Sharing Exchange calendar between Exchange Online (365) and Exchange On-Prem

I’ve been asked several times over the years how you can view someones shared calendar on an iPhone or similar device. I’ve mostly chalked it up as ‘too hard’/’can’t be done’
However in a moment of annoyance the other day I stumbled on a method. It’s dead easy once you run through it and you’ll wonder why you didn’t always do it this way!

Additionally, if you’re midway through an Exchange migration from on-premise to the cloud, you will be faced with all sorts of scenarios where simple things like calendar shares don’t or won’t work.

Scenario: You have a share of a calendar that’s worked for years, now that user has moved to the cloud and for the moment you are remaining on premise. You still need that share and now it’s broken.

Remove the old calendar share, it will just have a broken lightning bolt against it and it won’t refresh.

Ask the user to re-share the calendar with you (remove your rights and re-add etc) You will shortly receive an email from them that looks something like this.

THis is the message that you get when a 365 user shares their calendar

This is the message that you get when a 365 user shares their calendar

Log into your Outlook Web App (2007, 2010 or 2013 – doesn’t matter)

Go to calendar view

Right click My Calendars and choose Add Calendar…

OWA Calendar Share

You’ll be presented with something that offers you the option to add from your organisation – tempting, but mostly it fails in this scenario OR to use a webcal or ICS calendar. It’s this we will use.

In the email that you were sent earlier (when they re shared the calendar) you will see a link at the bottom of the email, it starts with webcal:// This is the ics share link.

Paste the whole link (don’t forget the webcall:// piece) into the lower half of the window.

Webcal ICS

Click OK.

You’ll now see a calendar has been added called ‘reachCalendar’ and you’ll get a pop-up message saying that sync can take upwards of 10 minutes. just acknowledge the window. The reason for the name is in the webcal:// link right at the end. I guess you could rename it in the link, I wouldn’t bother.

Now wait.

After a good 20 mins or so, log back in and you will see that the calendar is populated.

Now right-click and rename it appropriately.

You’re done!

Now when you log into you Outlook client, you will see a calendar named as above (let Activesync do all the work)
Also, when you look in the Calendar app on your iPhone, you will see the same calendar which you can now view whilst on the move.

This shows the calendar viewable on your phone

This shows the calendar viewable on your phone

It seems like a laborious process, but it’s actually really simple once you’ve done it .

Office Service Pack 14.2 – yes please!

Microsoft’s latest update for Office 2011 is great, some really significant improvements for Outlook especially. Yes, there are improvements for Word and PowerPoint and some bits and pieces for all apps in terms of improved document handling and Lion features, for me Outlook is the biggy.

For me it was the Outlook stuff that made me pay attention. In the organisation I work for, we’ve been having terrible trouble with Outlook wanting to do database rebuilds at every opportunity and then when it does, it will pretty reliably duplicate either contacts or calendar entries. We’ve been caning our DPM server doing multiple mailbox restores! Recently we’ve simply been using a piece of freeware to remove duplicates in a Windows based outlook profile instead.

All that aside, back to the update, the headlines are:
The database and the rebuild utility are improved
As mentioned above, this ha been a real issue for us, not only wasting user time, but also admin time. Time will tell if things are vastly improved, but I thought it was worthwhile to comment on the upgrade process itself. It’s pretty lengthy, when you complete the install of the patch and load outlook for the first time it will prompt you to select which profile you would like to upgrade. This is also good news as you might want to leave a backed up profile alone. One you start the process, it is pretty length and is of course entirely dependant on the size of your mailbox. Be prepared to give up some time to it, you can NOT cancel it once it’s started.

Select a profile

Which identity would you like to upgrade

Upgrade alert

Identity upgrade progress

IMAP account sync that includes support for synchronising with Gmail is improved.
Not tried this as yet, but as a lot of organisations fall in love with the Cloud, reliance on Gmail will inevitably increase.

Outlook for Mac performance in key scenarios is improved.
So far so good! My Outlook session has been grinding to a halt more and more lately, and since the install I’ve noted a vast improvement in reaction speed and in opening mail items.

Exchange email message sync is improved.
We’ve got a lot of people who are connecting via wifi and 3G, and although that is normally ok, when you’re on the edge of coverage, or something like Edge (E) or HSDPA (H) or GPRS (G) then you can really struggle. Being able to pull just headers and also pull the message in parts is great for poor bandwidth areas

Download in parts

Attachments in parts

Support for calendar scheduling resources is improved
The scheduling area in the calendar is vastly improved, a picture tells a thousand words, so here’s what it now looks like.

Scheduling Assistant

Week numbers are added to the calendar display.
AGain this is configurable, so you can put the week numbers into the Calendar view. It’s not a huge one for me, but I can see how that will be a vast improvement for some people.

Display week numbers

Week numbers in action

Distribution list expansion functionality is included.
A real user improvement, our organisation uses loads of distribution lists and mail enabled security groups, and our users have been used to being able to check membership or alternatively be able to expand a group to remove 1 person (say when it’s about a birthday treat or something)

Expanding Distribution groups

Some of the other bits I liked were the improved 2 line ‘Toast’ email alert, you get a wee bit more info now to make you decision on whether or not to read.

2 line toast
In short, this one gets my vote, some proper improvements and some listening has obviously been done by our friends at Microsoft.