Mobile Appointment Reminders


 

I wrote this post in response to an idea Fred Cleveland posted to my Suggestions page. Fred explained that he’s not always at his desk when an Outlook appointment reminder pops up, and mused that it would be nice if Outlook could send a reminder to his cell phone about 5 minutes before the start of the appointment. At first glance, that might seem like an odd request given how prevalent smartphones are that sync with our Outlook calendar and remind us of impending appointments no matter where we are. Still, not everyone has a smart phone, and some of those who do may work for a company that does not allow syncing with the corporate email system. Those who don’t have a smart phone probably do have a cell phone that can at least receive text messages. What Fred needs is a solution that can send him an email, if he has a smart phone, or a text message, if he only has a cell phone.
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Mobile Email Notifications


 

Today, most of us have smartphones that can send/receive email from anywhere. But what if you don’t have a smartphone? Or perhaps you do have a smartphone, but your company has a policy that prohibits accessing the corporate email system from it. Let’s say that you have a cell phone, not a smartphone, or you have a personally owned smartphone, and that you will be away from your desk for a while. While you’re out, you’d like to know if a particular message has arrived. That’s the situation one commenter found himself in and approached me about.

Outlook does have a built-in solution for this scenario, which is to use a rule that sends a message based on a condition. The rule watches for messages that meet a certain condition. When one arrives, it would create an email and send it to the email account on your smartphone, if that’s what you have, or as a text message to a regular cell phone. The problem with this solution is that you have to use a message template and templates don’t allow you to pass on any of the message’s details. Assume that you want a notification for any message coming from a person on your project team. A message from one of them comes in and the rule sends the notification. Because the notification is a template, you don’t have any clue who sent the message that triggered the rule, or what the subject is. All you know is that you got a message from someone on your project team. That’s not very useful.
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Checking for a Specific Message at a Set Interval


I put this post together for a Twitter user going by the name DerroldJess (DJ for short). DJ tweeted me asking if I could create a script that would check a mailbox every 15 minutes for a message with a specific subject, and display an alert if it did not find one. You can view the entire conversation here. The good news is that this is possible, although not from within Outlook. In order to make a check every 15 minutes, the solution needs a timer to trigger it. The only timer-like capability in Outlook is a reminder on a task or appointment, and for this that’s impractical. If the script only needed to run once a day, then I’d have gone that route and written this as an Outlook macro. Instead, I opted to write this using VBScript. VBScript runs outside of Outlook, so DJ can use Windows’ built-in task scheduler to run the task every 15 minutes.
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