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QuickOutlookTask

Overview:

QuickOutlookTask defines an alias for use with Find and Run Robot (FARR), a quick-launch application for Microsoft Windows (but see the note at the end of this file).

The alias makes it possible to quickly create, update and delete Microsoft Outlook tasks and appointments, without using Microsoft Outlook (but see the note at the end of this file).

For instance, say that you are working in Microsoft Word and you suddenly remember that on your way home from work you need to pick up a package. To turn this into an Outlook task, normally you would switch to Outlook, start up the new task dialog, fill in the subject, save and close the dialog, and switch back to Word. Using this alias, you simply hit your FARR hotkey and type "do Pick up package"; you never even leave Word.

You can also do a few things that are not immediately supported in Outlook:

Screenshot

screenshot of program

Installation:

To install, extract the files in this archive to the following folder:
C:\Program Files\FindAndRunRobot\AliasGroups\Installed\QuickOutlookTask\

After this, start or restart FARR and a new alias "do" is now available.

Basic usage:

To use the alias, hit your FARR hotkey (usually Break/Pause) and then type something like: "do This is an outlook task" (without the quotes). This creates a new Outlook task for today with subject "This is an outlook task".

To create an appointment, it is enough to specify a start time or end time: "do This is an appointment /st 1300" creates a new Outlook appointment for today with subject "This is an appointment", starting at 13:00 and lasting one hour.


The following switches are available to set some often-used properties of the task:

/d or /duedate or /due or /date The due date of the task (e.g. tomorrow)
/s or /startdate or /start The start date of the task (e.g. today)
/st or /starttime The start time of an appointment (e.g. 11:00)
/et or /endtime The end time of an appointment (e.g. 12:00)
/p or /priority or pri or /imp or /importance The priority of the task (normal, high, or low)
/r or /reminder or /rem The reminder time for the task (e.g. 16:00)

Dates can be given as a string that the system will try to recognize. Which strings are recognized depends on your regional settings ("culture"). For instance, if you are in the United States, the system will recognize strings like "7/28/2008" and "7/28". However, if you are in the Netherlands, these strings should look like "28-7-2008" and "28-7".

The program also recognizes a few shortcuts for dates. It will recognize the strings "today" and "tomorrow", as well as the names of the days of the week and their three-letter abbreviations: "sun" or "sunday", "mon" or "monday", "tue" or "tuesday", etcetera.

Times can be given as "16:00" or "1600" or even "16".

Examples:

do Buy flowers for husband
do Buy flowers for wife /p high
do Buy flowers /d tomorrow /rem 17:30
do Buy flowers /due friday
do Paint house a nice bright pink /start today /due 12-12
do Meeting with architect /due tomorrow /st 9:00 /et 9:45 /rem 8:45

Updating existing tasks

If you want to update an existing task or appointment, use the /update or /up switch. Only task properties that you have given new values for will be changed, the other properties remain as they are.

For instance, if you want to change the priority of the "Paint house a nice bright pink" task in the example above to "high", you type "do Paint house a nice bright pink /update /p high". The program asks for confirmation before actually updating the task. If you answer yes, the priority is changed from "normal" to "high", and the start and due dates remain as they are. If you answer no, nothing changes.

If you find typing "Paint house a nice bright pink" a bit too much, you could also type "do Paint /up /p high". The program looks for all tasks or appointments containing "paint" and lets you choose which one you want to update. Or you could type "do house /up /high" to get there.

Deleting a task or appointment

To delete a task or appointment, use the /delete or /del switch: "do /del Paint house a nice bright pink". Again, it is enough to type only part of the subject: "do /del paint" or "do /del pink" will find the task "Paint house a nice bright pink" for you and ask you if you want to delete it.

Displaying a task or appointment

If you want to display (and possibly edit) a task or appointment in the standard Outlook task inspector, you can use the /display or /disp switch:

do Get a life /display - Displays the existing task in the task inspector.
do Get a life /pri high /update /display - Changes the priority to "high" and displays the result.

Switches for Armando and other task freaks

More switches are available for those who make use of the more arcane possibilities of Outlook tasks and appointments:

/c /cat /category One ore more category names (spaceseparated) to which the task is assigned
/b /body A single or multi-word string, e.g. "This is the body of the task"
/m /mile /mileage An integer, e.g. 250
/bill /billing A single or multi-word string, e.g. "This is billing info"
/role A single word, e.g. "Moderator"
/sens /sensitivity The task's sensitivity level: normal, personal, private, confidential
/card /carddata A single or multi-word string, e.g. ??
/cont /contacts /contactnames One or more contact names - Outlook tries to match with address book
/comp /companies A single or multi-word string, e.g., "TU/e Philips Unilever"

The following switches are only used for tasks, not appointments:

