Office 365: Your Automatic Reply Settings Cannot Be Displayed

We recently decommissioned our aging Exchange 2007 Server and switched to using Office 365 for Email.

One quirk of the new system was that some users were having difficulty accessing their Out Of Office (Automatic Reply) Settings when using Outlook 2010 or 2013.

Your automatic reply settings cannot be displayed because the server is currently unavailable. Try again later.

There seemed to be no real pattern to this, and many suggestions were offered, non of which worked for us.

The simple solution I eventually stumbled upon was to ensure that “Exchange Web Services” was enabled for each Mailbox within Office 365: Active Users => UserName =>  Mail Settings => Email Apps

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I have no idea why this is required, but it would appear that MAPI doesn’t support the full functionality of Exchange when using Outlook.


Creating Outlook Add-Ins with Visual Studio Express 2013

“Add-Ins” are small programs that add additional functionality to an existing piece of software. In the case of Microsoft Outlook, they are commonly written using Visual Basic or Visual C++ (now all part of Visual Studio).

Writing a Microsoft Outlook Add-In has not always been possible with Microsoft Visual Studio Express (Free) Edition. Previously, software developers have been required to purchase a copy of Visual Studio Professional, which can be hard to cost justify if you just wish to knock together a couple of quick applications.

Fortunately, Microsoft Visual Studio 2013 Community Edition now provides a way to develop Office Add-Ins without the need to pay for the full edition. This article will describe how to achieve this.


You can download and install “Visual Studio Community Edition from here

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When the installation has completed (it takes a long time and you will need a reboot), start up your copy of Visual Studio and let it run through the configuration routine. You don’t need to change any of the default settings,but consider the following:


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Choose “Not Now” when prompted to “Sign In”. Select a suitable “Development Setting” (I chose “Visual Basic”) and a Colour Scheme. Then, click “Start Visual Studio”.
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  Eventually, the package will load up!

However, there is still an additional step to perform before we have everything we need to create an Outlook Add-In (since the basic installation doesn’t include the Office Add-In templates).

So, make sure Visual Studio is closed, and then download / run Office Templates from here (the file should be “OfficeToolsForVS2013Update1.exe”)

Click “Install” when prompted.
“Accept” the License Agreement.
Wait for the installer to complete, then click “Finish”

Restart “Visual Studio” and click “File” => “New Project”. You should now have the option to create an “Outlook 2013 Add-In” (amongst other useful things). 


Give your new “Add-In” a name and click “OK” to get started with your coding.



Creating a Shared Resource Calendar in Exchange 2007

It’s often handy to create a shared calendar within your organisation for booking rooms and other shared resources such as cars and laptops.

Outlook / Exchange 2007 makes this easy to achieve.

Firstly, create a shared Calendar (within Public Folders) using Outlook. For the purposes of this example, let’s call this “Pool Cars”.

Shared Calendar 001  

Shared Calendar 002

The next stage is to create the shared  resource(s). This must be done within “Exchange Management Console” on the Exchange 2007 Server (Start => All Programs => Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 => Exchange Management Console). Again, it is a simple process using the “New Mailbox” Wizard. You should choose either a “Room Mailbox” or an “Equipment Mailbox”.

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Use the table below for completing the details within the wizard.

Mailbox Type Room Mailbox or Equipment Mailbox
User Type New User
User Information Fill in the User (Resource) Information as required.
User Logon Name PoolCar01
Password Anything valid will do (the account will be disabled)
Alias (Email Address) PoolCar01
Mailbox Database Set as per your organisation
Managed Folder Mailbox Property Set as per your organisation

Now that the Resource Mailbox has been created, it needs to be configured to “Auto Accept” Meeting Requests. This must be done within the “Exchange Management Shell” on the Exchange Server (Start => All Programs => Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 => Exchange Management Shell). Type the following command into the shell:

Set-MailboxCalendarSettings "PoolCar01" -AutomateProcessing AutoAccept

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To check that the value has been set correctly, type:

Get-MailboxCalendarSettings “PoolCar01" | fl

That essentially completes the process. You can create as many shared resources as your organisation requires (you do not need to purchase additional CALS for these mailboxes).

