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My company has a calendar we use in Outlook to display what dates members of our IT group are taking off for vacation. For previous versions of SharePoint, we rendered this page as an Outlook Web Access Calendar web part, but there are several issues with this for 2013:

  • That web part was deprecated (although you can manually re-add it to the web part gallery and/or use a PageViewer web part to get at the same place).
  • Style-wise, it looks garish compared to both the default 2013 branding and the custom solution we've applied.
  • Most importantly, it only renders a small number (I think 3) all day events, sometimes giving people who look at the web part the false impression that only 3 people are off duty when in fact the number might be 4 or more.

The "new" calendar overlay seems to be the ideal fix for this. There's even a way you can hook into Outlook. However, I don't know of a way to tie it to a specific calendar. When I add the pertinent Exchange information, it looks like the OWA link it asks for is only used as a hyperlink for the events that the Exchange web service pulls up. Problem is, I don't see a way to tell the Exchange web service that I don't want the individual end user to pull up his own calendar, I want it to pull up that vacations calendar for everybody.

Is there an OOB way of handling this? I'm sure I could resolve this by creating a timer job that calls the calendar in question once a day (for instance) and loads the list based on the information that it finds, but I'd really prefer to handle this without deploying code because of, well, all the reasons that exist for preferring OOB solutions to customized ones. However, I've had no luck trying to figure out how to send commands to the Exchange web service via query string, which looks to be the only way you can do it.

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The best and easiest way Out Of the Box (OOB) to do this is to flip your thinking a bit. Get your users to subscribe to a central SharePoint 2013 calendar using Outlook and post their vacation dates to that calendar. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Create a new OOB calendar in SharePoint on your IT Group's SharePoint site. All of your IT Group must have contribute permission to this calendar. Give it the name: IT Group Vacation Calendar.
  2. Then you navigate to the calendar in SharePoint. In the List ribbon, click the Connect to Outlook button.
  3. Depending on your browser settings, you may get dialog box(es) from the browser and Outlook asking if you want to allow this type of connection. Click the Allow button to these requests.
  4. The calendar will appear in your Outlook client under the Calendar tab.
  5. Next step, right click on the label IT Group Vacation Calendar and select Share Calendar and address the email to all of your team members. Or use a similar technique mentioned here.
  6. When they get the email and click on the link to subscribe, they will need to answer Allow like you did in step 3.

Now everyone is connected in their Outlook client to the IT Group Vacation Calendar hosted in SharePoint. By default it is displayed side by side to their personal calendar in Outlook. They can create a new Vacation event in their personal calendar and drag and drop the event over to the IT Group Vacation Calendar within the Outlook client. Users love this feature.

We have been doing this for years using Outlook and SP2007 and SP2010 and it works great and is easy to maintain:

  1. It involves very little setup when a new user comes on board - get them to subscribe to the Vacation SharePoint Calendar with step 1 above or forward the email from step 5. Your original idea of "new" overlays would involve a new View and new Overlay setup.
  2. The "new" overlay feature suffers from max 10 overlays, whereas this solution supports hundreds of users.
  3. Training/Governance is simple - just prefix each event name with LastName - Short Leave Desc (i.e. Smith - Summer vacation to Italy) and get them to put emergency contact or approval information into the event.
  4. To get a printout, just display the calendar in month view and print from the outlook client. If there are too many events for the day, a grey down arrow is printed on that day to indicate more events. The user will have to go to Outlook or SharePoint to see the full amount.

The Outlook calendars subscriptions are automatically synchronized when users send/receive mail, so there is no programming required. Too easy.

  • We've submitted the idea of using a SharePoint calendar as the base calendar. They haven't totally shut us down on that but that appears to be a non-starter because everyone is using the existing Outlook library. – NotVonKaiser May 2 '16 at 23:38

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