/datecompleted A date string, e.g. "today"
/perc /percent /percentcomplete An integer, e.g. 75
/stat /status The task status: notstarted, inprogress, deferred, waiting or complete
/actual /actualwork Actual task duration in work hours, e.g. 12 (Outlook translates to 1.5 days)
/total /totalwork Total task duration in work hours, e.g. 24 (Outlook translates to 3 days)


Shortcut switches (not followed by a value):

/complete Task is complete
/high Priority is high
/private Sensitivity is private
/tomorrow Due date is tomorrow
/today Due date is today
/monday thru /sunday Due date is Monday etc.
/mon thru /sun same

Examples for task freaks

do Paint house /start today /due 12-12 /body Must be finished before Christmas! - new task
do paint house /start tomorrow - move task start to tomorrow
do paint house /total 240 - total work is 6 weeks
do paint house /complete - pfff

Read tasks and appointments from file

If you use tasks and appointments a lot, you will find that tasks and appointments with the same subject come back frequently, without having a fixed recurrence pattern, e.g. "Buy flowers for wife", "Check oil and water", "Meet with boss". You can save such tasks and appointments in a text file called "tasklist.txt" in your "My Documents" folder or in the same folder as do.exe and use the /file switch to read a task or appointment from the file. from that file.

The text file must contain one task or appointment per line and each line looks just like a normal Do command line:


[BEGINNING OF FILE]
Buy flowers for wife /due friday /cat family /high
Check oil and water /due saturday /cat car
Mow lawn /due sat /cat house /totalwork 2
Meeting with boss /cat Work /high [EOF]

Now, if in FARR you give the command "do /file mow", a new task "Mow lawn" is created for next Saturday, assigned to category "house" and with "Total work" set to 2 hours. If you want to use the "Mow lawn" task from the file, but with a due date of tomorrow instead of next Saturday, "do /task mow /tomorrow" will work. To create an appointment for a meeting with your boss tomorrow at 11:30: "do /file meet /st 1130".

Finding and Displaying Emails

There are three switches that let you find and display emails in your Inbox or one of its subfolders (any depth):

/mf or /mailfrom searches in the "From" field
/ms or /mailsubject searches in the subject
/mb or /mailbody searches in the subject and the body

Extras

/sa or /saveasappointment - Saves an existing task as an appointment and then displays it for further editing. In particular, you will have to set the start and end times for the appointment. Example: "do /sa paint house".

/dc or /displaycontact - Displays one or more contacts from your Outlook address book in the standard Outlook Inspector window. Example: "do /displaycontact dick" displays all your contacts containing the string "dick" somewhere in their full name, e.g. "Charles Dickens", "Dick Jones".

/set or /settings - Displays a dialog box that allows you to control the feedback that you get: you can turn beeping on and off; and you can enable and disable the message boxes you get when for instance a task has been created successfully.

/h or /help or /? - Gives a concise survey of all available switches.

/ver or /version - Displays the version number.

Files

The archive contains the following files:

1. do.exe - The application that does the actual work, called by the alias.
2. do.ico - The icon shown in FARR - the standard Outlook task icon.
3. Microsoft.Outlook.Interop.Outlook.dll - A Microsoft DLL that allows do.exe to work with Outlook.
4. QuickOutlookTask.alias - An XML file containing the definition of the alias.
5. Readme.txt - This readme file.

Notes

  1. This alias works with Windows XP and Outlook 2003. It appears to work also in Outlook 2007, but I have not tested that extensively.
  2. Although Outlook does not need to be running for this to work, it must be present on your system. This said, I must emphasize that it is much preferred to have outlook running when you use this alias (I suspect that most anyone interested in this alias has Outlook running as a matter of course anyway). The application interacts directly with Outlook itself and this means that for some tasks the equivalent of a complete Outlook startup (minus the Outlook window) is done. On my system, this takes up to 15 seconds, and that just will not do.

    [anecdote]
    Being conscientious, I tried the alias both with Outlook running and with Outlook shut down, and there appeared to be no difference in performance at all. I was happy. Then one day I tried to update a task without Outlook running and suddenly I was waiting an interminable 15 seconds for something to happen. It took me a while to discover that the reason was the absence of my PocketPC: I nearly always have it hooked up to my PC in continuous synchronization mode using ActiveSync, and this time it was not connected. Apparently synchronizing with ActiveSync keeps enough of Outlook in the air for there to be no delays when using the Do alias.
    [/anecdote]

  3. "A program is trying to access e-mail addresses you have stored in Outlook. Do you want to allow this?".

    When you use this alias, you may or may not get an Outlook message box with the above text. If so, answer "yes" to continue.

    This is an enhanced security feature of Outlook meant to stop malicious programs, which is a good thing, but can be a real pest if you know the program can be trusted.

    I have not seen this warning when simply creating, updating or deleting tasks, but only when trying to save an existing task as an appointment. It all depends on the security settings on your system and whether you use an exchange server for Outlook or not.

  4. For more information on this alias and to give your feedback, go to the forum: http://www.donationcoder.com/Forums/bb/index.php?topic=14208.msg122224.

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