Additional Notes

By default, a resource cannot be booked for more than 24 hours (1440 minutes). This setting can be adjusted using the Exchange Management Shell. The example below extends the time to 5 days (7200 minutes):

Set-MailboxCalendarSettings "PoolCar01" –MaximumDurationInMinutes 7200

Tracking Multiple Product Keys within the Office 2013 Portal

If you are running a small office network and managing multiple copies of Microsoft Office 2013, you will be aware of the difficulties of tracking the license keys within the Office 2013 Portal.

Most network administrators (myself included) are using a single email address to activate all of the licenses, but this is problematical because it is not entirely obvious which product key belongs to which installation option.

There is a little trick that can be used to see the product keys within the portal, and this document will explain how to do this.

Obtaining Product Keys from the Office 2013 Portal

Firstly, log into your office account here:

You will see each copy of office listed, but the product key is not displayed.

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To view the product key, select “Install From Disk”

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Then, “I Have A Disk” followed by “View your Product Key”.

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The product key will then be displayed on the screen.

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Make a note of the product key and repeat this process for each copy of the Office 2013 held within the portal.

This only partly resolves the problem, as you will have noticed that NONE of the product keys you have just recorded match the “product keys” that you originally typed in at the time of installation. The explanation I received from Microsoft is that those keys are actually “pin numbers”, and they are used to obtain / generate a product key at the time of installation (this is al done in the background). However, there is no way to cross reference these “pin numbers” to a “product key” within the portal.

So, if you wish to track product keys with individual workstation installations on your network, a further step will need to be performed.

Obtaining Product Keys from the Workstations

to determine which specific product key is installed on which workstation, some leg work will be involved. You will need to visit each workstation in turn, and manually obtain the key using the “ospp.vbs” script from a command prompt.

Use the following procedure:

  • Logon to a workstation where Microsoft Office 2013 is installed
  • Open a command prompt
  • type: “cd c:\program files\microsoft office\office15” (or “cd c:\program files (x86)\microsoft office\office15” on a 64 bit machine)
  • type: “cscript ospp.vbs /dstatus”

Running the above script will display the final five characters of the product key. This should be sufficient to match the key to one of the keys you earlier recorded.

You can find out more information about the switches for “ospp.vbs” by typing “cscript ospp.vbs /?” from a command prompt.

Repeat the process with the remaining workstations on the network and build a spreadsheet with the following information to help track your license keys:

Workstation ID Product Key Notes
4G58D8S-WIN7 xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx
FGHDUR5-WIN7 xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx
FGHD586-WIN7 xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx

Outlook 2010: Additional Microsoft Exchange Accounts cannot be added

By default, the Maximum number of Exchange Accounts allowed per Outlook Profile is 10.

A single Exchange account is normally adequate for most of us. However, it may not be if some users have gotten themselves an Office365 Email account in addition to their Corporate Email. Previously it was possible to use the Outlook Hotmail Connector to address the problem of multiple accounts, but this is not an obvious option with Office365. 

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If your users are are stopped in their tracks when trying adding more Exchange accounts, there is a Group Policy setting that is worth looking at:

User Configuration => Administrative Templates => Microsoft Outlook 2010 => Account Settings => Exchange => Set maximum number of Exchange accounts per profile

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Be sure to set this to a higher value if it is causing an issue.

Improve Hotmail Security by Enabling SSL Encryption

This one must have passed my by. If you use Hotmail, be sure to visit and enable your account to use a fully encrypted connection.

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If you access your Hotmail account from within Microsoft Outlook, you will need to grab the latest version of the Microsoft Office Outlook Hotmail Connector which now supports the SSL features.

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