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Outlook: Keep Appointments You're Not Attending on Your Calendar

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If you're using Microsoft Outlook, you might have had this issue as well: you get an invitation to an appointment more or less "FYI" which you don't want to join. However, you want to have it on your calendar because you need to know, what your colleagues are doing or similar.

The problem you've got is that you can't accept the appointment since you're not planning to go there. Accepting means that others assume to meet you there.

You also can't decline the appointment because this would remove it from your calendar.

Accepting tentative is the solution which most people use in this case. Unfortunately, others might still think that you'll join them. Further more, if someone wants to schedule another meeting with you, he/she does not find the free slot in the meeting assistant.

So what to do about it then?

Workaround: Manually Archive and Mark As Free

Some people do just move the invitation to their archive folder without declining, accepting, or accepting tentatively.

This way, others don't see that you are available for this time slot.

To overcome this drawback, people are manually marking those appointments as "free": selecting the appointment, activating its context menu, and choosing Show As > Free.

For each appointment, you have to do two manual steps:

  1. (optionally) moving the appointment from your inbox to your archive folder
  2. switch to calendar view and mark each appointment as "free"

DIY-Solution: Mark as Free and Move to Archive via Macro

As a lazy person, I tend to automate things I do multiple times. Therefore, asked for help since I don't know VBA. The resulting solution is a VBA macro which I invoke via Quick Access Toolbar.

Outlook 2013

Setting Up

First, you have to press Alt-F11 in Outlook to open the VBA window.

Then you paste the following lines into the window titled "VbaProject.OTM Module1":

Sub SetMeetingFree()
    Dim Item As Object 'MeetingItem
    Dim apt As AppointmentItem

    ' delete the next two lines if you don't want to move the email(s):
    Dim archivefolder As Folder
    Set archivefolder = Session.GetDefaultFolder(olFolderInbox).Parent.Folders.Item("Done").Folders.Item("2016")

    For Each Item In Application.ActiveExplorer.Selection
        If Item.Class = olMeetingRequest Then
            Set apt = Item.GetAssociatedAppointment(True)
            apt.BusyStatus = olFree
            apt.ReminderSet = False
            apt.Save
            ' delete the next line if you don't want to move the email(s):
            Item.Move archivefolder
        ElseIf Item.Class = olAppointment Then
            Set apt = Item
            apt.BusyStatus = olFree
            apt.ReminderSet = False
            apt.Save
        End If
    Next
End Sub	  

Please adapt the "Set archivefolder" line to meet your situation (path). Mine is \\...\Done\2016.

Notice the apt.ReminderSet = False line which removes any reminder notification from the appointment.

With Ctrl-S you are going to save the macro.

The Quick Access Toolbar is located on the upper left corner of Outlook 2013:

To add a new icon to the Quick Access Toolbar, go to the context menu of, e.g., the existing "undo" icon (of the Quick Access Toolbar) and select "Customize Quick Access Toolbar...".

In the dialog window which pops up, switch the "Choose commands from:"-dropdown to "Macros" and select your "Procejt1.SetMeetingFree" macro.

With the "Add > >"-Button you can add it to the list of icons of the right hand side. When you select it on the right hand side and choose "Modify..." you can change the display name and its icon to an appealing one.

Acknowledge with "OK" and now you should see your icon in the Quick Access Toolbar.

Unfortunately, I could not find a way to map the macro to a keyboard shortcut. If you know how to do this, please drop me a line (below).

Using

With the new icon in the Quick Access Toolbar, you have two new features.

Firstly, you can select one or more (yet unanswered) invitation emails in your inbox and click the button. This marks all corresponding appointments as "free" and moves the emails to your archive folder. Done.

The other functionality is quite handy for your existing appointments: select one or more appointments on your calendar, press the button, and thus mark the appointments as "free".

Other Outlook Versions

If you happen to use a different version of Outlook where the set-up process differs from the one above, please drop me a line (comment below or email below) and I'll gladly add it here for future reference.

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