Outlook does not show new CRM 2011 Custom Entity icons

This is a further follow up post to my recent article on How to add icons to custom entities in CRM 2011.

I have occasionally found that updated custom entity icons did not appear in the Outlook client as expected. This may or may not have been fixed in more recent rollups; I have not noticed it for a while but then I have not customised many of my own live CRM instance icons for a while either (I don’t tend to connect my Outlook client to customer’s systems when working on them and that’s where I am more likely to create new entities).

The cause and the fix are relatively simple – for obvious performance reasons, the icons are cached locally so you just need to clear them out.
Read on to find out how to clear the icon cache »

Copy2Contact gets contact information into Outlook and CRM

I discovered a really handy utility a while ago called Copy2Contact but have only just got around to writing this article about how I use it to take unformatted information and create CRM Contact data from it. Copy2Contact sits in the system tray and allows you to select a chunk of text in pretty much any application, hit a shortcut key and it will create a new Outlook contact using that information (I use Ctrl+C, C, so this is just a “double tap” on a normal Ctrl+C for copy). Typically this might be text in an e-mail but it does not have to be – it could be from a web page, Word document, pdf file or anywhere else really.

Better still, it uses some pretty clever algorithms to figure out which bit of the text is the name, job title, company, address, telephone, mobile, email and so on. Any data it can’t interpret it adds to the notes section so you can a) see what it was and b) copy and paste it somewhere else if needed.

It’s not perfect, and sometimes gets bits of the information in the wrong places but it is a heck of a lot quicker than creating a new contact by hand then copy and pasting information across by hand, which is usually very painful. While the new contact is still open you can use the program’s “Utils” menu to swap some things round which may be commonly mistaken, such as name<>company or job title<>company, which is easier than copy / pasting these via notes to get them in the right places.

A very common use for this is with someone’s email signature as the source text. Select, hit your shortcut and you have a new contact record pretty much ready and waiting to be saved.

Copy2Contact is not free, but I have easily earned back the $40 cost of the personal edition through the time I have saved by using this. There is a Pro version as well which has additional features to help do things like consistent (US style) formatting of phone numbers, capitalizing city names and so on which I don’t really feel the need for.

To be absolutely clear: I have no affiliation with Copy2Contact and have my own paid-for copy of their software, I have not received any freebies or review copy or anything else in order to write this article.

You can try the software for free for 14 days from the trial download page to see if it suits you. There are versions for Outlook, salesforce.com, Google apps and more PC-based tools, as well as Blackberry  and iPhone/iPod/iPad.

Read on to find to more about using Copy2Contact for capturing data for CRM»

Outlook uses natural language to interpret dates

In case you did not already know, Outlook has some pretty clever parsing built in to date fields on Tasks and Appointments which can interpret and understand all sorts of combinations of “natural language” snippets to figure out what date you really mean. This is pretty powerful, and certainly saves reaching for the calendar widget to set up a meeting for the last Thursday of next month, or the first Monday after Christmas.

Sorry to say, Outlook does not know when your birthday is (“You look like you are opening a present! Do you want help with that?”), nor can it deal with Easter moving around every year, but otherwise it’s pretty smart.
See some examples of the sorts of text strings that Outlook will happily interpret»

Outlook 2010 has incorrect holidays for UK and many other countries

Quick background information to bring you up to speed: You can add national holidays for your country to your Outlook calendar so they remind you not to go to work that day. Unfortunately Microsoft sometimes get the details wrong for one or two places, but in the case of Outlook 2010 at least 23 countries have incorrect dates for some of their holidays.

In this article I will describe some of the errors, list corrected dates and provide links to files I have prepared with the fixes already in to save you some typing. I have also posted a separate article about adding and removing holidays from your Outlook calendar, rather than making this one even longer with a great big discussion about the mechanics of doing this.

Background

When you add holidays to Outlook, they are read in from a specially formatted text file, formerly outlook.txt, now (since 2002?) renamed to outlook.hol but essentially the same thing. This contains sections for various countries and a couple of religions, so that you can easily choose the ones you are interested in. This approach has a couple of limitations but some upsides too:

  • each holiday is specified as a single date, so even things which have on obvious recurrence pattern must be included several times for different years, which means only a limited number are included in the interests of file size
  • it is hugely subject to human error, as we will see
  • when there are errors, at least you can easily fix them by editing the file or replacing it with one someone else has done (like me)
  • you can add extra sections for “countries” you want to include, such as for a special interest group, or additional company holidays (such as winter shutdown periods)

Outlook 2010 errors

The version of the outlook.hol file which shipped with Outlook 2010 final version (RTM) has some serious flaws in it, affecting at least 23 countries as far as I can see (basically most of Europe as well as Australia and New Zealand), and likely many others I have not been able to identify. As I mentioned above, because of the way this file is used, this is relatively easy to fix as it is not an actual bug in the program, but is still very annoying, especially for anybody that has already imported the incorrect holidays.

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