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Are there public categories in outlook?

Posted on 2008-10-27
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Last Modified: 2010-10-26
I have a public calendar set up on an outsourced exchange server (Exchange 2003), that all employees can see. Unfortunately I can't seem to color-code (categorize) meetings such that any employee that looks at the the calendar (with Outlook 2003) will see the colors.

Is there a way to categorize/color-code the meeting entries in the public calendar so that anyone looking at the calendar will see the colors?

John  88{Q
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Question by:tcengineer
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Expert Comment

by:David Lee
ID: 22820389
Hi, John.

Outlook 2003 and 2007 handle categories in different ways.  There's no way to share the colors between them.
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Author Comment

by:tcengineer
ID: 22821433
Then how would it be accomplished if everyone wasusing Outlook 2003 or everyone was using Outlook 2007?
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David Lee earned 250 total points
ID: 22822302
Sorry, I should have clarified my original comment.  It can't be done at all.  In Outlook 2003 and earlier versions of Outlook categories were stored in the registry and there was a master category list, a list of categories shared throughout the organization.  New categories could be added to the list and everyone would see them when assigning a category to an item.  They could not be enforced though.  But, those versions of Outlook did not associate a color with a category.  Instead, they had colored flags, but the flags were separate from the categories.  Outlook 2007 changed both categories and flags.  First, it moved categories out of the registry and into a hidden folder in each user's mailbox.  Second, it eliminated the master category list.  Third, Outlook 2007 traded the colored flags for colors associated with a category.  You could emulate a master category list capability with a bit of scripting, but there's still no way of enforcing categories.  

The bottom line is that categories are strictly personal.  Microsoft apparently didn't believe there'd be a desire to share and enforce categories.  Even if your organization was all on 2007 and you employed scripting to share a list of categories and colors it would be unenforceable.  If an employee did not like the color assigned to a category, then they could change it at any time.
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Author Comment

by:tcengineer
ID: 22823296
Thanks for the thorough answer. I'm not too concerned about enforcing the colors. I doubt my users would care. I assume that the scripting option you talk about would be a group policy or one that required everyone to log into a particular Windows domain in order for that to work?

I am mostly a Unix guy but am "supporting" the Windows environment so deep intimate knowledge is lacking (read: nonexistent).
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Expert Comment

by:David Lee
ID: 22823421
Keep in mind that the colors are only possible in Outlook 2007.  The scripting option would be a bit of VBScript that each person would have to run to create the categories and associated colors.  It can't be done with group policy and Outlook has to be open for it to work.  
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Author Closing Comment

by:tcengineer
ID: 31510559
Sounds like more trouble than it's worth.

Thanks for the insight BDF!
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Expert Comment

by:David Lee
ID: 22823482
You're welcome.  Sorry there wasn't a good answer.  Let me know if you change your mind.  I can provide the script if you do.
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Author Comment

by:tcengineer
ID: 22823533
On the contrary, I thought it was a thorough and articulate description of the mechanism. I am just not familiar enough VB or the distribution mechanism for such a script that I felt it outside my expertise or timeframe.

If the script is available and could easily be "installed" on enduser machines, it would be worth the effort.

John  88{Q
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Expert Comment

by:David Lee
ID: 22857333
John,

Here's a the script for doing this.  The list of color values is available here: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb208064.aspx
To use this

1.  Open Notepad
2.  Copy the code and pate it into Notepad
3.  Edit the script per the comments I included in it
4.  Save the file with a .vbs extension
5.  Place the script in a shared location that everyone needing to use it has access to
6.  Send those staff who need to use it a link to the script in an Outlook message
7.  Staff receive the message and click the link
8.  The script runs and adds the categories and colors to Outlook

This will only work in Outlook 2007.  Outlook 2003 does not implement categories in the same way 2007 does and has no concept of category/color pairs.

'Edit the list of category names on the next line.  This is a simple comma separated list (no space after the commas).'

Const CATNAMES = "Cat1,Cat2,Cat3,Catx"

'Edit the list of category colors on the next line.  The number of colors has to match the number of names.'

Const CATCOLORS = "20,8,6,4"

Dim olkApp, olkCats, olkCat, arrCats, varCat, arrColors, varColor, intIndex

Set olkApp = GetObject(,"Outlook.Application")

Set olkCats = olkApp.Session.Categories

arrCats = Split(CATNAMES, ",")

arrColors = Split(CATCOLORS, ",")

For intIndex = LBound(arrCats) To UBound(arrCats)

    varCat = arrCats(intIndex)

    varColor = arrColors(intIndex)

    Set olkCat = olkCats.Add(varCat, varColor)

Next

Set olkCat = Nothing

Set olkCats = Nothing

Set olkApp = Nothing

WScript.Quit

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