Q&A: How do I book a conference room in Entourage?

I got this one via email:

How do I schedule a meeting room in Entourage?

Assuming that my anonymous questioner meant "how do I schedule a meeting room in Entourage using Exchange?", the answer is pretty simple.

There are two components to this. One is something that needs to happen on the Exchange side, one is what you do in Entourage. On the Exchange side, your Exchange admin should turn on the Auto Accept Agent for your conference rooms. The Auto Accept Agent does exactly that: when it gets a request for a meeting, so long as it's not conflicting with something already on its calendar, then it accepts the meeting request. Technically, your Exchange admin doesn't have to do this; if they don't, then you'll need someone who manually manages the room to accept/reject meeting invites. I think that many organisations simply find it easier to let the Auto Accept Agent do its thing.

On the Entourage side, you just treat the conference room as another attendee: add it to the "Invite" line in your invitation along with everyone else. You'll see the conference room's free/busy information in the scheduling tab along with everyone else's, so you can see whether the room is available. When you send the invite out, if your Exchange server has the Auto Accept Agent enabled, you'll get a response back from the conference room pretty much immediately.

When I send out invites with conference rooms, I make sure that I put the room's location in the "location" field. That way, my other invitees don't need to look at the invite line to see where the meeting is being held. (And neither do I: I always forget which conference room I'm going to, and rely on my iPhone to get me there.)

Microsoft, as you can imagine, has hundreds of conference rooms across the company. But there are only a handful that I use on a regular basis. I've added that handful to my Entourage address book so that I don't have to remember the somewhat-arcane way they're listed in the Global Address List, and I give them a nickname that corresponds to what we call them. For example, the conference room that I use the most often is named "Conf Room SVC5/pacific" in the GAL, but it's just "Pacific" in my address book so that I don't have to type out all of that other stuff.