Using Field Chooser to find out when an Outlook appointment was created

Ewan Dalton posted a tip for finding when an appointment was created on his blog “The Electric Wand”. This involves dipping into the developer tools to have a look at the actual fields that Outlook / Exchange uses to store the data about the calendar entry, as opposed to the standard stuff that gets displayed through the default form view.

However, he posted a comment a day or so later with a much faster method which is probably less scary to the average user (no mention of words like “developer ribbon”, “forms” and so on). Simply using the field chooser in the search results window means that you can see the created date (and any other additional information you want) at a glance. I thought it would be useful to expand this and give a quick tutorial, since being familiar with the Field Chooser in Outlook is useful in lots of other ways such as:

  • You might want to see the size of emails so you can sort the large ones to the top to delete first, reducing the size of your email file the most amount with the least effort
  • Maybe you have filed sent and received items together which relate to a particular topic or project, and you want to show both the To and From fields in this folder view
  • It is easy to accidentally drag and drop a column heading away which removes it completely, so you need to know how to get it back

So, let’s have some show and tell:

Go to your Outlook calendar and in the search box at the top right, type in some part of the appointment you want to know about (the start of the subject is ideal). Here I have searched for my SysAdmin Day reminder entry in Outlook 2007 (click for larger image):

OutlookCalendarSearch

Next, right click any of those field (column) headings and choose “Field Chooser”, then choose “All Appointment fields” rather than “Frequently used”:

OutlookFieldChooserFrequent OutlookFieldChooserAppointment

(Note: the Created Date that the original tip related to might available in the Frequently-used list, but I also want to look at a couple of other interesting items while we are here)

Now simply drag and drop any fields you would like to see as headings – let go of them in between existing fields where you want them to appear. I’ve chosen to show when an appointment was created and how long before the start I will get reminded that it is coming up.

OutlookCalendarWithNewFields

You can move fields by dragging them around the headings area; to get rid of one, drag it far enough away until you see a big black X through it and let go (this is how people sometimes “lose” fields because they don’t even know you can do this and accidentally drag with the mouse when they intended to just click to sort the view). Any field you add can also be used to sort on by clicking on the column heading to sort forwards, backwards, or off again, so this is how you can easily sort emails by size, or appointments by duration, for example.

Now, notice that you can directly edit some of these fields, you just have to be sure to get syntax correct. For example, the “Remind Beforehand” field is in minutes, and you can’t put any units in here. So 4,320 minutes shown here is simply three days, but you can’t type “3 days” as it expects to get just a number. If I want a reminder 4 weeks beforehand instead, I can just add a zero to change this to 40,320 (with or without the comma, it puts it in if omitted). Now if I edit this calendar entry I see this in the Ribbon:

Outlook4WeeksReminder

So Outlook has very helpfully translated it back into sensible units to display. Notice that the longest reminder you can normally choose in the dropdown of the GUI is 2 weeks. Aalthough you can overtype any valid time period, this is a neat way to quickly  change lots of appointments to get longer warnings about things in plenty of time to book hotels or flights for a conference, or simply to post your nephew’s birthday present to the other side of the world to arrive before the big day. If you choose a number which does not easily compute to a whole number of days or weeks, it simply displays as minutes, as seen below:

OutlookNot4WeeksReminder

Of course it might be tempting to try and fool someone by going in a changing the creation date. You can click in that field so it looks promising – but it won’t let you change it, for good and obvious reasons.

One thing to remember is that this changed view with additional headers is specific to calendar items in this folder, with this “list” style view turned on (more precisely, views which use the same form). Although we started by using the search function to get such a display, that was because I wanted to find the creation date for a particular calendar entry, following Ewan’s original example. However, if you simply go to View > Current View > All Appointments, you will see the same fields preserved there (you can click the X next to the search box to clear it and see everything if you still have it on). This is simply because it is the view (or form) the search results uses, other lists such as Recurring or Active Appointments use their own.

A quick recap:

  • you can easily add fields from the field chooser for any view in Outlook and they will appear next time you use that view in the same folder, and in some cases in other folders which share the same forms for their display
  • you can easily accidentally delete a field from Outlook by dragging a column heading away when you meant to just click on it – now you know how to get them back!
  • you can edit some fields in this way to get results which are not normally available through the Ribbon or elsewhere in the graphical user interface (GUI)

About ukcrmguru
I'm a self-confessed geek, IT consultant and trainer. By day I'm the owner of Meteor IT Ltd, a Microsoft Dynamics CRM consultant, Microsoft Certified Trainer and MS Office Master Instructor.

6 Responses to Using Field Chooser to find out when an Outlook appointment was created

  1. Muz says:

    This is a great article. Is there a way to search calendar items in OWA 2007?

    Thankx

  2. Max says:

    Thank you for this, it is a real life saver!
    I had a calendar entry, and couldn’t remember when I created it. I now see it was a ‘rogue’ and could ignore it.

  3. bg316 says:

    Thank you very much – extremely useful post!

  4. Clive Austin says:

    A great tip. Very useful way of proving when appointments have been “dumped” in your calendar

  5. Kathy says:

    Just perfect!

  6. John says:

    Thanks! This is exactly the information I was looking for.

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