We're seeing complaints from users (myself included) over the handling of reminders in Outlook 2010. The reminder dialog does not come up "in your face" unless you are working in Outlook. When a reminder is triggered and you're using most other applications, the reminder window does not come up on top of the dialog; it flashes on the task bar. If you keep your sound turned up, the ding might be enough to get your attention, but if you work in a noisy environment or keep your sound turned down, its very easy to miss the flash on the taskbar. Add a second monitor to the mix and the taskbar is even easier to miss.
It is Microsoft's intention that Outlook reminders do not interrupt an application which has focus. The main reason is to avoid interrupting users tasks such as typing or presenting. If Outlook does not have focus reminders flash five times in the taskbar, makes a sound, and illuminates the taskbar icon.
While its nice that the reminder dialog doesn't take focus away from my typing, it would be nice if it came up on top of the open windows instead of just flashing on the taskbar.
If you're missing appointments because of this, your options are limited. There are several utilities you can use that may help. Some, including Email Reminders will send email messages (which you might see in the desktop alert) or text messages to your phone and one, Reminder Manager, replaces the reminder dialog with a window that stays on top. Another option is DeskPins, which can pin the Reminders window on top.
My ideal reminder would be the desktop alert used in Windows 8 and 10. It's a nice-sized desktop alert that gets my attention but doesn't distract me from my work.
Gary made this suggestion:
Microsoft allows an envelope indicator in the System Tray when new email comes in. Why can't there be an indicator for a meeting that's about to occur? Then they can leave the combining the way it works now
While I'm not sure a meeting reminder in the tray will help that much (I have too many tray icons as it is), Outlook definitely needs a better reminder system. One option for Exchange server or Outlook.com users is to set the account up in Windows Mail app, turning off sync for mail and contacts. Calendar reminders will use the Windows reminder system. You can dock the calendar on the side of the screen and use it if you don't want to keep Outlook open.
In response to my complaints, one Outlook developer wrote Reminder Alerts. This is a nifty little reminder tool that pops up a reminder much like the new mail windows.
Poll: Do you notice Outlook's Reminders?
What do you think? Are reminders easier to miss in Outlook 2010? Or did reminders lose their usefulness when Outlook went to one reminder dialog? Share your opinion with use by voting in our poll: Do you have problems 'invisible' reminders in Outlook?
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Tools in the Spotlight
Forwards reminders to your mobile phone, pager or PDA.
Forces Outlook reminder window to come up on top of all other windows when a reminder fires. OROT sits in your Windows notification area as a golden bell icon. Whenever it sees Outlook's Reminder window, it automatically brings it to the top so you will see it! Then once it's on top, OROT can also play a sound or flash the Reminder window every couple minutes until you snooze or dismiss it.
Reminder Manager provides reminders from any email, calendar, tasks or contacts folder in any open mail store. This allows you to set reminders on items in any folder in your mailbox or PST file, secondary PST files or public folders. Reminders can be emailed to any pager or email enabled communications device.
ShowReminders brings the native Outlook reminder window to the forefront without taking focus away from your currently active application. Reminders are no longer hidden in the background.
Current versions of Outlook do not display pop-up meeting reminders in the same way as previous versions did - they no longer display on top of other windows. SureAlerts addresses this problem and displays your reminders in a small window in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen, very similar to the way Outlook displays new incoming e-mails. Alerts now display the length of time until your event or is overdue. This matches the information that Outlook displays in its reminders. If the event is in the past, the text is red. Mark a Task or Email Follow-Up item as completed via its alert.
For more reminder tools, see Calendar Reminder Tools