, on the Attendee Availability tab of a meeting request, click Invite Others to add the resource to the Resources box.

How do you keep unauthorized people from requesting a meeting in the room? In the Microsoft Exchange Administrator program, you can use the Delivery Restrictions tab on the Properties dialog for the conference room’s mailbox to allow only certain people to send messages to the conference room. Anyone else trying to send a meeting request to the conference room will get a non-delivery report with the distinctly unfriendly message, “A restriction in the system prevented delivery of the message.” This method could result in administrative headaches if too many users try to book the room and then call you to find out what that message means.

An interesting alternative is to create two rules on the delegate’s Inbox that look for the Meeting Request form — one rule for requests from valid users that just stops processing subsequent rules and a second rule that sends a reply back to the sender or moves them into another folder. You’ll need Outlook 98 to do this, because Outlook 97 doesn’t allow you to create a rule for items that use the Meeting Request form.

Public folder (direct creation)

Maintaining a resource in a public folder is a variation on the direct creation theme. Users who want to schedule the resource make appointments directly in the public folder. Use permissions on the folder to restrict who has access to the resource.

The two disadvantages of this method are that the folder resource’s availability is not shown in the Meeting Planner, where you see the free/busy times for everyone else, and you cannot invite the folder resource to a meeting. You must book it directly by making an entry in its folder.

Tools in the Spotlight

Resource Central

Resource Central is the complete meeting and conference planning tool for internal and external events. Partnering with Microsoft Outlook and the Exchange Server, Resource Central enables users to quickly and easily locate their optimal resources, verify attendee availability and order all associated services for their meetings directly through Outlook and Outlook Web Access. Resource Central also handles all changes or cancellations and sends order receipts automatically to all meeting arrangers, catering personnel, IT personnel, etc.

Tools

Calendar Browser for Outlook

Calendar Browser for Outlook is a solution for booking resources of any kind within an organization - from meeting rooms, cars and projector equipment to personnel. Search for free resources, see descriptions and book, all in one tool. Graphical WYSIWYG html editor. Integrated statistics tool. Groupware, for both public folders and mailboxes. Full Unicode Support. Works on all versions of Windows, including Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2.Version 7 supports Outlook 2007 and 2010. Compatible with Office 365.

Meeting Planner

Meeting Planner from EmergingSoft is a standalone scheduling application that is designed to simplify and streamline equipment scheduling, equipment requests, work flow and management. Works with Outlook 2000-2007 and Exchange 5.5-2007.

Meeting Room Manager

Meeting Room Manager was designed to work seamlessly with Outlook, making scheduling of more complex meetings, like meeting across multiple locations or planning meetings with catering, much easier.

MeetingPlanner for Outlook

MeetingPlanner, the #1 Outlook integrated and web based scheduling solution. MeetingPlanner offers easy room, equipment, video, catering and other services scheduling in Outlook and the web. You can also track room use, send work orders, manage meeting types and costs easily with MeetingPlanner reporting services. We also offer many unique digital signage options to meet your room, lobby and other signage needs. -Supports Outlook 2003-2010 -Seamless integration and easy to use -Simplify the most complex recurring and multiple resource meetings -Integrate to your HVAC and Lighting for lower energy consumption Simplify scheduling, reduce costs and improve productivity with MeetingPlanner!

proNestor Booking

PRONESTOR BOOKING is a product suite that is used to control and book resources and services such as conference rooms and catering. All bookings are made directly via Outlooks meeting request and works as a natural extension of the meeting planning in Outlook - easy and simple to use for employees that already uses Outlook. Supports Outlook 2003/2007.

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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