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Best way to programmatically create a custom outlook form

Posted on 2009-04-08
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Hello.

I have been tasked with creating a customized Outlook appointment form (Exchange 2003) and writing the contents of the form to a sql database which will be pulled by a SharePoint Calendar.  I have been searching online for ways to extend Outlook through Visual Studio.  As a C# programmer, is it possible to create a customized Outlook appointment form (add-in perhaps and winform)?  Can anyone recommend a tutorial to send me in the right direction?  What I am most concerned is how the form would be opened in Outlook.    Please advise.  Thanks in advance.  
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Question by:ayoZen
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David Lee earned 200 total points
ID: 24098458
Hello again, ayoZen.

As I mentioned in your question from yesterday it is not possible to create a custom Outlook form outside of Outlook.  The ONLY way to create a custom Outlook form is via the form designer that's built into Outlook.  Custom Outlook forms are constrained to being a modified version of an existing Outlook form.  A custom appointment form would have to be based on Outlook's built in appointment form.  You could write an add-in that uses a WinForm, but Outlook will never see this as an Outlook form and it will never behave like an Outlook form.  You can extend Outlook via Visual Studio by writing an add-in.  By extend I mean add behavior to Outlook that it does not already possess.

Based on the task you outlined above you can accomplish this by

1.  Creating a custom Outlook form using Outlook's form designer

2.  Writing code behind the form to add logic and functionality to the form.  That code MUST be written in VBScript.  if you take this approach, then you will only need to deploy the form.  The code behind the form is actually part of the form.

3.  As an alternative to #2 you can create an add-in that complements the form.  Add-ins can be written in C#.  If you select this approach, then you will have to deploy the form and the add-in to every computer that will ever use the form.
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by:ayoZen
ID: 24098571
I see.  Adding to every computer would be a pain.  Please bear with me.  Is it possible to deploy the form and add-in on the exchange server?   Thus, the form would be available to all users within the specified group.
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by:David Lee
ID: 24098613
The form, yes.  The add-in, no.  Forms are published to either a folder or a form library.  Add-ins are compiled and must be installed at every computer that's going to use them.  You can use an automated tool like Microsoft SMS, but you can't just drop them on the Exchange server.  
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by:ayoZen
ID: 24148253
What is Microsoft SMS?  How does this work?
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by:ayoZen
ID: 24148369
Oh...one more question,  as i looked at the alternatives you outlined, #2, you stated that I would only need to deploy the form:

<<2.  Writing code behind the form to add logic and functionality to the form.  That code MUST be written in VBScript.  if you take this approach, then you will only need to deploy the form.  The code behind the form is actually part of the form.>>

By deploying the form, does that mean that I could then place the form on the exchange server?  I need to be able to swap my custom form as a default main form and only for a particular AD group.  

thanks in advance for your patience.

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by:David Lee
ID: 24153413
Forms are normally deployed by publishing them to the organizational forms library.  That will make the form available to everyone, but it won't make it the default form.  That's done by making a change in the registry.  You can also publish a form to a particular folder and set it to be the default form for that folder.  
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by:ayoZen
ID: 24185898
thanks so much for your help!
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Author Closing Comment

by:ayoZen
ID: 31568078
Thank you!
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by:David Lee
ID: 24189004
You're welcome.  Glad I could help.
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