Monday, May 10, 2004

Outlook's propensity to lose custom views

Text of a usenet post -- I'll link to the thread when it's published ...

Ok, I'm sorry for the multiple posts from this am, but I hope you'll agree that in sum they're useful. I'm thrilled someone else is working to track this down.

I may have a workaround for the bug. Others can test this out. I think it only works with Outlook 2003 and exchange server.

First -- what we know & speculate:

1. This is an old bug. Custom views have been disappearing since Outlook 98.
2. It doesn't happen to everyone! It probably requires Exchange server problems or some other oddity. I use multiple PST files, for example.
3. Custom views USED to be stored in views.dat. So pre-2003 users of Outlook can happily back up views.dat and be fine. Lucky dogs!
4. The problem MAY be related to synchronization between the multiple locations of custom views, including PST files, OST files, Exchange server etc.
5. If custom views have "folder scope", rather than being "PST scope" or "All folder scope", I wonder if they're less likely to vanish?

Now the new thing.

Outlook 2003 has a new feature -- one can "copy" folder design. The help file text for this is incoherent. I don't know if it really works. This is what I'm testing to backup and restore my custom views. I'm trying to create the views only with "folder scope".

1. Create a new PST file called "ViewsBackup" and create empty folders in it for Calendar, Tasks, etc.
2. Click on my empty Calendar folder. Then chose File:Folder:Copy Folder Design. Select the SOURCE folder for the Views. In theory this should copy Views to the "ViewsBackup" folder. Repeat for each of the main folders (Calendar, etc)
3. Exit Outlook and backup (I zipped it) the "ViewsBackup.pst" file.

Next time I lose my custom views, I'll try restoring them from either ViewsBackup.pst or (whichever works).

meta: outlook, bug, defect, exchange, synchronization, data loss, custom views, custom view, filter, disappear, vanish, lose, disappearing, outlook 2003, gone, jfaughnan, jgfaughnan


This June 2000 article describes how older versions of outlook stored custom views.

update II

Ok, this is interesting. There's a LOT of broken stuff in this part of Outlook. Playing with this domain I broke views in many interesting ways, including varying views appearing from click to click, parts of the views list disappearing, etc.

1. /cleanviews is a command line option that's handy to get the views working again.
2. The only views I can copy from one folder to another (using the method outlined above), are views created with scope of "this folder, visible to everyone". I think "All xxx Folders" causes odd conflicts when copied, and "This Folder, Visible only to me" doesn't work at all.
3. The Copy Folder Design / Views & Forms doesn't do a full overwrite. I'm not sure what it does when names collide, or if it only matches on names. If a view name does not exist at the target it adds the view name.

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