Humboldt County Information Services Department


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Since 1998 Outlook has become more than an e-mail program.  We are now highly dependent on the program for scheduling appointments, maintaining contacts and, for some, tracking projects.  The loss of e-mail service has become a serious problem.  Especially since the advent of e-mail transmitted viruses, e-mail systems can be brought down for days.  Needless to say, loss of appointment calendars and recent e-mail transmissions can be a major inconvenience.

Synchronization is the process by which the "Mailbox" is duplicated onto the user's workstation.  Under normal circumstances, the information presented in Outlook is kept on a central server.  Synchronization routinely copies this information to a secured file on  your workstation.  If the main e-mail server becomes inaccessible, you can quickly revert to your synchronized copy.  You can then create new e-mail messages, add appointments and contacts.  When e-mail service is re-activated, the synchronization works in reverse, automatically updating the central server with the information you have entered into your synchronized copy.

This article will cover the following subjects:

Before Activating Synchronization

Synchronization will automatically duplicate your Inbox, Calendar, Deleted Items, Journal, Tasks, Notes and Sent Items.  There is no way to avoid these synchronizations.  What it will not synchronize automatically are any folders that you created.

What makes synchronization perform poorly is a congested Inbox.  Click on your Inbox and check how many items are listed in the lower left hand corner of the Outlook window.  If you are not in the habit of moving messages into special folders or deleting items routinely, you will find that the number of items in your Inbox can be quite high.  If it is more than 100, expect synchronization to be quite lengthy.

So before synchronizing you will need to reduce the number of messages in your Inbox to as low a number as possible, preferably 50 or less.  Synchronization works best by duplicating recent information, not historical information.

How to Activate Synchronization

Workstation Setup Requirement

How is synchronization activated?  First, select the "Tools" menu and then select the item "Services."

Click on the "Microsoft Exchange Server" and then select the "Properties" button.

The next window presented is the "General" properties.  Note at the bottom there is a checkbox labeled "Choose the connection type."  Make certain that this box is checked.  This will provide you the opportunity to select which mode of Outlook you require ("Connect" or "Work Offline").  This is discussed below.  While selecting this option will introduce an additional mouse-click to accessing Outlook, it will provide a much simpler mechanism for accessing your synchronized file in case the network goes down.

The next window, "Advanced" will present a button near the bottom labeled "Offline Folder File Settings."

Clicking on the "Offline Folder" button will present a dialogue box where you can specify the name of the synchronized file, it's location and encryption specifications.  The following is recommended:

  • Your workstation will have present a directory titled "C:\Mailboxes."  This directory has been created on purpose because it will make it easier for support staff to locate your synchronized mailbox.
  • Name the file after your e-mail ID.  This will avoid situations where different users may accidentally create duplicate files.
  • Utilize "Best Encryption".

Outlook OffLine File Folder Settings

Once all that information is inserted, click "OK" until you are out of the "Services" utility.  The next step will be to go to the "Options" module (located in the "Tools" menu).  This will present how on-line syncrhonization occurs.  To make it occur automatically, click on the "General" tab and make certain the box is checked "When online, synchronize all folders upon exiting."

Outlook Options General Tab

After that is done, click "OK" to save your changes.  The next time you exit Outlook a message will be presented announcing that synchronization is in progress.  The first time will take about a minute or two to complete.  After that, it will take only seconds.

How to Activate Synchronization for Outlook 98

Outlook 98 is a bit different.  Changing the settings in "Services" is exactly the same as with Outlook 97.  But clicking "Options" will present a entirely different format as depicted below:

Outlook 98 Options/Preferences

Clicking on "Mail Services" will present the window you need to specify synchronization functions.

Outlook 98 Options/Mail Services

There are only two items that you will need to check: "Enable Offline Access" and "When Online, sychronize all folders upon exiting."  If you are so inclined, you can also try using a timed synchronization, "When Online, automatically synchronize all offline folders."

How to Designate Which Folders to Synchronize

As was noted above, Outlook automatically synchronizes a certain set of folders such as the Inbox and Calendar.  Folders that you have created, however, must be directed to synchronize.   As a rule, duplicated mailboxes should pertain to current information.  Synchronizing folders that you have created will be quite rare.  But you may have instances where messages stored under a specific folder are frequently used for reference and would be sorely missed if the e-mail system was inoperative.  In those cases you will need to program Outlook to synchronize folders that you have created.

To synchronize a folder, click on the folder using the right mouse button.  This presents a menu from which you will need to select "Properties."

Clicking on that option will present another window in which "Synchronization" can be selected.  In this example, a folder is designated to be synchronized by selecting "When offline or online."  Also note the statistics in the window indicating how many records reside on-line and off-line.

Outlook Folder Synchronization Window

How to Work Off-Line

Testing was conducted to see how Outlook performed when the e-mail system was down.  The best results were provided when you were given the choice to choose to work offline.  Under normal situations you would select "Connect" and you would automatically be connected to the Exchange server.  But what would happen when the e-mail system went down?  Selecting "Work Offline" immediately presented your synchronized mailbox.

Tests were conducted where Outlook would automatically distinguish whether you were online or not, bypsassing the window presented here.  The results were not that positive.  First, a series of confusing messages were presented.  Second, answering any of these questions wrongly would result in no connection to your synchronized mailbox.  By reverting to a manual selection these two problems were avoided.


How to duplicate calendars of other mailboxes

Many users manage room calendars and the mailboxes of other administrators.  Unfortunately, there is no magic wand that will automatically synchronize these calendars.  The best way to solve this riddle is to "Export" the calendars.  This will copy the calendar contents into a designated file on your computer.  You are encouraged to restrict exportation to only calendars because the files created through this process are not very secure.

The menu below is presented when you click on "File."  Note that there is an "Import and Export..." option.

Clicking on "Import and Export" will present a window where you can specify the type of file that will be created through the export process.  Select "Export to a personal folder file."

Next, specify the folder you wish to export.  In this example, the "Calendar" for MA-202B is selected.

Next, specify the location of the exported file.  In this example, the file will be located in the "C:\Mailboxes" subdirectory and the "MA202B.PST" filename is given.

Clicking "Finish" will present a window displaying the progress.


How to import duplicate calendars

Let's assume that the e-mail system went down for three days.  You decided to enter appointments into the exported file located in "C:\Mailboxes\MA202B."  How do you get that information back into the main e-mail system when it returns?  This file will not automatically synchronize.  It will need to be imported.  Importation is very similar to the steps taken when exporting data.  First, you select the option to "Import form a personal folder file."

Next, you specify where the file is located.  In this example, the file being imported is the MA-202B room calendar.  Note, however, that you have an opportunity to specify how duplicate entries are handled.  Under most circumstances, select "Do no import duplicates."  This will avoid the duplication of appointments.

Finally, you will be presented with the list of items stored into the exported file.  Make certain you have selected "Import items into the same folder in".  In this example, we will be importing the Calendar folder into the mailbox for the MA-202B conference room.

Because importation will occur rarely, you may wish to note which appointments you have added, changed or removed.  Go into the destination mailbox and double-check those entries to make sure that they were accurately inserted.  Also double-check for duplicate entries.  Tests have been conducted with positive results, but because this procedure is rarely conducted it will be wise to carefully review the information.