Update Prospects' Calendars Without Breaking And Entering

By Robert Plank

Ever scheduled an event like a teleseminar or product launch? Hopefully they'll copy down all the details correctly, adjust the time to match their time zone, AND actually remember to attend. Luckily there's an easy way to do all this by marking your visitor's calendar with just a couple of clicks using Microsoft Outlook.

This works because programs like Outlook can read different types of files. The file we're going to be creating is called a vCalendar file -- be aware this will only work if your visitor has Outlook 97 and above (Outlook Express is no good here).

What we'll be doing here is creating the event on our computer in the form of an appointment on the Outlook calendar. Then, we'll export it to a file our visitors can click on, and when they do, it'll import all the info about the meeting right into their Outlook calendar.

Let's get started. Open Outlook, go to your calendar and find the correct date, and double click.

Type in a subject, this will be your event's title. For the location put in something like the URL if this is an Internet thing or a phone number with a passcode if this is a phone-based teleseminar.

Then choose a start time and end time, in your time zone. The COOL thing about this is when the user adds this appointment, it will appear adjusted to their own time zone.

Then in the body type in any other details the user needs to know about your event. That's all you need to set, things like the reminder time won't export so don't bother setting it. Any formatting you do (setting fonts, making things bold or colorized, etc.) will not save either.

Go to File -> Save As, then where it says "Save As Type" choose "vCalendar Format (*.vcs)". Save this to your desktop as something like: event.vcs

Then in your . htaccess file, put this in:

AddType text/x-vCalendar .vcs

If you do not have an . htaccess file, put this text in a new text document (in Notepad), then save as ". htaccess" (with the dot in front, but no space between the dot and htaccess) and upload into the same folder your .vcs file is going.

(That part with adding the . htaccess file *shouldn't* be necessary, we're just being cautious by adding that in.)

Now upload your event.vcs file. Link to it from an HTML file, and tell people that if they have Outlook 97 or higher, all they have to do is click that link, then click "Open" and the event or yours (whatever it is) will be added to their calendar.

Since the event is adjusted for the person's time zone, there's no guessing whether or not 6 PM your time means 7 PM or 10 AM their time. In most cases an alert will appear on their screen 15 minutes before the event starts, so if you have a teleseminar they'll remember to call in and won't be late.

What's more, a lot of PDAs (Palm Pilots and some cell phones) have Outlook integration so YOUR meeting could also be copied to their personal organizer.


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