ArticleS. UncleBob.
OutlookUgh [add child]

Outlook. Ugh.

Microsoft Outlook. Ugh.

I have a pocket PC. I put my appointments into it. When I change timezones, it changes all the times of my appointments. Ugh.

For example, let's say I'm in Chicago (Central time zone), and I call a customer in New York City (Eastern Time Zone). We agree to meet at his office at 1PM (Eastern Time Zone). I write the appointment into my Calendar on my Pocket PC. What time do I write? Should I write 1PM? Or should I write 2PM?

Hmmm. When did we say we'd meet? We said 1PM. What am I going to write in my calendar? I think I'm going to write 1PM. I think that's pretty clear. I don't think that's rocket science. I think it's kind of obvious actually.


When I land in NYC at 10AM, my PDA's clock says 9AM because it's still on Central time. So I tap the convenient little clock icon on my Pocket PC, and I click on the convenient Radio Button that says Visiting Eastern Time Zone. And, unbeknownst to me the evil Pocket PC changes my appointment time to 2PM.

Why? Because the software nitwit who developed this piece of crap software decided that since I was in Central time when I wrote the appointment down, and since I'm now in Eastern time, that the appointment should be moved. And if that sentence made any sense to you, I think you need to have a few more beers. Because no matter how many times I say it, it still makes no sense to me.

Oh, I know what's going on. I know that outlook is recording the time in GMT and then just translating through the current time zone. I know that. I even appreciate the elegance and cleverness of it. I really do.




The UI of the Pocket PC is a metaphor for a day-timer notebook. Day-timer notebooks don't change the fricking appointment times do they? Do they? DO THEY? When you land in a new timezone, your day-timer notebook does not automatically change the times on all your appointments does it? DOES IT?

Of course not. Day-timers are manual, not automatic. They can't act intelligently. They can't. They're just paper. No silicon. No battery. Just paper. I guess the folks at Microsoft reckon that people with day-timers manually change the appointment times in their day-timers whenever they cross a time-zone. That's why you see people get off airplanes and rapidly thumb through their day-timers erasing appointments and rewriting them at the new time.

Yeah, I can remember doing that. It used to take hours fixing my appointment times in my day-timer. I'm sure glad I carry this really expensive electronic day-timer that can do all that time adjusting for me.


You'd think they could have gotten that much right.


7 Dec 2004 Erik Meade
Lets not forget how Outlook has broken email threading... So tell me again how far computing has advanced...

8 Dec 2004 Young Bob
Don't mess with the time zone setting. Set it to Central since that's where you live. If you have an appointment with somebody at 2pm tomorrow in New York (Eastern), enter it for 2pm. When you arrive in NY, set the time of your PPC to the current time where you are - but leave the time zone alone. You will be on time for your appointment.

I am a HUGE fan of the Pocket PC. I can't imagine life without it.

When I arrive in a new city, I turn off the automatic sync'ing of the clock and set the time of my laptop manually. It sucks, but it works.

8 Dec 2004 8:12 AM EST Patrick McElhaney[?]
Timezones are inherently confusing. What if you have a conference call later that day with some people from San Diego? Say you schedule the call at 2:00 (their time). That's 4:00 where you are now. But tomorrow you're going to be in New York. Do you plan ahead and put 5:00? What if you scheduled the conference call before you planned your trip?

IMHO, the best solution would be to keep the current behavior but also allow you to select a time zone when you enter the event (defaulting to wherever you are at the time).

10 Jan 2005 Flipper
The problem is that the applications is changing the wrong thing - the time has not changed, just the location.
So if when you put it in the system you were able to tell it what time it was at and WHERE it could handle time changes correctly.

17 Feb 2005 iRonica99
Exactly! The time zone should be an attribute of the meeting, not an attribute of the user. Or rather, it should be an attribute of the time and an attribute of the meeting. I live in Mountain Time and recently had a trip to Eastern Time. I had some meetings to phone in to back at the office, which were not only set up in advance of the trip planning but also were invites by someone else to the whole company. I certainly don't want to change that meeting. I had other meetings which I set up in the local time in DC.

I DO want my Palm to be smart. Otherwise I could have a "dumb" daytimer. But what would have happened in a perfect world is that I would have set every meeting to a time zone. Then, I would tell the machine what time zone I was in. It would only adjust the times of meetings set to different time zones.

