What Outlook can't do

It's happened to everyone: suddenly the computer won't let you do something that’s (always) critical to your task. You mentally search for an explanation for a few seconds, then frown at the monitor and ask, accusingly, "Why can't I do that?"

Most often, the problem is a procedural misstep. But sometimes, you can't do what you have to do because, well, you just can't.

Outlook can do a lot. There are people who live their lives by Outlook, running almost every facet of their lives through its communication and scheduling capabilities. But there are some things that Outlook can't do. Sometimes that’s by design. Occasionally, it's something the otherwise very thorough Outlook designers and planners didn’t anticipate. There aren't many such hurdles, but let's take a look at a few.

Meetings

Because Outlook is all about structure and organization, it expects certain things from both meeting participants and meeting organizers.

  • The organizer role is not transferable.

    Once someone has organized a recurring meeting, that person is the organizer until all instances of the recurring meeting have ended. No one else can take the meeting organizer role if the original organizer can't attend. The only workaround is to delete the original meeting and have the new meeting organizer send invitations.

  • The meeting stays on the organizer's calendar.

    The meeting can't be deleted from the organizer's calendar, even if the organizer can't attend, because the organizer is the only one who can make any changes to the meeting information (e.g., location, start time, required and optional attendees…).

  • Meetings you decline don't exist.

    When you decline a meeting, it disappears from your calendar. If you don’t plan to attend a meeting but you still want to see it in your calendar, click Tentative to keep the meeting in your calendar without marking that time as Busy.

Views and Folders

You can customize many parts of Outlook, but there are a few areas that are off-limits.

  • The calendar views in the to-do pane and in the calendar peek view show calendar items only for the selected day.

    Click a different day to see that day’s items. To see more than one day at a time, use the full Calendar view.

  • Each folder has its own view.

    You can change the view of each of your folders - your Inbox can look different from your Sent Items or personal folders. But you can change the view for only one folder at a time - you can't apply changes to multiple folders at the same time.

  • The Folder Pane font is what it is.

    The style, size, and color of the Folder List in the Folder Pane can't be changed. Sorry.

Contact Groups and e-mail

Outlook really shines at email but there’s always room for improvement.

  • Contact groups come from Contacts.

    It would be handy to add an e-mail sender directly to a contact group — for example, someone responding to an offer for an e-mail newsletter. But Outlook builds contact groups only from existing contacts, so you first must add the sender to your contacts. If you'd rather not mix contacts, create a folder within your Contacts folder just for senders you want to add to Contact Groups.

  • Contacts are individuals.

    Though it would be handy to be able to add a group of senders en masse to Contacts, it’s not possible. E-mail senders can only be added to Contacts one at a time.

  • Each message is sent only once.

    You might want to set up an automatically recurring message (for example, to send a monthly reminder that a report is due). Outlook can’t do that.

We feel your pain

We understand the frustration that those hurdles can cause, but we welcome and value your thoughts (and complaints). By sharing them with us, you enable us to evaluate them and possibly address them in future versions of Outlook. In the meantime, here's hoping this article helps you avoid some future moments of aggravation.

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