Microsoft Outlook uses Free/Busy data so colleagues can see when you are available for appointments. However, when there are several attendees, it can be hard to schedule the meeting around everyone's free time and to make it easier to find the free periods, Outlook, when used against Exchange 2003 and older, have "AutoPick". This feature finds the next available free period for the attendees. Outlook 2007 when used against Exchange 2007 improves AutoPick with the Suggest Times pane. The Suggested Times pane, shown at the right, lists the upcoming times attendees are available so you can review availability over from several dates at once, not just one at a time. clicking one of the time "buttons" brings that period into focus in the Scheduling Assistant.
Not everyone likes Suggested Times and would like to get AutoPick back in Outlook 2007. This is not possible, although there are two places where AutoPick still exists: on Plan a Meeting (Actions menu) and Accepted meeting requests (when you are an attendee).
While I find Suggested Times makes it easier to find the best time for meetings, it is a little "busy" and confusing at first.
How it works: Add attendees to the meeting request and review their Free/Busy data on the Scheduling tab. Click the Autopick Next button to move forward to the next suitable time period.
How it works: After adding the attendees to the meeting request, Outlook reads the attendees free/busy and populates Suggested times with the best times available on the selected date, listing the time and number of attendees who are available in that time period, sorted by the time periods with the most attendees available.
The suggested times are supplied by the Availability service in Exchange 2007, so you'll only see it if you connect to Exchange 2007 (or higher). If you use Exchange 2003 or earlier, the old "AutoPick Next" feature still works. Fortunately, Outlook is smart enough to know which feature your version of Exchange supports and displays it to users.
The scheduling assistant grid displays the selected date, showing everyone's availability. Click on any time under Suggested times and the picker moves, just like it does with Autopick.
If the selected date isn't going to work, pick another date in the thumbnail calendar. It's color coded to make it easier - white means best availability, darkest blue means there are few periods where all attendees are available. When you select a date in the thumbnail calendar the suggested times for that date fill the Suggested times pane and the scheduling grid jumps to that date, displaying the attendees free/busy. Just like Autopick.