Friday, April 15, 2011

Reduce Noise from Responses To Your Outlook Meeting Requests

I give tech talks to my company’s developers about every other month and each time I send out a meeting request to a large group of people. The few days that follow my meeting request are filled with uninteresting responses—RSVPs from those that can/cannot attend. Like this:

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Of course I could mark the request as “no response requested” but I really do need to know how many people are planning to attend so I can have enough space/food available.

There’s a setting in Outlook to automatically process meeting requests and such. I don’t want to use that because I’m not sure it works on responses and even if it does, I don’t want to miss the occasional response that’s been manually edited before being sent.

Here’s what I came up with instead:

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This is a mail rule catches messages that look like meeting request responses and moves them directly to my archive unless they contain any text in the body. This has been working quite well for months as any boilerplate reply goes straight to my archive while anything with a custom response still shows up in my inbox.

This could almost certainly be improved, e.g.:

  • There’s probably a built-in way of detecting meeting responses besides searching the subject
  • There’s probably a built-in way of detecting if the user has edited the response besides checking the body for any vowel
  • There’s possibly a built-in way to do this whole thing, hiding as an elusive checkbox eight layers deep in the options somewhere

I couldn’t find solutions to those in the five minutes I spent making this hack. If you have a better way of doing this, please share in the comments!