Outlook Synchronization

Commence has a built-in MS-Outlook synchronization package. This package will synchronize the Outlook Calendar, Contact, Todo Lists, and Address Book. While the sync package works ~ok~ for individual users, I have found that it suffers some limitations when attempting to apply it to large workgroup installations.

One problem in particular is that, generally, when setting up a Calendar category in Commence, the equivalent of the "Subject" field in Outlook would usually be the "Name" field in Commence. The problem with this configuration is that Outlook allows for long subject-field values, and Commence only allows for 50-character length name-field values. Thefore, what I've found is necessary to provide proper Calendar synchronization is to map the Outlook Subject field to a different internal long-character field in the Commence database. The problem here is that the Commence "Name" field still needs a value. The question becomes, if the Outlook Subject field (aka Name field) is mapped to a Commence Memo field (presummably called Subject) rather than the actual Commence Name field, what field in Outlook should be mapped to the Commence Name field?

Mapping the Commence Name field is a requirement, and since the Outlook Subject field won't do, nearly any other Outlook field will do. One field I have successfully chosen for this purpose is the Outlook "Organizer" field. This field in Outlook will have only a single name mapped to it, so it is going to be short (well within the 50-character limit of the Commence Name field).

The new problem that's been created is when the synchronization occurs, nearly every Outlook calendar item that gets synced in to Commence is going to have the same Name field value, and this is not going to be very useful.

There are several other more persistent problems that I have not mentioned yet which I'm about to address. These are, namely, if any workgroup permissions have been assigned to the Commence calendar items, such as disallowing writes by all users and so forth. If these permissions have been imposed on the Commence calendar category, then the sync process is going to have even more problems.

Another problem is that in a large workgroup environment, all users may not necessarily want all calendar items to be synchronized with all Outlook users. More selective granular control is going to be required.

Yet another problem is that your idea (or my idea) of a successful Commence Calendar implementation may not be compatible with the Outlook Calendar implementation. The Commence calendar category may or may not have the necessary fields laid out in such as way as to provide a smooth synchronization process (Name field not withstanding) between Commence and Outlook.

So, here's how I've solved the afore mentioned problems;

I have created a special olCalendar synchronization category. This category is dedicated to the synchronization process. There are no workgroup permission restrictions, and each field is laid out to act as an exact match to the Outlook calendar profile. The field mapping is as follows:

outlook-calendar-sync-field-mapping.png

The field definitions in the special sync category are as follows:

Outlook Sync Category Field Definitions
 Category...: olCalendar
 Comment....: 
 Fields.....: 24
 Connections: 1
 Total......: 25
 Items......: 265
 Forms......: 1
 Views......: 1

 Fields for olCalendar
 idx  Name                 Type       Style  Mand Recu Chars Comment
 ----+--------------------+----------+------+----+----+-----+-------------
    1 olCalendarKey        Name       Radio  Yes  No   50    
    2 Activity Type        Text       Radio  No   No   80    
    3 All Day Event        Check Box  Radio  No   No   0     
    4 Billing Information  Text       Radio  No   No   80    
    5 Body                 Text       Radio  No   No   30000 
    6 Busy Status          Text       Radio  No   No   80    
    7 Categories           Text       Radio  No   No   30000 
    8 End Date             Date       Radio  No   No   80    
    9 End Time             Time       Radio  No   No   80    
   10 Importance           Text       Radio  No   No   80    
   11 Location             Text       Radio  No   No   80    
   12 Optional Attendees   Text       Radio  No   No   30000 
   13 Organizer            Text       Radio  No   No   80    
   14 Private              Check Box  Radio  No   No   0     
   15 Reminder Minutes     Number     Radio  No   No   80    
   16 Reminder Set         Check Box  Radio  No   No   0     
   17 Reminder Sound       Text       Radio  No   No   80    
   18 Reminder Sound File  Text       Radio  No   No   80    
   19 Required Attendees   Text       Radio  No   No   30000 
   20 Resources            Text       Radio  No   No   80    
   21 Sensitivity          Text       Radio  No   No   80    
   22 Start Date           Date       Radio  No   No   80    
   23 Start Time           Time       Radio  No   No   80    
   24 Subject              Text       Radio  No   No   30000 

 Connections for olCalendar
 ------------------------------------------
 Relates to Employee




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Author: Mark Petryk
Lorimark Solutions, LLC
mark@lorimarksolutions.com