Creating Custom Holidays in Outlook for Mac 2011

In Outlook for Windows, you are able to create a custom holidays and events file and import this file into Outlook, as a timesaving way to add multiple holidays or events to several Outlook calendars.  You can find more information on this here, however if you have Outlook for Mac 2011 users in your environment, you may be wondering if there’s a way to import these custom holiday and event files for these users as well.  Good news, you can import these events into Outlook for Mac 2011! 

Outlook for Mac 2011 comes with a predefined Holidays file that contains the holidays for several countries.  However, what if you want everyone on your team to display company holidays and events, such as corporate paydays and quarterly expense due dates, in their calendars? You can create your own custom holiday set and distribute it to other people on your team, and the format is similar to the Holidays file that Windows Outlook uses. 

As an alternative to creating and deploying a custom holidays files, you may consider creating a shared calendar to contain holidays and other custom events for your organization.  You can grant all users access to this shared calendar, and they can view it in Outlook or OWA.  This approach is extremely versatile, as you can add, remove and edit events at any time in a shared calendar, while a Holidays file is generally imported into Outlook only one time and the data imported into the mailbox is then static.  After a Holidays file has been imported, if an item needs to be removed or modified, each and every user will need to manually remove or edit the item.

Tip   Outlook for Mac 2011 is more particular about the formatting of the Holidays file than Windows Outlook, so you must be sure the file is formatted precisely.  For example, you must ensure there are no extra spaces at the end of each line, and that there is a blank line after each section of holidays.  Use the original Holidays file as a guide to ensure the formatting is correct.
Warning   Modify the Holidays file at your own risk. Microsoft provides this procedure "as is" without warranty of any kind, either express or implied, including, but not limited to, the implied warranties of merchantability and/or fitness for a particular purpose.  If the Holidays file has any formatting discrepancies (such as extra spaces in the data, missing empty lines between sections or at the end of the file), the results in Outlook will be inconsistent.  Modify this file at your own risk and be sure to test it thoroughly before distributing.
Note   If you add the same set of holidays again, you will get a duplicate set of the holidays in your calendar.

Create custom holidays and event files

Steps to modify the existing custom Holidays file in Office for Mac 2011:

  1. Quit Outlook for Mac 2011.
  2. In Finder, locate the following file: Hard Disk/Applications/Microsoft Office 2011/Office/Holidays
  3. Make a backup copy of the Holidays file.
  4. Using a text editor application, open the Holidays file.
  5. You can either remove the data in this file to create your own custom file, add additional items to the existing lists of holidays, or position the insertion point at the end of the file to add additional sets of holidays.
  6. Use the existing data as a template to format the data properly, or use the format described below.
    [Country or Description] ###
    Holiday or event description,yyyy/mm/dd
    Holiday or event description,yyyy/mm/dd
    In the above format, ### is the total number of items listed for a particular country/region or description. There is a space between the closing bracket and the number, as well as a carriage return at the end of the line. On each holiday line, there are a comma between the holiday description and the date but no space, as well as a carriage return at the end of each line. For example:
    [Expense Reports] 4
    Q1 Expense Reports Due,2007/04/1
    Q2 Expense Reports Due,2007/11/15
    Q3 Expense Reports Due,2007/12/1
    Q4 Expense Reports Due,2007/01/15
  7. Save and close Holidays file

Distribute custom holiday and event files
You can distribute a customized holiday and event file to Outlook for Mac 2011 users by copying the file to their Mac replacing the original Holidays file located at Hard Disk/Applications/Microsoft Office 2011/Office/Holidays.  Then in Outlook for Mac 2011, click File, Import, Holidays.  Choose your custom Country or Description, click Next, then Finish.  See Example #3 below for more details.

Remove Holidays
For additional information on how to remove holidays from Outlook for Mac 2011, see the “Remove a set of holidays” section in the following article: Add or remove holidays on your calendar


Example #1:
You would like to add a custom holiday “National Anthem Day” on March 3rd to the “United States” section of the Holidays file.

  1. In the Holidays file from Hard Disk/Applications/Microsoft Office 2011/Office/Holidays, find the [United States] section of the file by scrolling to near the end of the file, or by utilizing the Text Editor applications Find feature to search for United States.
  2. You will see the default holidays listed under the United States section, one for each event that will appear in the calendar, as shown (abbreviated):

  3. Scroll to the end of the United States section and enter the National Anthem Day holiday to the file below the last listed holiday. 

    Note: You can add as many years’ worth of events as you prefer, in this example, I’ve added 8 years’ worth.
    • Ensure to keep 1 blank line between the United States section and the next section.
  4. Update the number after the United States section name, which specifies the number of events in this list.  In this case, I added 8 events, and the original number was 384, so I edit it to 392.

Example #2:
You prefer to add a separate custom section to the Holidays file.  The advantages of this would be that you could add custom sections for different regions or departments within an organization, for example Accounting, IT, and Human Resources could each have a separate section so 1 master Holidays file can be used, but different users can choose which custom section they prefer to add to Outlook.

  1. Scroll all the way to the bottom of the Holidays file, and add a new line for your custom section.  Be sure to keep 1 blank line between the previous section and the new section.
  2. Enter the name of your custom section in [] brackets.

  3. Enter the event names and dates on their own separate line below this section header. 
  4. When done, determine the number of events that are listed and enter that number after your custom section name (after 1 space).  Here’s an example where I have 10 events listed:

  5. Ensure you add a carriage return after the last event, which will create 1 blank line at the end of the file.  If you do not do this, Outlook will not be able to read the last section properly.

Example #3:
You have modified your Holidays file with the modifications from Examples #1 & #2 above.  You then copied this customized Holidays file to Hard Disk/Applications/Microsoft Office 2011/Office/ on your Outlook for Mac 2011 users’ machines.  The user now needs to take the steps necessary to import the Holidays file into Outlook for Mac 2011.

  1. Click File, Import
  2. Select Holidays, click the Next arrow.

  3. The Holidays list will build based on the Holidays file that you have modified.  Select the necessary countries/sections.  In this case, United States and Contoso Custom Events.  Click the Next arrow.

  4. You will see “Importing Holidays…”, then “The holidays you selected have been added to the calendar.” when this is complete.  Click OK.

  5. Click Finish.

Now when you view your Calendar, you will see your newly imported holidays and events.  They will automatically be assigned the category “Holiday” and “Holiday - <Holidays File Section Name>”, for example “Holiday – United States” or “Holiday – Contoso Custom Events”.

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