Microsoft Intros Outlook 'FindTime' To Organize Meetings
A new extension for the Outlook email application aims to make planning meetings a little easier. The 'FindTime' add-on is designed to allow organizers to select multiple potential meeting times on their calendar, and then put the times to a vote among the attendees. Microsoft says the goal is to eliminate the hassle of sending multiple emails back and forth between employees.
"Scheduling a meeting across organizations means dealing with everyone’s busy schedules," a promotional video posted to the company’s Office blog said. "FindTime offers intelligent suggestions on what days and times work best for people within your organization." To reduce the amount of coordination needed to agree on a schedule, the extension automates email messages between the organizer and attendees.
Simplifying Your Scheduling Emails
FindTime automatically sends meeting attendees an email once the organizer has selected a few potential meeting times in their calendar. The attendees are then invited to vote on their preferred time, and are presented with a visual summary of all the voting to date. Attendees can also propose alternative times themselves. Once a consensus has been reached, FindTime automatically sends a meeting invite with the appropriate time to everyone in the conversation.
Organizers can also indicate the proposed length of the meeting, and FindTime can show which attendees are free at what times, according to their calendars.
To use the new add-on, organizers must have an email account on Office 365. From there, they can access the FindTime Outlook add-in in Outlook 2013, Outlook 2016, or Outlook on the web, where it is free to download. Only the organizer has to download the extension, though, so getting reluctant attendees to use it shouldn’t be difficult. Users are able to receive emails and access the calendar from any device, the company said.
"We are on a mission to become the easiest way to schedule meetings across organizations," wrote Vivek Garg, a member of the team that developed the extension. "After talking with hundreds of users, we found that people needed an efficient solution for scheduling meetings across organizations. Finding a time that works for everyone was much more complicated and time consuming than it needed to be."
Latest App from The Garage
FindTime has a built-in enterprise user base thanks to the near-ubiquity of the Office suite in corporate environments. Nevertheless, scheduling tools are not exactly a new idea. The extension will be competing with similar tools such as Doodle.com, which are already well-established.
The extension comes courtesy of The Microsoft Garage, a sort of skunkworks within the company consisting of employees from across the organization tasked with working on experimental, small-scale, high-impact projects. The group has been responsible for a number of different apps and extensions over the past year, including a note-taking app for Android, a PowerPoint plugin to help you share presentations with your social network, and a polling and event-planning app.