And W. Edwards Deming gazed upon the notification sytem and wept
December 22, 2008 12:09 PM   Subscribe

I've had great success using the "Do not deliver before:" option in Microsoft Outlook to automate a rotating task reminder for my group at work. Now I need to take this to the next level.

In the coming year one of our support groups is changing how they do business, and it's sounding like they're going to implement their "new and improved" system in the worst way imaginable. (Think getting mailed a 500 page text document, weekly, where once a quarter a few lines apply to you and you'll have what I'm expecting.) I'd like to set something up for my group that would send out individual reminders when they're actually needed, but don't really want to manually set up a slew of individual e-mails where I have to edit the dates on each an every one.

Is there a simple way I can set up a table in excel or notepad or the like with fields like and then have Outlook grind on this and automatically generate the e-mails I need to send and just have them live in my outbox?

I'm pretty much stuck with Outlook 2003 on this.
posted by Kid Charlemagne to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Excel can integrate with Outlook using VBA/OLE. So, providing your VBA skillz are up to it, you could simply set up something like:

* a list of users and the topics they are interested in;

* the content (i.e. text), categorized with one or more topics per item.

* look through the content and email based on the topic.

The MailItem object model has a DeferredDeliveryTime property which, presumably, is the field you would need to set.

If you need pointers to using OLE to, say, read a worksheet than I can let you have some. But I'm a little too snowed under at work to do much further. (Newsgroups are an excellent resource.)
posted by NailsTheCat at 12:56 PM on December 22, 2008

Is there a reason you're limited to that client for sending these mails, or is it just what you're required to use for your day-to-day work? If you're lucky you can connect to your Exchange server (I assume you have one on the backend) via SMTP. If unlucky you could use MAPI, sending the mail the same way Outlook does. Both seem a little more reliable if this is to be a regular automated thing and at higher-volume (a "slew").

If your data can be crammed into a mail-merge format then Outlook Mail Merge might let you avoid coding anything up.
posted by vsync at 1:08 PM on December 22, 2008

You're question makes only marginal sense, but I'll gather you have two text or xml documents, this weeks and last weeks, and you want to tell only the relevant people about only those changes relevant to them.

You could use some diff module for perl or python, or even gnu diff, find the changes and determine their relevance & recipient, ignore them as irrelevant, or flag them as unknown for your personal attention. If you're documents are xml then I'd suggest using Perl's xmldiff module, as context is likely important in determining relevance.

If your documents are Excel, then VBA may grant you more direct access, greatly simplifying your script; however, VB & derivatives are unimaginably horrible at parsing text, so use perl or python if the document is truly text. VBA has some xmldiff package like perl's, but I know nothing about it.

I imagine the data & context will determine when the message must be read, no? So your perl script can pass the emails to the exchange server with the delivery date (btw, sendmail stupidly doesn't offer delayed message delivery).
posted by jeffburdges at 1:45 PM on December 22, 2008

Are you committed to doing this through Outlook? You could set up tasks in Remember the Milk, then set it up to send out email reminders.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:02 PM on December 22, 2008

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