For many of us, Outlook is used for emailing, and that can keep us busy for much of the time catching up on activities, responding to messages and keeping track of what people are up to. However Outlook Calendars can be just as powerful, and for many email users, it's a natural progression to use calendars. This article summaries how to use Calendars in Outlook with some useful examples. We'll begin by looking at Calendar views.

The Calendar Views

Outlook Calendars contain appointments just like a paper calendar or diary. So if you choose the Calendar option in the left hand of the Outlook screen, you'll see the calendar on the right. You can choose different views to display from a day, working week (Monday to Friday), a complete week (Monday to Sunday) or a month. You can also choose different dates for the calendar to display by clicking on any date in the miniature calendar at the top left of the Calendar display. If you do select a particular date, you can always return to today's date by choosing the Today option. Next we'll consider what a calendar can contain, starting with appointments.

Calendar Appointments

Suppose you are displaying today on your calendar as a single day. If you double click on any of the half hour timeslots an appointment panel opens letting you add appropriate details, including a subject, location, start and end time, whether you want a reminder or not, and in the lower part of the panel you can add details of the appointment. If you save and close the panel, you'll see the appointment displayed on the calendar at the chosen start and finish times, and you'll see the appointment subject displayed. If you chose to have a reminder you'll also see a reminder icon.

If you want to edit an appointment, just double click it, and the same panel reopens. You can then make any changes you like, such as changing the subject or altering the start or end times, and then again save and close. Alternatively you can change start or end times by hovering over the upper or lower horizontal appointment line and drag to change. You can also move the appointment by hovering over the left hand vertical line of the appointment and dragging it to a new position. Once you've got the hang of appointments you might like to try your hand at creating a meeting.

Calendar Meetings

A meeting in Outlook is an appointment to which others are invited by email. So you can either convert an appointment you've already created to a meeting by opening the appointment panel and choosing the option Invite Attendees. This action changes the appointment panel to a meeting invitation panel with added email boxes To and Subject, and a Send button. Alternatively with the Calendar view still selected, you can choose the option to create a meeting. The same meeting panel opens with the same features. You can choose who to invite by clicking the To button, or you can type in one or more email addresses separated by semi columns in the box next to the To button.

If your computer is connected to an Exchange Server, you can also choose the Schedule option. This option checks the Outlook calendars of all the invited delegates and shows each person's availability by displaying coloured bars on a horizontal time line which represent when people are busy. Provided the invitees do keep their calendar appointments up to date this can be a really effective way to find a time slot when all are available, and to check an individual's availability. However if your computer is not connected to an Exchange Server then you cannot check schedules this way.

Once you choose a meeting start and end time, you can then choose the Send option to send all invitees an invitation by email. When an attendee receives their invitation, their email shows response buttons such as Accept, Tentative and Decline. The button names differ in different Outlook versions but they have these same meanings. If the attendee chooses Accept or Tentative, then the meeting is added to their own calendar automatically. If they decline, the meeting will not appear on their calendar.

The Meeting Organiser

If you've organised the meeting, Outlook receives all the reply emails, updates the meeting details with the responses and then removes the received emails, all automatically. To see attendee responses, you open the meeting panel and choose the Tracking option. The tracking panel lists all the invitees and responses. So if necessary you could chase up all those who have not yet responded. So meetings are appointments with attendees invited, and the key point to note is that when attendees respond by accepting or tentatively accepting, the meeting is automatically added to their own calendar.

Interested in learning more about Outlook calendars? A really effective way is to attend a training course and really build your skills in a hands on friendly environment.