Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Creating Outlook Forms 1 - Step by Step Example

Issue:
Use Outlook Forms and Exchange Server to streamline business processes.
Gain access to an Outlook form from an internal website.

Quick:
Identify and define process to switch to Outlook forms

Visual/Learning:
Outlook forms can be a bit quirky, but for a small to medium size company, Outlook forms can greatly help in streamlining business processes.

For our example project, here is a Check Request form to be converted.

Normally someone pulls up the form from our internal website, fills it out, prints it, takes it to his or her manager for a signature, then takes it to finance.


An Outlook form could speed-up the whole process plus you can do checking to assure key fields are filled out. Not only that you can save a little paper and the form is less likely to be lost in the shuffle.


I am not really wanting to get into digital signatures so I first contact everyone associated with this process to be sure they are OK with getting an email message and forgoing the signature for this process. I also talk with everyone to be sure I understand the process, what information is needed, and why, and who needs to get it, and in what order they need to get it.


The process goes as follows:

1. Requester fills out the form.
-Name and Address of Payee
-Optional Phone number
-Optional Project number
-Check amount
-Description of the expense and a project number if that applies
-Where the check needs to go
-Person requesting check
-Date needed if before normal check run

2. Manager approves or rejects request
- rejected request just need to go back to the requester
- approved requests go to requester and to Finance Department


3. If the Manager approves the request Finance confirms the check cut date.
Click on the link below for step 2.

65 comments:

Anonymous said...

Do you have these step-by-steps instructions in a printer friendly version? I would love to be able to print them out.
Thanks!

Jimmy said...

No, but if anyone knows how to make it more printer friendly let me know.

Anonymous said...

All of your information has been very helpful. I work for a large corporation and cannot install forms within the organizational forms library. It's a form for a small population. I have an edit and read version. When testing it, receiver can see the data and forward it, but if they reply or reply to all, it goes to a blank message instead of the form I've set up. Any suggestions? Thank you

Jimmy said...

Yes you have to set the reply to use the same form. In the form under the (Actions) tab. Set Reply and Reply to all to use the form you have created. You would need to have each user install the form in their personal forms folder.

Anonymous said...

Your step by step guide is brilliant. I have 2 questions: how can a form be printed out? And, is there any way of tracking which e mail addresses the form has been to when it is going through an authorisation process?

Jimmy said...

Printing Outlook forms is a bit of a weak point. You can of course select the window and do an Alt-PrintScrn to capture just the form window and print that. Not very nice. There is a XPrint add-in from Microsoft which I have not used. What I have done in the past was to create another outlook print form, which I used to collect relevant fields and print that as text.
For tracking, you could collect each sender name and add it to the bottom of a read only text box. For many processes you only need to capture who it is from (captured in a form field) and who approved it (reply address of the approval form).

Anonymous said...

Hi Jimmy, this is a great site. I have made this form printer friendly by copying your test and screen shots into a word document...It prints out just like a manual!! It is great..Thanks a lot!

Anonymous said...

I meant text instead of test! Sorry..

Jimmy said...

Great, I am glad that worked for you.

Chris said...

Jimmy,
In Outlook 2003, I'm trying to create and assign a task to a public folder called "IT Requests". I am getting this error msg: "The task request is addressed to more than one recipient. Your copy of this task will not be updated."

Any idea how to make this work? I have tried creating both a Post and Task type public folder, it does not work for either.

I'm really just trying to create a simple request queue where users can request stuff from IT and send attachments and request a due date. If there's an easier way, or an Outlook form template exists for this, I'm wide open to suggestions...

Thanks,
Chris

Jimmy said...

I would not create the form based on a task form. There are some issues using this form see http://www.outlookcode.com/article.aspx?id=60

Use the Message from instead. Add the fields that you need and create a custom view in the public folder to show fields you want to track. See my post on how to do this here http://qvlweb.blogspot.com/2008/09/outlook-forms-15-collecting-data.html

Chris said...

Ok, thanks for the advice. I am having trouble creating custom fields on a message form. Ie. I can't figure out how to create a user-defined field that is a dropdown menu. It's pretty frustrating. If I made a donation on your website, would you be willing to help me create an IT Request form and a public folder view? It would be about 10-15 fields.

Jimmy said...

Chris,

I added an Email Me link to the blog. Send me an email with the details of what you are wanting to do.

FYI
This email account will require you to take a squiggle text test before the message is sent.

Beard said...

Jimmy, I am not happy.

I have spent weeks piecing together all this information from the web and trying to make the form work, and here you are, with a full written account!!

It's great I love it, thank-you so much ;-)

One quickie, I have created my shiny new form (it's very slick) and it works great within the company, but as it is a purchase request, the final step involves forwarding to an external company (who do not have my custom forms installed), when I forward my custom form to my G-mail account it just comes out blank, is there any way round this?

Thanks in advance

Jimmy said...

