UW Holidays in Exchange

Anyone else annoyed that your Exchange calendar doesn’t show the UW holidays?

According to David Norton, our local Exchange expert, this is because for Exchange, calendaring is really just a system of decentralized email messages under the hood. This allows Exchange to be amazingly flexible (what other calendaring solution allows one person to use Gregorian while another uses Hebrew Lunar?), but it also makes centralized calendaring tasks like adding the UW Holidays to everyone’s calendar hard.

I hear the Exchange service roadmap is looking at a future feature to address this, but in the meantime, I went out and created a solution for myself which just happens to be re-usable.

Exchange has a concept of being able to adding holidays to your calendar. You choose from a lengthy pre-defined set, and they are imported onto your calendar. Via Outlook, you can get there via Tools, Options, Calendar Options, Add Holidays. Hint: uncheck “United States” so you don’t accidentally import the wrong set of holidays. Of course, Microsoft didn’t come and ask the UW about when our holidays are, so we’re not in the list.

But you can change the list.

Both http://www.slipstick.net/calendar/holidays.htm and
http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/outlook/HP012304061033.aspx describe how to create a custom list of holidays. This involves editing your local outlook.hol file at c:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office 12\1033\outlook.hol and adding the holidays in the right format.

I’ve gone ahead and done that for the 2008, 2009, and 2010 holidays (collected from http://www.washington.edu/admin/hr/holidays/holidays.html), and it works fine.

If you’d like to use the same solution, download my outlook.hol file, exit outlook, make a copy of your outlook.hol file (in case something goes wrong), copy in my version, then open outlook. Afterward, go back to the holidays, uncheck “United States” again (it’s a persistently annoying item, isn’t it?), and check the 3 new holiday items: UW Holidays 2008, UW Holidays 2009, UW Holidays 2010 and hit OK. Now your calendar should show the UW holidays.

It’s not ideal, but it gets the job done, and I imagine the Exchange roadmap feature’s solution will be very similar to this.

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