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How do I check people's availability when planning a meeting in Outlook or OWA?

Both Outlook and OWA have a facility known as the Scheduling Assistant which can help you book meetings when the required participants are free - it is also useful for seeing when rooms are available for a meeting.

Using OWA

To use Scheduling Assistant, switch to Calendar view and then click on the New link towards the top left hand corner:

New link in Outlook/OWA

This will open a new Untitled Appointment window. Click on the Scheduling Assistant tab:

Scheduling Assistant tab

Set the Start and End times using the dropdowns provided and then start adding required participants by clicking on the Add a name link:

add a name link

Start typing the name in and select the name when it is autocompleted. Similarly, select a room by clicking on the Add a room link, starting to type its name and clicking on it when it is autocompleted.

Busy times for all participants and for the room are indicated in the central panel as blocks. You can now select a time when the room is available which is convenient for all participants:

busy time

The right hand panel contains suggested optimum times when as many of the participants as possible are available.

Using Outlook

The procedure for using Scheduling Assistant is broadly similar when using Outlook 2010, although there are significant differences in the interface.

To use Scheduling Assistant, switch to Calendar view and then click on the New Meeting icon towards the top left hand end of the toolbar:

 New Meeting Icon

This will open a new Untitled Meeting window. Click on the Scheduling Assistant icon in the toolbar:

Scheduling Assistant

To add a room, use the Add Rooms... button towards the bottom left hand corner. This will open the Select Rooms window in which you can search for the room you need:

Select Rooms

Once you have selected it, click OK and then repeat the process for attendees using the Add Attendees... button which opens the Select Attendees window.

Search for and add all the people you need. Double clicking on a person's name will automatically add them to the Required list - alternatively highlighting their name allows you to choose using the Required-> or Optional-> buttons.

Once complete, click OK:

Select attendees

Busy times for all attendees and for the room are indicated in the right hand panel as blocks. You can now select a time when the room is available which is convenient for all participants:

Free and Busy time

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This is question number 2642, which appears in the following categories:

Created by Chris Limb on 10 March 2014 and last updated by Richard Byrom-Colburn on 26 October 2016