You can get the information out in text format but not with a pretty form. You will probably need to use a little vbscript to copy your fields to the message body before it sends.

Beard said...

yeah, sending it as a text file attachment would be perfect, do you have any ideas how to go about this, i found a few bits and pieces but I was way out of my depth

Jimmy said...

Beard,
Here is a bit of code that works to copy text and field data into the message body once the send button is pressed. I tested it to my gmail account. This code looks for a field called ProjNumber so you need to put one of your field names in the place of this. Add text inside "" use ampersand & between text field items, Use vbCrLf to do a return and line feed on the message body. This command will get pretty long so you can use space underscore at the end of a line in your script to indicate that the command continues on the next line of the script. Hope this helps.

Sub Item_Send()
Item.Body = "Put text in like this " & "Carraige Return and line feeds " & _
vbCrLf & vbCrLf & "Field Values " & Item.UserProperties.Find("ProjNumber").Value
End Sub

Beard said...

Jimmy,

I have got that working thanks. There is however one bug. As it is a purchase request, the form gets forwarded internally (usually about three hops), however when you send it externally, it only shows the text from hop number 1, everything that you put in after the first send is not remembered.

Any ideas?

Jimmy said...

I think that I would use a sperate reply form for the final step and put the code in that form so that all the needed text and fields get copied to the message field as the last thing before sending it externally. Pretty sure Item_Send only fires when a new message is sent. You could use Item_Reply to do the same thing in a reply.

Chris said...

Hey Jimmy, did you get my email?

Thanks,
Chris

Jimmy said...

Chris I sent you a reply. Check your spam filter.

Beard said...

Jimmy, your comments were invaluable, and I now have the purchase order working properly on my local machine...

Thank-you so much

Anonymous said...

Jimmy,
Per your response:
Yes you have to set the reply to use the same form. In the form under the (Actions) tab. Set Reply and Reply to all to use the form you have created. You would need to have each user install the form in their personal forms folder.

I do not see a place to select the form that I'm using.

Thanks

Anonymous said...

Jimmy,
I'm creating a customer survey form to send to internal customers. I have 4 questions and I added 5 option buttons to select 1-5 (agree 1, 5 disagree) But if you select one on one line and go to select on the second line the first one goes away. Can you help me with this or is there a better way.
Thanks

Jimmy said...

Radial button will only allow you to select one at a time so you need to group seperate questions in a frame.

Beard said...

Hey Jimmy,

with much fighting with my IT department, I have got these forms on our terminal servers, and installed the forms in the Organizational Library.

On my local machine it works fine, however when i send it from my terminal server (i installed the vbs.dll's) the mail to an external account arrives with a winmail.dat attachment and no text

it is an EXACT copy of the copy running on my local machine, i have looked up winmail.dat files and gone though all the setting RTF messages to be sent as plain text etc.

Any ideas oh wise guru??

Jimmy said...

So I am not real clear on what you are doing but it sounds like you have the form on one Exchange Org (Terminal Server) and you are trying to send it to another Exchange organization. Not very easy to do but here is a link that might help:
http://www.outlookcode.com/article.aspx?id=66

Beard said...

Hey Jimmy,

No, what i am doing is running the custom form on our terminal servers from the organizational folder, that works fine, it then calls a second form with a vbscript in it that when you click the send button, it copies all the fields into the message body and sends it as a plain text e-mail.

It works fine from my local pc, but when i run it from the terminal server, it arrives as a winmail.dat attachment.

I have tried all the setting RTF mail to be sent as plaintext etc...

do you have any ideas?

Jimmy said...

The problem is Rich Text formating. You do not what to send rich text to a user who is not using outlook. If you can, turn off rich text at the gateway:

Open Exchange System Manager, Select Global Setting, Select Internet Message Formats, double Click on Default in right window. Click on Message format tab,Set MIME encoding to "Provide message body as plain text". Click OK

justmaria said...

Hi,
Great tutorial…the best I’ve found. When I completed the tutorial, it doesn’t print the nice GUI format, only text. Is there a way around this? I'm using outlook2003

Thanks,

Maria

Beard said...

Jimmy,

It was nothing to do with the RTF formatting, I tried to tick the box 'Save definition with form' on the second form that has the VBScript

AND IT WORKED!!!! WOOO HOOO

Yay, thanks for all your help Jimmy, you and your blog are a *

B34rd

Jimmy said...

justmaria,
Printing Outlook forms is not pretty. Just the way it is. I have created a seperate Outlook form for printing that formats the data and puts it all in the message field for printing. Still just text though.
Jimmy

Jimmy said...

Beard,
I love the feeling when it works.
Jimmy

Anonymous said...

Greetings,

My firm is in the process of testing Outlook 2007, one issue we have realized is that Forms will only open as a .doc(x) and then there isnt a way to send the form on for review or approval. Instead, we have to save the .doc(x) and send it as an attachment, not very condusive.

Any thoughts?

Thank you

Jimmy said...

