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Share your calendar in Outlook 2010

Microsoft Office 365 Outlook 2010 is a powerful tool for time management, arranging meetings or appointments and tracking tasks, as well as having full email functionality. Calendar is the section of Office 2010 which deals with schedules, meetings and appointments. Today, we'll be looking at ways to make it easier to ascertain what your colleagues, manager and reports are doing at any given time. It's much easier to assign tasks with the right person's Calendar at your disposal and to ensure that the whole team's time is being used as efficiently as possible.

One of the best ways to improve communication within a team is to share one another's Outlook Calendars. Everyone who can see your Calendar knows when you are free or busy, in the office or out of the country. In turn, you know whether your colleagues or staff can find time to hold a meeting with you, or perhaps take on additional work.

In order to share your Calendar with other people you first have to ensure that they have the appropriate level of permission. There may be some people you want to be able to make changes to your Calendar, like an assistant, manager or colleague you work closely with. Others, perhaps clients or colleagues from other departments, may only need to see when you're available to attend meetings. It is usually best to give people the minimum level of permission they need to avoid the accidental deletion or moving of meetings. If an intern in another department accidentally moves your important international sales pitch back a day, you could potentially miss that multi-million pound deal, spend £1,000s on wasted flights and travel halfway across the world, all to no avail!

To set your Calendar permissions, first click on the Calendar tab towards the bottom left hand side of your Outlook home screen. Next, click Calendar Permissions on the ribbon at the top of the Calendar screen. A dialogue box will open, offering various options for setting permissions for people to see and edit your Calendar. If you look at the Name and Permission Level headings towards the top of the dialogue box, you may see that some users are already able to view or edit your Calendar. You can add additional users using the Add or Remove buttons just below the name box. To set or change the permissions of an individual or group, click their name to highlight it. (If they are not already on the permissions list, add them first.)

Then go to the Permission Level drop down menu, where you can grant the selected person permission to work with your Calendar in one of eleven different ways (Levels). These range from full Owner, with the same rights to work with your Calendar that you have yourself, to None. If you choose None, then you are denying that user permission to see your Calendar. Click on the arrow to see the available choices. Popular options in between these two extremes include Reviewer, which allows the person to see, but not change your Calendar; and Contributor, which allows the other person to add meetings or appointments, but not to delete or change existing ones.

Tip: You can create custom permission levels by selecting the appropriate user/s, clicking on any of the choices in the Permission Level drop down menu, then selecting the precise Read and Write permissions you want. For example, you may want someone only to see (Read) whether you are free or busy (Free/Busy Time), and only to be able to change the meetings or appointments they've added to your Calendar themselves (Edit Own). Use the Delete Items check boxes to select which of your appointments/meetings this user is allowed to delete; None, Their Own (items they added themselves), or All. Once you have added or removed the appropriate people or groups and set their permissions, click OK. You can add or remove users, or change permissions at any time.

Now let's look at how to send invitations to the people who have permission to see your Outlook Calendar, so they know they can now view it. To begin, click Calendar at the bottom left hand side of your Outlook email screen, then Share Calendar on the Ribbon at the top of the screen.

A dialogue box will appear, in the form of an email message. Type the email address (or contact name if your system supports that) of the person you want to view your Calendar into the To: field. Ensure the box next to Allow Recipient to View Your Calendar is checked. (If you also want to be able to see the Calendar of the person you are writing to, then check the box for Request Permission to View Recipient's Calendar.) Type any additional message or information you want to give the other person into the main body of the email and then click Send.

Tip: To allow more than one person to see your Calendar, or ask to see theirs, you can send this email to multiple people. Enter the name of a group email list or names of individual contacts (if your system supports this). Alternatively, you can also enter the individual email addresses of the people you wish to share Calendars with, each separated by a semi-colon.

To be able to see someone else's Calendar in your Outlook calendar view, right-click My Calendars, towards the bottom left hand side of your Outlook Calendar screen. A drop down menu will appear. Click Add Calendar, which opens another drop-down window, and then click Open Shared Calendar. Type the person's name, or click Name to choose from a list of your Outlook contacts. This displays the name of any Calendar you have permission to see. You can find these below your own and towards the centre left-hand side of your Outlook Calendar screen. To work with someone's Calendar, tick the checkbox next to the name of their Calendar. You can have multiple Calendars ticked at the same time: they will display next to one another in Calendar View. Outlook will not allow you to have no Calendars ticked; at least one Calendar must be ticked at all times. The default setting for this displays your own Calendar.

As we have seen, sharing Outlook Calendars improves communication and saves time. Choosing those who are allowed to change or delete items carefully can prevent potentially disastrous mistakes. On the flipside, careful use of your own editing permissions is also advisable. If you want to create default settings for shared Calendars within your team or office (so, for example, your team can all automatically view one another's Calendars) your System Administrator should be able create the appropriate settings for you.