Sunday, July 1, 2007

Organizing and sharing information with Outlook Public Folders


By Kathy T. Evans-Davis

Every organization has the need to collect, organize, and share information. In Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Exchange Server uses the Public Folders feature to share common-interest information among project teams and user groups. In this article, I'll give you an overview of how Public Folders work, and also how you can manage permissions for an active team.

Accessing public folders

When connected to your Exchange Server, folders labeled "Public Folders" appear in the Microsoft Outlook Folder List in the Navigation Pane. Public folders can contain various types of information, such as files, appointments, messages, tasks, contacts, notes, journal entries, postings, and forms as shown in Figure A.


This shows a view of different types of public folders available in the Microsoft Outlook Folder List. (click for larger image)

Sharing Outlook items and information

If you work in a busy office or on a large project as I do, chances are co-workers and team members have busy schedules and need to coordinate meetings, vacations, project deadlines, and other events that affect the whole or part of the group. Consequently, your group will benefit from sharing and coordinating these items using the Outlook Calendar.

Outlook also uses lists to keep track of other types of information such as individuals' names, job titles, phone numbers, email addresses, and progress on project tasks. This information is shared using Contact Lists and Task Lists. Figure B lists some various types of uses for public folders.


Figure B shows how you can use public folders to organize and manage important information. (click for larger image)

File sharing is really simple in Outlook using Windows Explorer. Without even opening an existing file, you can copy it from the same or a different program to a public folder. Or, you can open a file in a public folder to review or update it. Changes to a file copied or posted to a public folder do not affect the original file; therefore, if desired, the original must be updated as well.

Managing folder access through permissions

Usually a system administrator or someone who is designated as the folder's owner within an organization or project determines permissions to public folders.

Users can be granted different levels of public folder access, including "read" and "write". For instance, a user can be given permission only to read items; to read and add (write) items; or to read, add, and delete folder items. With only read and add access, a user may not be able to delete items at all; or they may be able to delete only items they add themselves.