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.

Read more of this post

How to add national holidays in Outlook 2010

You can easily add national holidays to your calendar in Outlook to make sure that you don’t forget those extra days when you don’t need to go to work.

Before you do though, it is worth noting that Microsoft have published a whole bunch of wrong holiday dates in Outlook 2010 for at least 23 countries, including many future UK Bank Holidays. You should probably read my other post about the errors and download one or more of the files with corrections for them before you go ahead and add anything.

This article is intended to help you add national holidays, remove holidays with an incorrect date, and use Outlook categories to make these stand out on your calendar. Although I wrote this to accompany my post about incorrect dates in 2010 to show you how to actually add or remove these from your calendar, what follows applies pretty much the same to Outlook 2007 and older as well, although to be fair I have not attempted to test this in any step-by-step fashion for Outlook 2003, 2000, 97 or older as I no longer have these antiquated, steam-driven versions installed for me to access.

Adding Holidays to your Outlook 2010 Calendar

The normal way to add these holidays from the outlook.txt or outlook.hol file already installed on your machine is through Outlook’s own options as follows:

In Outlook 2010 go to File > Options then click the Calendar tab on the left, then click then “Add Holidays” button and carry on as described below.

If you are still using an older version, then for Outlook versions up to 2007, go to Tools > Options, then on the Preferences tab click on the “Calendar Options” button, then click on the “Add Holidays” button in the middle of the dialogue box which appears.
Read on to find out more about adding and removing holidays from your Outlook calendar»