How to Share
Outlook Calendars without Microsoft Exchange
Prepared by Ian Matthews
October 1, 2003,
last updated Sept 20, 2003
The process to setup Outlook to see other users
calendars is not very difficult but there is almost no documentation
on the topic. This page is intended to correct that problem.
It is no surprise that Microsoft wants people to
buy Exchange, but it just is not necessary. Exchange is
outrageously expensive: CDN$10,000 high powered stand alone
server + CDN$2000 Exchange Server Software + CDN$100 per seat +
CDN$1000 Windows 200x + CDN$??? IT labour. It is not unusual to
spend CDN$30,000 on an Exchange roll out for a 100 seat office.
That is NUTS. Exchange offers only 5 core functions:
Shared Address Book
Buy any other solid email server (like
comes with excellent scalability and webmail, and you can add in your
own shared Calendaring and
Shared Address Book in minutes! As for Shared Folders, I
must admit that I never understood why you would want to share files
through your mail server... that is what your file server is for.
Microsoft's "free" shared calendaring
feature is called "net folders" but they only support about 5 users,
are notoriously unreliable, and NetFolders do not exist in Outlook
2002/3 . As a result, they are not a very good option for most
The process below can be summarized by
saying that you set Outlook to automatically publish text files
containing basic calendar information, onto a central FTP or Web
Server. It is not difficult and will only cost you your time; no
additional licenses, software or hardware are typically required.
There are only two real limitation to
It does not allow you
to "delegate" control of your calendar to an assistant, and;
It does not allow you to see other
users calendar detail; just if they are "Free" or "Busy" at a
Most small and
mid-sized firms could not care less about these two issues.
Well, lets get to it...
Any Web or FTP server will do but the process below illustrates the setup of
Microsoft's Internet Information Server as a host for "iCalendar"
files automatically generated and updated by Outlook. This
process was much easier under IIS5 (Windows 2000) but can still
readily be completed using IIS6 (Windows 2003).
Ensure you web server is installed and functional.
Create a folder called FREEBUSY
Set the IIS directory security to full control
If you are running IIS5 (Windows 2000) you will also have to set
the NTFS permissions to something like EVERYONE=FULL CONTROL or
AUTHENTICATED USERS=FULL CONTROL.
MICROSOFT FRONTPAGE SERVER EXTENSIONS ISSUES
Because FrontPage Server Extensions have their own access controls
you will find that the easiest way to "share" the freebusy data is to
create a NEW subweb for your FREEBUSY folder
You need to set the ANONYMOUS access to AUTHOR
MICROSOFT IIS6 - WINDOWS 2003 ISSUES
IIS6 (Windows 2003) will not serve content it does not have
registered. Outlook will create .VFB files and .VFB is not a
registered file type in IIS6. Therefore you need to create a .VFB
entry in IIS's "MIME TYPES". You can do this at the server,
website or folder level:
On the WEBSITE and FOLDER levels you can access the MIME types
from the HTTP HEADERS
MIME types are editable at the SERVER level by right clicking on
the server name, selecting PROPERTIES, then clicking the MIME TYPES
Click the NEW button, and enter .VFB as the EXTENSION and
TEXT/CALENDAR as the MIME TYPE.
After this change, up will need to stop/start the World Wide Web
service to have IIS6 recognize the updated MIME TYPE list.
Setting up Outlook is quite easy but because of the complete lack
of documentation two years ago when I created this process, it took
more than a day of 'testing' to get right.
Start Outlook, and click TOOLS, OPTIONS, and click the CALENDAR
The top settings are self explanatory so use your own judgment.
However, it is important to:
Close and restart Outlook
Repeat this process for all of your users
Congratulations; your done!
After 15 minutes you should see .VFB files starting to appear in
your websites FREEBUSY folder.
You can test to verify if you system is working by starting to
creating a new meeting in Outlook. In Outlook, simply click
FILE, NEW, MEETING, then click the SCHEDULE tab and add in your users
email address'. If there FREEBUSY information appears as in
blue, then your system is functioning properly.
Now that the
calendaring is working, Outlook will automatically create meeting
invitations for anyone in your company. They will receive an
email with ACCEPT, DECLINE and TENTATIVE ACCEPT. If a meeting is
accepted their calendar will be instantly and automatically updated
and the person who created the meeting will get a response which will
be automatically tracking in their Outlook. VERY COOL!
Note that if you
setup your Windows 2000/2003 Active Directory to be a Central Address
book for Outlook, then you can simply type in other users names in
the OTHER ATTENDEES fields or even better use the ADD OTHERS button.
The VERY easy instructions on how to complete this are available on