Free/Busy and Calendar Permissions in Outlook 2007 running against Exchange 2007 or later



Since the Calendar is a special folder causing a lot of trouble, I thought it might be useful to talk about assigning permissions and the changes you should expect to see in Outlook 2007 running against Exchange 2007.


The purpose of this post is to clarify the difference between Free/Busy permissions and the actual Calendar permissions. Free/Busy permissions refer to the level of details that another user can see when inviting you to a meeting, while Calendar permissions refer to allowing others to access your Calendar folder (actually open it and look inside). Unfortunately, with Outlook 2007 and Exchange 2007, both types of permissions are assigned from the same place, which may be confusing.


To start with, you will see two groups by default in the permissions tab: Default, referring to authenticated users in your organization and Anonymous to users outside of your Exchange organization. You only need to add another user in the list if you want to grant him a different permission level than the Default group has.


Back in Outlook 2003, everything was clear:




You would add a user, and allow him to: Create Items, Read Items, Edit Items, Delete Items, Create subfolders, see your folder or a combination at your choice.


In Outlook 2007 running against Exchange 2003, the permissions tab looks slightly different, but in the end it's the same thing.


In Outlook 2007 running against Exchange 2007 or later however, the "Free/Busy" permissions showed up in the list and might cause confusion:



You will first notice that the default permissions are changed for the Default group, to Free/Busy time. And then you may wonder what does this setting allow other to do in your calendar: the answer is NOTHING.


The "Free/Busy time" and "Free/Busy time, subject, location" permissions only apply when checking the user's free/busy information (for example, when looking in the Scheduling tab of a meeting request) and not when looking in another user's Calendar folder.  If you add a user and you grant him Folder Visible permissions so that he can open your Calendar folder and, in addition, "Free/Busy time" or "Free/Busy time, subject, location" permission, when opening your Calendar folder, he will not see anything.


In conclusion, "Free/Busy time" and "Free/Busy time, subject, location" only applied for free/busy and can be granted independently from the "Folder Visible" permission. "Free/Busy time" will only allow a user (or group of users) to see when you are free and when you are busy (busy times are marked in blue) when scheduling a meeting; "Free/Busy time, subject, location" will allow the user to also see the subject and location of your busy times (other appointments or meetings).


Happy Outlooking!


Comments (5)

  1. grant says:

    I find this annoying.  I would like to be able to share a calendar but not show the details.  For example we have a resource/room that is shared amongst departments but for reasons I will not go into, each department is not allowed to see the details of the others bookings. It would be very useful to be able to see the calendar for this room overlay-ed with my own.  From what you are saying and from my tests, this is not possible.  A dumb limitation I believe

  2. How can this be changed to have the calendar show free/busy time when a user opens up my calendar?

  3. Grant 3 and Kay says:

    You can add individual users or distribution groups and set custom settings for those groups as needed.  That allows you to leave annonymous set to limited information.

  4. D says:

    I have the same question as Kay.  I want another user to be able to open my calendar, but not be able to see the information I wrote into the appointment (i.e., the notes information).  What permissions can I use for that?  Seeing "Free/Busy type, subject, location" will apparently not allow people to open my calendar and see the appointments in the Outlook 2007 Calendar view (next to their calendar, for instance).  However, using "Full Details" lets them open the item and see my notes.  Is there a middle ground where they can see my calendar side-by-side with theirs and yet not be able to see the appointment notes?

  5. Audun says:

    When setting the default permission level to something else than reviewer (Custom and free/busy time etc).- Outlook 2007 just shows the  following errors:

    You do not have sufficent permission to perform this operation on this object. See the folder contact or your system administrator. (cache mode)

    Cannot open this item.Cannot open the free/busy information. You do not have permission to create a subfolder in this folder. (non cache mode)

    Outlook 2010 and Outlook Webapp show the shared calendars just fine.

    Will these bugs ever be fixed for 20007 or  is Outlook 2007 now left to die ? ;=)

    From an academic point I'm a bit qurious where it goes wrong. Both 2010 and 2007 should use the availibility service when requesting free/busy information? – and it is the availibility service that retrive the free/busy data from the users mailbox?. (prob. still from one of the freebusy.eml files – If I remember this correctly one is stored in the calendar folder, and one in another folder structure under Inbox. Earlier when public folders was used to replicate free/busy- one was also stored there. If the availibility service retrives this information for both Outlook 2010 and 2007 you should expect that the availibility service returns the same replay to both 2007 and 2010? Seems like Outlook 2007 does not implement this in a good way?

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