Outlook + new daylight-saving time = a series of unfortunate events

Outlook is a calendar that wants to be a clock. It shouldn't.

Dear Microsoft,

What the heck is wrong with you people?

Let me ask you the question another way. When I set up a birthday in Outlook, what makes you think that when the time zone changes, a birthday should move forward or back accordingly? But that's just what happened when I got my automated patch for the new daylight-savings time. Between March 11 and April 1, all my appointments moved back one hour. My father-in-law's birthday became a 24-hour event that takes place from 1 a.m. on March 21 to 1 a.m. on March 22. Since the event was changed everywhere it appeared on my calendar, not just on his 2007 birthday, I had to call my wife to figure out which date was actually correct.

A weird birthday. CNET Networks

All my appointments from March 11 to April 1 also moved, including repeating daily appointments that Outlook now wants me to be late for, and even air travel appointments that Outlook wants me to miss entirely.

The same thing happened to my wife's calendar. She's fuming. And I'm just waiting my dad, whom I do tech support for, to call me up, utterly bewildered by this change. I'm also not looking forward to what's going to happen to my calendar when I update the daylight-saving period on my Windows mobile phone.

Microsoft's official position on this? According to its own knowledge base, "Consider any calendar items in the extended DST period to be suspect. If you are not sure, verify the correct time with the organizer." This is in spite of a Microsoft Web page and a downloadable utility that's supposed to fix time-change mishaps. But the utility, in addition to being confusing to use, doesn't work reliably (it fixed the birthday problem for me, but not other meetings).

A confusing fix. CNET Networks

I've never liked the way Outlook handles time zones. It changes appointments around when you change the time on your computer, which is hardly (if ever) what you want it to do. Hello, Microsoft: Just because I adjust my clock, it doesn't mean I want you to rewrite all my calendar entries.

Now, I know that there are reasons for Outlook to try to integrate time-keeping with its calendar. In an organization that uses Exchange, for example, people in different time zones can set up appointments with each other and everybody will show up at the right time. That's very nice. Until, of course, someone gets on an airplane to come to a meeting they've set up in their home time zone, and shows up at the wrong time because they changed their PC's clock to the time at the destination, only to have Outlook move the appointment on them.

This is why Web-based calendars are so much better: Because they don't try to be clocks, too. The functions are different, and Outlook needs to be fixed so it's not trying to be both at once.

 

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