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.
For more reminder tools, see Calendar Reminder Tools