I have not used 2007 but I have not heard of an issue of old forms opening as a .doc(x) Is there perhaps in Outlook that is forcing the files to open as a .doc?

CECE'S DAUGHTER said...

Jimmy,

Wonderful site, thank you so much. We have a form, created in Word, wanting to know the following:

We have a shared outlook mail folder that most employees access through Outlook Web Access. Is there a place that this form can be placed so those that don't have the full version of Outlook can access it, fill it out and send it off?
Thanks for your time.
Tabitha

Jimmy said...

A mail enabled Word form is a different animal then Outlook forms. Even using just an Outlook form is not supported in OWA. One work around might be for the users to grab the from from a public folder and send it as an attachment in OWA. Probably not what you are looking for.

CECE'S DAUGHTER said...

Jimmy,
Your right.. Not what we were hoping. Thank you for the info tho.

Khurram Shahzad said...

Excellent Contribution...

i have to design a meeting request form. i need to show a button with All Rooms... as text and on its click i have to display All rooms from Address book dropdown as preselected. Please help. thanks....

Jean said...

First, the information here is a great starting point to create a form. Thanks Jimmy! I have a question, how can i manage a field to auto increment. My company want a specific mail form for a fixed email with a number each time somebody use this form.
'txtMailNo=txtMailNo+1' Any idee??

Jimmy said...

You need to have the form connect to an external location to track what number to use next. That requires a bit of code. Try http://www.outlookcode.com/article.aspx?id=19

Jimmy said...

Khurram,
I am not real clear on what you are trying to do but it sounds like you might need some code to access the address book (probably using CDO).
Jimmy

Beard said...

Jimmy,
Beard again, is there a way of attaching a screen shot or a jpg to an outlook form.

hope you are well

Jimmy said...

Beard,

You can put an image control on a form to send a jpg. If you really want to do an attachment you need to include the message control as that allows you to have attachmenets.

Jimmy

Beau said...

Can you point me to a site to show how to hide/add sections? I'm building a mockup request. If the requester wants 4 mockups, I want to display 4 new sections - 1 for each mockup request. But i don't want to add them into every request unless they're necessary.

Jimmy said...

Look on outlookcode.com

Anonymous said...

Hi, some of our employees are having trouble viewing/ approving the submitted outlook form from their blackberry. Is it possible to read the outlook form on Blackberry?

Jimmy said...

In general I do not think outlook forms are supported but this link may help.
http://www.outlookcode.com/threads.aspx?forumid=3&messageid=28117

ed said...

Is it possible to access Access database data form an Access form using an Outlook form?
Ed

Jimmy said...

yes, it is possible to get to an access database form an outlook form.

sue said...

Hi. I am new to outlook and no nothing about coding. I have to create a visitor booking form to send to our security e-mail. I have created a custom form based on the meeting form. I have had to put the fields on the second page. I have created visitor and company fields plus radio buttons for if the visitors are contractors etc. However upon sending, these fields go blank. Is there any way around this?

sue said...

Also, when it puts the meeting in the calendar I cannot view the second page. Both pages are set to show.

Jimmy said...

Sue what is the security email you are sending to? It is an exchange mailbox?

valerie said...

Hi,

how do you update a custome form in Outlook 2010, my tabs only show up in design mode.

Thanks

James said...

Our helpdesk email automated scanner will only recognize the body of an email, so I need to have the form copy the content of all the fields in the compose form, and then paste them into the body of the read layout, when the message is sent.

Is there a way to do that? Possibly with some VBS?

zmazouat said...

I'm trying to make a printing work order that members of my team can send to the printing services in my company. as i'm playing around with it i'm trying to test if it works.i press run this form, fill it out and then e-mail it to myself and yet the message is blank...what am i doing wrong?

Adi said...

nice

Amelia said...

Wow. This post helped me a lot to install the forms without much difficulty. Your step by step guide is absolutely superb. Thanks a lot for sharing it.
digital signature Microsoft

Stephen Williamson said...

Hi,


I want to popualte a combo box in 2007 Outlook form by linking it to a list of terms in excel or notepad. This way it can be easily updated by people on my server, and allow the form to have any options people wnat in the dropdown.

Also, after a dropdown choice is picked (i.e the company we are shipping to), I want the next field over "address" to auto popualte according to the combo box selection.

Finally, I want to have two buttons, Approve and Decline. Approve should send the form and Decline should reply, sending the form back to the sender. If possible they should allow for editing before completing these actions.

Thank you

venba said...




Thank you for the info. It sounds pretty user friendly. I guess I’ll pick one up for fun. thank u












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Martha Super said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Martha Super said...

Hello, I've created a simple form, based on your instructions with a compose/read layout. The form looks great. I've coded it to go straight to me first in order to test it out. When I select send, I get a message, "The messaging interface has returned an unknown error. If the problem persists, restart Outlook. Unable to resolve recipient." I have turned off the name checking option in Outlook, so not sure how to fix this. Can you help?

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