The electronic time management revolution will not be televised

Here is a post from Hank Leukart about the Outlook 12 Calendar.


Over the past 15 years, paper-based communication has been replaced by electronic communication: quick chats have become instant messages, letters and memos have become e-mail, and reports have become electronic documents. While this change is something that most of us now take for granted, it happened in an exceptionally short amount of time.

The move to electronic time-management tools has happened much more slowly. People still used paper-based planners, Post-It Notes, and legal-pad to-do lists by the truckload. Nevertheless, we are sitting on the edge of a ground-breaking shift to electronic time-management; electronic calendars are proliferating across all consumer technologies, including the Internet, mobile phones, portable music players, and even wristwatches. In the near future, electronic time management will be as common as e-mail is today.

For Outlook 12, we wanted to give people the tools to become full participants in this electronic calendar revolution by providing a natural home for all of their time-based information. Outlook 12 also tries to help by automatically burning those Post-It Notes you have sitting around your desk. Just kidding. While the Outlook calendar has served its users well over the past decade, when we started working on Outlook 12, we knew that there was a lot of room for innovation:

  • We wanted people to be able to more easily interact with their calendar and scan their calendar for information.
  • We wanted to make it easier for people to view, manage, and share calendars.
  • We wanted it to be possible to manage both appointments and tasks in a single place.
  • We wanted scheduling meetings to be easier and more reliable.

Side-by-side comparison of Outlook 2003 and Outlook 2007

Interaction and Scanning: The Outlook calendar has undergone a major facelift in Outlook 12 -- without the help of any reality-TV makeover show -- but the improvements extend far beyond the aesthetic. Nearly every element of the calendar interface has been evaluated with an eye toward making the calendar easier to use, easier to interact with, and easier to scan for key information to help users better manage their time. In a later posting, I will go into detail about how we accomplished this.

In Outlook 12, it is easy to e-mail all or part of your Calendar, with varying levels of detail

Viewing and sharing: Outlook 12 fully supports the Internet calendar format ("iCal"), which allows Outlook users to import and subscribe to a wide-range of calendars available on the Internet, including sports calendars, community calendars, promotional calendars, and holiday calendars. Finally, I can import the schedule for the entire "Veronica Mars" and "Entourage" television seasons with a few simple clicks! Outlook 12 also gives users the ability to publish calendars on Microsoft Office Online for the public or a designated set of people. In addition, Outlook 12 can send calendars by e-mail in HTML and iCal format, it allows read and write capability for Microsoft Sharepoint calendars, and it improves its already full-featured sharing capabilities when used with Microsoft Exchange Server.

The Daily Task List in the Calendar

Daily Task List: Melissa has already discussed the To-Do Bar and Daily Task List at length in this blog, but the important take-away is that with a single-click, a person can flag an incoming e-mail or click and type to add a task below his Calendar in the Daily Task List. From there, it's easy to arrange and reschedule tasks by simply dragging them to different days or weeks. You'd never believe how much more my boss likes me now with my increased productivity due to better task management.

The Outlook 12 Scheduling Assistant Tab in Appointments

Scheduling Meetings: When used with Microsoft Exchange Server 12, Outlook offers a scheduling feature that suggests optimal meeting times to a meeting organizer, helping him find times where all attendees can attend. Exchange 12 also features a new "availability service" that provides always up-to-date availability information to meeting organizers. Outlook 12 provides improved meeting workflow, removing the need for meeting attendees to always accept meeting updates when they have already accepted the original invitation. Finally, improved time zone support in Outlook 12 makes it possible to schedule a meeting from the context of another time zone and also provides information about attendees' working hours; both of these features make it significantly easier to schedule meetings across time zones. Hopefully, this will mean more exciting, exotic travel for knowledge workers around the world.

-Hank Leukart, Outlook Program Manager