by August 14, 2006 0 comments

Normally, updating your address book would involve e-mailing your contact
with the information you already know and asking them to send you updates if
necessary. These mails in turn can bounce, go unnoticed or land in spam boxes.
When you do get replies, would you have the time to go through each of them,
find out what’s changed and then meticulously copy-paste them into the
relevant places in your contacts boxes? Definitely not. Well, atleast some of
these ponderous tasks have been made easier. The downside is, you need not one,
but two or three programs installed to make it work. We’re using a combination
of Outlook (where our contact information is), Access and InfoPath from the Beta
of Office 2007 we reviewed last month.

MS-Office users
Update your address books automatically using Outlook and Access
utlook contact update

First, make sure your contact information is your Outlook, since Access
cannot use other mail clients or contact managers in the same way. Now, fire up
Access and create a new database and save it to a known location like your home
directory. Next, use the External Data tab, and use the ‘More’ dropdown
under the Import section to click on the ‘Outlook Folder’ item. This will
open a wizard to select which Outlook Folder you want to link to and how to link
to it. At this point, select to create a linked table, the ‘Contacts’ folder
inside the Address Books>Outlook Address Book hierarchy and click on Finish.
Now, you can see and edit all your contact information from Outlook inside this
Access database. Since this is a linked table, updates in one location are
reflected in the other system as well.

Now to get the updates, right-click on the table ‘Contacts’ on the left
and select ‘Collect and Update data via E-mail’. This will open a second
wizard. On the first screen, select the ‘InfoPath’ option only if you’re
sure that all the people you’re sending the request to will have the InfoPath
program installed on their PCs. Office 2007 can let users use InfoPath forms
using a new Forms Server product, but neither is this server available at this
time nor does this wizard provide you an option to host your forms on one.
Contrarily, we found that the HTML form generated does not work on some systems
(possibly due to IE’s security settings). In the wizard, select the fields you
want the users to view/update. If you don’t want them to update a particular
field (say your nickname for them), then you can check on the ‘Read only’
option while that field is highlighted in the right-side box. Do remember to
select the ‘E-mail address’ option from the dropdown when asked for the
recipient address field in the database. Finally select the recipients
themselves and click on Finish. If you configured Outlook to not automatically
send messages, you will need to now open it and click on ‘Send All’.

Once your recipients update the information, all they need to do is click on
Send (even through a web-based mail using a browser-if you used the HTML form
option). The mail will land in a special ‘Access Data Collection Replies’
folder under your Inbox in your Outlook and the information there will be
automatically updated in your Access database and from there into your Outlook

Ok, now if you have a Word file that you want to send out these people, it is
very easy to do that from within Access itself. Right-click again on the
Contacts table and this time select Export and select ‘Merge it with Microsoft
Office Word’ from the menu. Select one of the options to continue. This will
open the Word document of your choice where you can insert the Mail Merge fields
from Mailings>Insert Merge Field and send out the mail.

In subsequent parts of this series, we shall look at other interesting things
that you can do with Office 2007 and also show you how to enhance productivity
using the facilities it provides.

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