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MS SQL

Posted Jan 8, 2001

Moving Data to Outlook from SQL

By Bruce Szabo

Calendar Information and SQL

An Overview

The nice thing about writing SQL server-related articles is that nearly any technology initiative can be tied back to databases. A variety of articles can be created covering numerous topics based on this type of enterprise database server.

A recent project offered an opportunity to access event information stored on SQL server and import it to Outlook. The two tables for the event information are shown below:

The EVENTS and USERS tables to be exported
Click image for full size

These tables are used to support events occurring at a trade show and contain three distinct types of events: attending educational sessions, visiting exhibitor booths, and scheduling personal events.

Educational sessions and personal events are treated as appointments since they have specific start and end times. However, trade show attendees tend to visit exhibitor booths in numeric order throughout the three-day event. Without a specific start and end time, visiting exhibitor booths is better treated as a task in Outlook.

The Goal

The intent is for users to create their own individual daily planner (including all three event types) via the Web. Without much control over the user's calendar package, the first version used the tables to organize the information to create printable planner pages. This application was well received by both external visitors as well as internal staff members. However, with internal staff being accustomed to using Outlook 2000 to manage calendar information and several having PDA's synched with Outlook, it made sense to develop a process to move the event information into Outlook.

The Solution

Given the Outlook object model and the events database, the project can be completed using Windows Scripting Host (WSH).

For a long time, scripting routines in Windows had to be done using batch files. With Windows 2000 the WSH is built into the operating system allowing the creation of scripts using VBScript or Jscript. These scripts have the ability to create objects and interact with Microsoft Office Objects. For this project, a script was created to access the events table to add tasks and appointments to an Outlook calendar and task list.

The Code

There is enough code in this example to demonstrate the power of the Outlook object model without becoming overwhelmed. Listing 1 shows the stored procedure used on the SQL server. The stored procedure takes a UserID and finds all the events that correspond to the particular user. Other than trimming some spaces from two of the fields there is no other manipulation occurring in the stored procedure.

Listing 2 shows the VB Script file used to add the events to Outlook. [Both examples open in a new window. -Ed.]

  • Lines 1-15 declare the variables used in the script.
  • Lines 17 and 18 set constants for the default folder types used by Outlook.
  • Lines 20-24 instantiate the objects to be used by the main routines on the page. The subOpenConnection routine opens a connection to the database on the server.
  • Lines 28-30 get the UserID from an e-mail address input by the user.
  • The e-mail address information is collected from the web using a login procedure.
  • Lines 32-36 verify the UserID is valid.
  • Lines 40-41 create the statement that needs to be sent to the server to get the event information based on a UserID and submit the statement.
  • Lines 44-46 splice the information from the server and convert the information to date and time. Although the information from the SQL server is brought back as a date and time there are different fields in the table to hold the various pieces of information. The table has an event date, start time and end time. This allows for easier input on a form but does not necessarily facilitate getting the information into Outlook. For this reason these few lines of code are devoted to formatting the information.
  • When a user signs up on the web page to visit a booth no date or time is assigned. The default time from SQL is then taken in this case ("01/01/1900"). If this default date is the event date the booth number to visit is added as a task.
  • If the event date is specified line 57 checks to make sure the event has both a start and end time. Without both a start and end time, Outlook will skip the event without entering the information and notify the user. If it meets the requirements of a start and end time the event is added to Outlook as an appointment.
  • To add an appointment, add an appointment item (line 62), set the appointment properties (lines 62-68), and save the appointment (line 69).
  • After going through the first event the script moves to next event, provided it exists and the process begins until the end of the recordset is reached.
  • At the end of the recordset the objects are released the connection to the database is closed. The events and tasks are now in Outlook and can be manipulated in Outlook and synched with a handheld device. This offers the flexibility of adding information via the Web and still syncing with a PDA or manipulating the information from Outlook in a more user-friendly form.

Conclusion

As with any project, process two leads to process three. Further research revealed another feature of Outlook that can be exploited from the web, the vCalendar protocol. Exploring vCalendar and vCards will be covered in upcoming articles. The following links can also provide information about this alternative method. Adding information from SQL directly to Outlook for a web client will save some resources on the SQL server while providing the user with greater event control.

vCalendar & vCard Links

Personal Data Interchange
Outlook Appointments, ASP and vCal



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