Is every single calendar app based on a pre-Use Cases design? Because a simple story card or use case or two would have led to the right design. Ugh. Please free us from the tyranny of Outlook.

02 June 2005 dfortin
I feel your pain. Really, I do. However, you are 100% completely wrong about this. You just have to learn to be cognizent of how Outlook handles appointments. The beauty of the time shifting is not so the appointment is accurately recorded in Outlook as much as it is so that all meeting participants (assuming you use the Outlook 'invite' funtionality) arrive at the meeting at the correct time. So, assume the following:

You are in NY and I am in Wisconsin. We agree that we'll get together and drink a beer to bitch about Microsoft in Manhattan at 1:00 pm next Tuesday. So, you in NY obviously write down 1:00 pm next Tuesday into your PocketPC or notebook PC. I should either (A) change my time zone in my PocketPC or notebook to Eastern Time Zone and record the appointment for 1:00 pm, or (B) make the adjustment in my head and say that we're getting together at 12:00 local time (Wisconsin), which is 1:00 pm NY time. Simple and idiot proof? Not at all, but that's how the program works and why it works that way. One simple solution would be for Microsoft to develop some intelligence to the form used for entering appointments. The appointment form includes a field to identify the location of the meeting... I sometimes use the actual location (i.e. NY or Wisconsin) or a virtual location (i.e. conference call, Bob's Pool Hall). However, if this field could be the link to the location and relative time reference of the meeting, then there would not be any though in the process on our part at all... so, using my example above, I in Wisconsin would simply enter my appointment as 1:00 pm, location NY and Outlook would adjust my calender accordingly. The rub is that every time I looked at the appointment in Outlook while I'm in Wisconsin, it would show up as 12:00 until I changed my time zone when I arrived.

I did, however, find a nifty powertool that Microsoft released to more easily change between time zones. It's aptly named Microsoft Time Zone, and it sits in your task bar and waits for you to click it. When you do, it lets you change easily and on the fly your local timezone, so it would be easy to take a call in Wisconsin, agree to meet someone in NY, click the programs icon in my taskbar and select the right city, enter the appointment at the time we agree to meet in NY, click the icon and set my time back to Wisconsin time. When I arrive in NY all I need to do is make sure my PocketPC is set to visiting NY and my appointments will be in sync.

Hope this helps.

I have another scenario. I am in the Navy and have meetings that happen at 9 a.m. every tuesday local time. So i set a recurring appointment. Now the ship leaves port on wed. By the following tuesday we could have crossed several time zone. I change my time zone each time the time changes. Now my calender is off by the number of timezones crossed. I also have to schedule phone calls with people bak on the shore. It would be nice to be able to set a timezone or select local for each appointment.

Or try moving from one time zone to another. OK, I can accept the thing about appointments happening only at one time regardless of the time zone, but why are all day events (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.) now crossing two days. Yes, the technically do if you want to get fussy, but really what I need to know is that the event (or whatever) occurs on a specific day.

What a mess to clean up and MS tells me to either go back to my old TZ or to manually fix each one. Trying to be too smart sometimes just ends up with something stupid.

(I gave up trying to mess with it when I travelled and never synced with my Palm except in the home TZ.)

John MacR[?]

I haven't used this program, but after reading this post some time ago, today I came across CorrectTime[?]:


Which will supposedly undo all that time changing stuff Outlook does to your appointments.

Stephen Haberman

I tried to repro it in my Palm and it does not repro.

Having worked at Microsoft, I know some tester must have reported this problem, and I know some developer must have marked the bug as "No customer requirement". Customer use cases are not correctly perceived (elicitated) by Microsoft Program Managers.

An ex Microsoftie.

The problem can be solved by ALWAYS using local time, wherever you are. Thus, the automatic correction when you switch time zones is working FOR you rather than against you. And you don't have to do time-zone translations in your head.

It could be worse; Lotus Notes is so bad it makes Outlook look good! (It makes me wonder if awkwardness and non-intuitive operation were two of Lotus Notes' design goals :)

Alan Balkany

 Fri, 30 Dec 2005 20:08:52, Don Meares, Great Fun with Technology, or How to Make Life Complicated
I have had these problems with TZ changes and computers. I'm a smart guy, I thought I could deal with it. I live in Alaska, I'm 4 hours off this year from the East Coast. (thank God we convinced ourselves to keep the state in only 1 time zone...I think we could have 4 or is it 5?), anyway....I was doing just fine migrating from Daytimer paper to Daytimer Software and loving it and then the software went away (taken off the market) but no problem I went on to a Palm. Fat dumb and happy, everything working pretty much okay, and then it lost it's memory. Palm could only suggest that I should have backed up the database.

