Microsoft FindTime (Part 2)

by [Published on 19 April 2016 / Last Updated on 19 April 2016]

In the previous part of this article series, we introduced the new FindTime Outlook extension and explored how to install it in Outlook 2016 and Outlook on the web. In this final part, we will see how to use it to easily organize meetings.

If you would like to read the first part in this article series please go to Microsoft FindTime (Part 1).

Using FindTime as the Organizer

Now that we have FindTime installed both in the full Outlook client and in Outlook on the Web, let us see how to go about using it.

For this demonstration, I will be scheduling a meeting with three internal users called Filipe, Mota and Linda. Additionally, I will invite an external user named Nuno (Gmail) so we can check how FindTime works with external recipients.

Traditionally we would use the Scheduling Assistant to lookup everyone’s free/busy. Based on that information, we would choose what we think is the most appropriate time and then send the invite.

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Figure 1

But, as already discussed, FindTime goes beyond that and allows users to choose what works best for them. We start by clicking the FindTime button in our meeting invite (remember that this in Outlook 2016, in Outlook 2013 you have to click the Office Add-ins button first).

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Figure 2

Because this is the first time we are using FindTime, we need to link it to our Office 365 account by clicking on Link now:

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Figure 3

We then type our Office 365 credentials and click Sign in:

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Figure 4

Now FindTime is linked to our account and ready to be used. The following screenshot is the main FindTime interface:

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Figure 5

We can choose a pre-determined meeting duration or choose our own one by selecting Custom:

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Figure 6

We can also change our time zone and chose if we want to see only slots within business working hours (8:00 to 17:00):

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Figure 7

The first group of timeslots includes all the options available to us where every attendee is available for the period of time we selected. In this case, there is one “grey” user which is our external recipient since FindTime cannot query his free/busy information.

The second group is those timeslots where one or more attendees are not available:

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Figure 8

Within each day, the best suggestions are presented first. If there are conflicts, the color-coded people icons tell us who is free (green), busy (red), or tentatively busy (yellow). Gray is for hidden or unavailable calendars.

By clicking on the “little people icon” on the right (for the lack of a better word), we can see exactly who is available and who is not. This is useful as some attendees might be only optional:

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Figure 9

The calendar icon displays what else is going on in our day around the suggested time so we can easily see how busy, or not, we are for each suggestion:

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Figure 10

The next step is to choose one or more time slots for our meeting and click Next:

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Figure 11

If we need to keep someone in the loop but do not want to wait for them to respond, we can include them as an optional attendee by moving them to the CC: line. As we choose our timeslots, only required attendees' names are underlined:

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Figure 12

Once we select our timeslots and click Next, we can enter the location for the meeting or even set it up as a Lync or Skype meeting. We also get a summary of our chosen time:

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Figure 13

If we click on Meeting options we are presented with three further options for our meeting:

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Figure 14

  • Notifications: sends us an email when attendees vote. The email includes the current poll status and an option to schedule the meeting immediately;
  • Auto schedule: automatically schedules a calendar event if all required attendees vote favorably for a meeting option. If multiple options are available, the earliest will be scheduled;
  • Holds: adds an appointment to our calendar for each meeting option we suggest. All hold appointments are removed upon scheduling a meeting option (either by the auto schedule option or manually on the voting site) or cancelling the poll.

We will see all of these options in the next steps. When we are happy with the selection, we press Insert to email. When we do so, our current meeting can be discarded (as per the message below):

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Figure 15

This is because FindTime creates a new meeting invite in the form of a normal email with a link to allow users to vote on their preferred option(s). At this stage, a meeting invite as we are accustomed to is not sent yet. The main problem I have found with this is that any information we place in the original meeting invite such as text or attachments are discarded and the final invite is sent without any information at all. The best option is to send a meeting update with all the information once a meeting is arranged.

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Figure 16

We, as the organizer, receive an email notifying us that the invitation has been sent:

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Figure 17

As per the Holds option we saw before, FindTime adds a HOLD appointment to our calendar for each meeting option we suggested:

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Figure 18

Using FindTime as an Attendee

Let us now see how each recipient receives the invite and how they can vote or accept/reject certain times. We start with our external recipient which, in this case, is using Gmail. The invitation he receives contains basic information such as the organizer’s name, the duration of the meeting, the location (if any), and how many timeslots are available to choose from. All he has to do is click on Select options:

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Figure 19

As this is an external recipient, FindTime cannot tell which of the attendees he is, so the recipient needs to “say” who he is. In a way this can cause problems as he is able to impersonate someone else and vote for that person. At the same time, when that person opens the same invite, he/she can update her votes.

