Monday, June 01, 2009

Not a Good Outlook

For the last month or so, I've been working on a VBA project at work. The short version is this: I'm creating an Outlook 2007 tool for a shared inbox that will divide the information in an incoming e-mail into different pieces and then insert those pieces into a table in one of three Excel spreadsheets. Which spreadsheet the information goes into depends on which button the mailbox user clicks.

I thought I had gotten the hard part finished. I've put together the VBA code to chop up the e-mail body into pieces and save those pieces into an array. That array will be passed to some Excel VBA code (more familiar ground for me), which will insert the information where it needs to go. I thought that was tha hard part.

But no. All I need to do is add a group to the Outlook Ribbon for the three buttons. In Word or Excel, this would be an easy process: I'd create an Add-in with RibbonX code (XML) to insert the new group (or new tab even) in the Ribbon by using my handy-dandy Custom UI Editor, and then I'd drop that Add-in the corresponding STARTUP folder. Piece of pie.

But Outlook 2007 isn't that easy. It looks like I need to code either in C# or outside of Outlook in VB to do what I want. I might also use an Outlook form, and I've even put the form together, but when Outlook was installed, the IT folks turned off my ability to add the code behind the form. I could probably get my boss to request that IT reload Outlook on my machine and turn on that ability, but even then (a) I don't know how to get that form to show automatically whenever someone opens an e-mail in this particular inbox; (b) this needs to be shared with three others, so they might need to have Outlook reloaded, too; and (c) if it doesn't work, I'll feel even worse.

Normally, you can find just about everything on the Internet. I've looked and looked hoping that someone has published a template of sorts just for adding buttons to the Ribbon, with placeholders and such. But no go. I've found a number of how-to's about customizing an Outlook Ribbon, but they're all over my head and require C# and/or VSTO and/or VB.NET. I just don't have the right resources, and I wouldn't know what to do with them if I had them.


I have one last thing to try today: The Outlook programming book I've been working from showed how to add an item to the right-click contextual menu. It looks like it can be done completely in VBA. I'll try that out. If that doesn't work, I don't know what to do next. I need to have this up and running by the end of June.

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