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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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»

Outlook CRM client synchronisation explained

Outlook synchronisation white paper

Another recent find was this page with a link to a pdf file “nuts and bolts” white paper about Outlook synchronisation. This covers the basic concepts effectively, but also drills down into some of the details about how and when exactly the synch process takes place (some things are effectively immediate, others are queued up) This helps answer those peculiar edge-case questions which come up from time to time about what happens if you create a record here, update it there, share it to someone else then delete the original, or mark it as complete, or some other strange scenario. For example:

An E-mail that is deleted in Outlook will not be deleted in CRM at the next Outlook Sync
An E-mail that is untracked in Outlook will be deleted in CRM at the next Outlook Sync if the user designates

So you can track an email into CRM then delete the copy to keep your mail file size down, and the deletion does not “propagate” to CRM. It is this sort of behaviour which makes perfect sense when you think about the implications, but calling the process “synchronisation” seems to confuse many users as they expect that to mean “keep both copies entirely identical”.

Similarly this table explains what happens when you (or someone else deletes something in CRM which is linked to an item in Outlook:

Entity  Behaviour after deletion in CRM
Contacts A Contact that is deleted in CRM will be deleted in Outlook at the next Outlook synchronization if the Outlook user is not the CRM Owner of the Contact. If the user is the owner in CRM, then the Outlook contact will be unlinked after synchronization.
Appointments An Appointment that is deleted in CRM will be deleted in Outlook at the next Outlook Sync if the Appointment Start Time is in the future.
Tasks A Task that is deleted in CRM will be deleted in Outlook at the next Outlook Sync if the Task has not been completed.
E-mails An E-mail that is deleted in CRM will not be deleted in Outlook.

The distinction between synchronised Contacts I own or do not, Appointments in the future or the past, Tasks which are open or completed, all these details matter in real-word implementations. This document is definitely worth a read, then keep a copy handy for when you need the definitive answer for an awkward situation.

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:

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