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Figure 20

Once the recipient identifies himself, he is presented with a list of all the attendees (on the left side) and some details about the meeting itself:

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Figure 21

By clicking on the Show Availability button, FindTime checks the user’s calendar and displays a little information box to say if he is available or busy at that particular time. In this case, because this is not an Exchange Online mailbox, this feature is not available:

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Figure 22

From this screen, he can choose the time(s) he prefers and the times he is available or not available:

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Figure 23

Once he clicks Submit, the vote is complete:

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Figure 24

The Subscribe to my votes option is the same Holds option the organizer had: it will add an appointment to the attendee calendar for each meeting option he selected positively. Once again, because this is not an Exchange Online mailbox, this feature is not available.

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Figure 25

Once the user votes, the organizer receives a notification telling him/her the attendee has voted and his choices:

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Figure 26

Now let us go through the voting process but from the point of view of another internal user named Linda. In this case, Linda receives the same meeting “invite” in her Exchange Online mailbox:

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Figure 27

When she clicks Select options, it is possible that she will receive the same prompt as the user before so she can select who she is. In my tests, this seemed to be a bit intermittent (possibly depending on IE cookies), which might make this tool not ideal for some business environments...

Linda votes on her preferred options (if any):

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Figure 28

But also decides to add two additional timeslots for the meeting: one on the same day at 13:00 and the other one the following day at 14:00. She does this by clicking the Add an option button:

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Figure 29

Once she clicks Add, the proposals are saved:

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Figure 30

She can now update her preferred meeting times:

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Figure 31

and submit her votes:

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Figure 32

As Linda selected the Subscribe to my votes options, FindTime places temporary appointments to her calendar for each meeting option she selected positively.

Additionally, because Linda added two options, all the attendees, as well as the organizer, will receive the following email notification informing them that Linda has proposed new times for the meeting:

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Figure 33

Another Exchange Online user named Filipe can now vote on all 5 options. Notice that although both Nuno’s have already voted, because they have not updated their votes since Linda suggested two new times, their votes for the new times still show grey:

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Figure 34

Finally, the last attendee votes, Mota:

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Figure 35

As Mota is also an Exchange Online user, he can select the Show Availability button we saw earlier and FindTime will let him know which times he is available of busy:

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Figure 36

Once the last attendee votes, the organizer receives a notification that everyone has voted and that FindTime has sent an invitation to everyone:

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Figure 37

The calendar of all the attendees, including the organizer, gets automatically updated (assuming they selected that option):

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Figure 38

The attendees receive a meeting invite with the “winning” option:

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Figure 39

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Figure 40

And when users accept it, the organizer receives the usual meeting acceptance notification we are all used to. Job done!

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Figure 41

Using FindTime from OWA and on a Mobile Device

The user experience in Outlook on the Web is very similar. We have already seen it from an attendee perspective, now let us have a look at how to use FindTime in OWA from an organizer’s perspective. We start by composing a normal meeting invite:

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Figure 42

We then click in Add-ins followed by FindTime:

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Figure 43

The process from here on is identical to what we have already seen:

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Figure 44

When an attendee receives the invitation by email on their mobile device, he/she goes through the same process as when using a full client:

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Figure 45

When clicking the Select options button, the attendee gets redirected to the FindTime website:

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Figure 46

From here, the attendee can cast his/hers votes according to their schedule:

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Figure 47

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Figure 48

Once everyone votes (in this case there is only one person invited), the attendee receives the final meeting invite with all the details:

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Figure 49

and the option to accept, reject or tentatively accept:

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Figure 50

Conclusion

FindTime is a great tool that I am sure a lot of users will like. Personally, the main problem I find with it is the user impersonation problem which might make it unviable for some organizations.

In this article series we explored the new FindTime Outlook extension that helps users scheduling meetings.

If you would like to read the first part in this article series please go to Microsoft FindTime (Part 1).

See Also


The Author — Nuno Mota

Nuno Mota avatar

Nuno is an Exchange MVP working as a Senior Microsoft Messaging Consultant for a UK IT Services Provider in London. He specializes in Exchange, Lync, Active Directory and PowerShell.

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