I had nearly everything at home in my desktop, but I realized that I never had to back up my Daytimer! I could see myself photocopying the book every hour or so and I asked myself, why is this so complicated? I went back to paper, no issues. The limitations are almost an advantage, I can take a moment to think about what I'm doing next.
 Sat, 14 Jan 2006 16:33:06, Frank, I nearly missed my plane today because of this insanity!
I just bought a pocket pc machine after years with a wonderful Psion. By switching the clock to a visiting time zone the flight times I'd so carefully fixed in the calendar got moved on one hour. Luckily I looked at the printed schedule instead of my $500 dollar machine to be sure. Thanks a bunch whoever programmed this utter stupidity! Without resetting the time on the machine, how on earth can I set alarms to wake me at the appropriate local time?! But then all my appointments get automatically shifted. Duh! Your sentence in capitals says it all. We need to switch to the time zone we're visiting WITHOUT THE APPONTMENT TIMES CHANGING, DUMBASS who programmed this crap. Now get this as a bonus. I live in the UK. If I set my machine to UK English as the regional setting, this wonderful machine won't display the day of the week. Nope! That's a facility reserved for Americans. The "customizable" local settings interface offers no choices at all. I either set for US English, get days of the week but have all my currency in dollars, or I set for UK English and don't know which day it is. How were the people who programmed Windows Pocket PC selected? All high-school drop-outs?!
 Wed, 18 Jan 2006 17:31:31, Geek, You can't satisfy everyone
For every person who thinks the time should stay the same, there is another who thinks it should change. We've had to deal with this same issue in a different context and ultimately decided the Outlook approach was the most sensible, so we made it the default, but did include an option to turn it off (which was a checkbox that said something like 'Are you in marketing?').

Next time you're going to travel somewhere, do yourself a favor, and use Outlook's dual time zone option. It will show you the time in both zones. Then the appointment will show up exactly right for both zones. And it will be clear to you that Outlook does the sensible thing. If not, there's always a career in marketing....

 Wed, 25 Jan 2006 08:24:37, v22, time changing..
Whenever i sync my pocket pc it changes my current time.. is there any solution?.. if so pls help me.. can contact me through( hopes hear from sumone soon.. :(
 Mon, 27 Feb 2006 01:40:57, Diana Rozen,
Are we loosing sight of who is at the top of the food chain. All of a sudden humans have to change their way of thinking to accomodate a mediocre program. When did we start unquestioningly accepting this rubbish and placing ourselves second - did I miss the memo? If Outlook want my business they can damn well earn it. Until then, I use paper.
 Mon, 18 Sep 2006 07:55:01, ,
 Fri, 22 Sep 2006 17:52:56, Will1593, Try it on the Mac!
Entourage which is the Mail/Calendar tool in Microsoft Office on the Mac has the best way of handling this that I've seen. You can, if you want, specify the time zone of an event - otherwise it uses your "default time zone for new events". It then always displays it as, 1pm for example, no matter what time zone I change my system to. It seems to me that follows Uncle Bob's wish to write down the time they agreed "1pm" rather than do mental gymnastics.

So I'm in my regular office in Chicago on the phone with my colleague in New York setting up my meeting when I'm there next week. We agree on 1pm local, I enter it as 1pm and set the time zone to Eastern. I close the event window and look at the calendar and see that my event shows up at 12pm because my system clock is currently set to Central time- seems confusing. Maybe, but at least it has the benefit I can see in my calendar that the NYC meeting doesn't overlap with a regularly scheduled meeting at 1pm Central which I want to dial back into from New York. I can reassure myself that the NYC meeting is in fact at 1pm (the colloquial time for the meeting if you like) by opening the event again and it shows the start time as 1pm Eastern.

Next week I get to New York set my system clock to Eastern Time and open my calendar. Now I the calendar shows my meeting at 1pm and in real time Entourage alerts me at 1:55pm that I need to wind things up so I can get on the call at 2pm which will be happening back in Chicago (albeit at 1pm!).