Integrating SharePoint Meeting Workspaces with Outlook 2003

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–>If you use Outlook 2003, there are some pretty cool things that you can do with Meeting Workspaces in SharePoint Portal Server 2003.  Well, one cool thing – the ability to create them from within Outlook.  Power Outlook users will probably prefer this method over using the web wizard for creating Meeting Workspaces in SPS.

To get started, the first thing you have to do is create a new Meeting Request item (not a new Appointment).  You’ll notice the Meeting Workspace button on the bottom – fill out your meeting info first, then click it.  Now the Task Pane will come alive on the right.  In the ‘Select a location’ area, choose any existing Windows SharePoint Services sites from the list, or select ‘Other’ and manually enter the URL.  The Meeting Workspace will now be created underneath this site, populated with the details you filled out in the Meeting Request form – including the list of attendees that you have chosen.  You (and the recipients) can view this Meeting Workspace by clicking on the link in the text that has been inserted into the body of the message.  After you click ‘Send’ to dispatch the invitation to your attendees via e-mail, they will still get the standard form that allows them to accept (and add to their calendar) or decline the message – and their responses will be updated in the Attendees list on the Meeting Workspace site!

Note that you also have the option in the Task Pane steps above to link to an existing Meeting Workspace that you may have created already in SPS.  The users will again get the invitation via e-mail, and the Meeting Workspace that you point to will update its list of attendees accordingly.

Although it is far more satisfying to create these Meeting Workspaces through Outlook, there is one piece of functionality you lose.  When you create a listing in an Events list through SPS and choose to also create an accompanying Meeting Workspace, this also keeps an entry in the Events list which points to that Meeting Workspace – a special kind of list entry, with its own icon.  Outlook doesn’t do this, but there is a workaround if you want an entry in the Events list of the parent site of the Meeting Workspace you created to point to it.  What you have to do is add the entry into the Events list as usual (replicating the info from your original Outlook Meeting Request) and choose to create a Meeting Workspace as well.  However, after you choose to save it, the following page has an option in the ‘Create or Link’ section that allows you to bypass creating a new one and instead link to any existing Meeting Workspaces, which are handily displayed in a drop-down list!

Before we go, did you know that you can also view Events lists in Outlook 2003?  There’s a ‘Link to Outlook’ button on every Events list toolbar that adds the list as an entry in the ‘smart area that is only displayed when you use the Navigation Pane buttons to view folders (for the Calendar view, the top area shows the next three months, then a My Calendars section for calendar folders local to your profile, and the Other Calendars area for essentially just Windows SharePoint Services folders.  These WSS calendars are read-only from within Outlook though.

Eric Legault

Microsoft Outlook MVP (15 yrs). Author: Microsoft Office 2013 Pro Step By Step. Consultant/speaker/Outlook add-in builder/SharePoint pioneer. Guitarist: Maiden Canada (Iron Maiden tribute band)

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