Monday, March 1, 2010

The usual PST sharing question and coloring folders


By Joe Dolittle

This week, we have two questions from readers and don't answer either to their satisfaction. Such is life in the Outlook world.

Sharing PST files

Let's start with an Outlook 2010 take on the usual PST sharing question, this time from reader Gary:

I have asked 4/5 places [forms, blogs, MS] with no answer, hope you can help.
I have been doing lots of research, seems office 2010 maybe improving the PST file sharing, but still unsure.
In Outlook 2010 (I know it is not supported, or can not be done in lower versions), can I share the PST file (and all its folders) between peer-to-peer computers on a LAN with in my office/home?
If not, how can this be done? It's about time these files were shareable besides Exchange server or some other enterprise solution, don't you think?
I have tried some of the sharing add-on's but they are costly, and unreliable.

OK, here we go again. PST files can't be shared. Period. The file format doesn't support record locking and you will corrupt your file if you insist on sharing it. That's as true for Outlook 2010 as any other version.

There are a LOT of alternatives, from hosted Exchange servers, to many mail server products, to a bunch of products designed for Outlook sharing (take a look at our friends at, for example) and even open source Exchange alternatives.

But no, you can't stick a PST file on a server and have a bunch of users file-share access to it. We've heard of a few add-ons that claim to add some rudimentary form of record locking, but we wouldn't trust them.

Outlook has an exceptional client/server model, there are great alternatives to Exchange if you don't want to manage the relatively complex product, and we recommend you look there.

Coloring folders

While we're disappointing readers, we figure we should also give reader Allan Duncan some bad news. Allan asks:

I saw your article re managing folders and wonder if you have found a way of changing the color of each folder in Inbox (or Sent Items) so that they can easily be identified amongst a whole pile of folders. Any advice would be great.

The article Allan's referring to is Using folders with Outlook to organize your mail by our very own managing editor, Denise Amrich. And as good as that article is, we can't help Allan out.

There is no way (that we've been able to find) to color folders, rather than messages.

Sadly, yellow remains the new yellow.