Windows Phone Thoughts - Daily News, Views, Rants and Raves

Check out the hottest Windows Mobile devices at our Expansys store!

Digital Home Thoughts

Loading feed...

Laptop Thoughts

Loading feed...

Android Thoughts

Loading feed...

Go Back   Thoughts Media Forums > WINDOWS PHONE THOUGHTS > Windows Phone Articles & Resources

Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 08-27-2002, 06:00 PM
Jason Dunn
Executive Editor
Jason Dunn's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 29,160
Default Using Outlook categories to work with your data easier

Do you like having sub-folders for your Contacts and Calendar, but want to know how you can sync that data to your Pocket PC and still work with them easily? The Pocket PC can�t synchronize sub-folders for anything other than email, so if you want to get that information onto your Pocket PC, there�s a procedure that will help, and it revolves around using categories.

When I first started writing this, I was convinced that with enough diligence, you could keep the data on your Pocket PC isolated from syncing to a computer and have it contain both types of data (work and home) without pushing the wrong data onto the wrong machine. I spent hours cursing ActiveSync and the Pocket PC, but wasn't able to get it working. ActiveSync doesn't allow you to select categories for synching data BEFORE the first sync, so everything on your Pocket PC will dump onto the PC, even if you don't want it to. And if you select specific categories for the sync after the fact, it won't purge the Pocket PC or Outlook of the invalid data. Someone didn't think this matter though very well.

I was stunned - for nearly two years I had told people that they could keep their work and home data separate by using categories and only synching certain categories with each machine, yet I had never tried it (my home computer IS my work computer). I knew that all the right pieces were there (ActiveSync category selection), but I had no idea how badly broken they where. To anyone whom received my bad advice, I apologize - I evidently should try things before I suggest them to others. This article morphed into using categories in the only way possible on the Pocket PC - to change views of your data. Enjoy! <!>

Categories Make Life Easier
Unpublished article originally written April 20th, 2002.

The Pocket PC supports categories, a little-known feature that will help you sort your data easier

What You Need
� A functioning ActiveSync connection on both your work computer and home computer
� An installed version of Outlook. We use Outlook XP for this tutorial, but the basic concept will work in most versions of Outlook.

The only �gotcha� about this process is that you need to be vigilant about assigning a category to every piece of data. If you start to get lazy about it, your data won�t be easy to work with.

Step 1: Merge that folder data together

Before you can get that data onto your Pocket PC, you need to get back to using single Calendar, Contacts, Notes and Task folders. The easiest way to move the data is to select a piece of data inside the sub-folder (like a contact), press CONTROL+A to select all the data, then left-click and drag the data into your main folder. For some information, like Calendar entries, it�s easier to change the view (under the View menu, then click Current View) to a mode like �View by Category� to see everything. You should end up with all your sub-folder data in the root folders (Contacts, Calendar, Tasks, Notes). Now it�s time to get the categories ramped up!

Step 2: Create appropriate categories

You can assign categories to all Outlook data that is synchronized to your Pocket PC. This includes appointments, contacts, notes, and tasks. Journal entries are not synchronized, and email doesn�t factor in here because the Pocket PC can only synchronize email with one partnered computer � you�ll want to make sure you pick the appropriate computer the first time you do an email sync (likely your work computer).

Before you can start assigning categories to your data entries, you�ll need to make sure you have the correct categories set up.

1. In Outlook, click File > New > Appointment
2. A new appointment will open. In the bottom right-hand corner of the appointment window, you�ll see a categories button. The category field should be blank. Click the categories button.

Figure 1: The Categories window

3. A new window will open up � it will look something like Figure 1. This is where you assign categories to your data. You�ll see a list of 20 pre-defined categories that come with Outlook. They cover most of the basics, so in most cases you simply check a box and click OK to save the category assignment. What if you want to create a category that isn�t listed? Click on Master Category List.

Figure 2: The Master Category List

4. The Master Category List will open (Figure 2). To add a new category, you type in the category name in the New Category field, and click the Add button. Once you�ve done that, click OK.
5. You�ll now see your custom category listed in the categories window. Select it, and click ok. You can also assign multiple categories to an appointment if you wish.

Step 3: Categorize your current data

Once you have your categories ready to go, you need to assign your current data to them. The slow way of doing this is to open every item and repeat the steps outlined above. For most people, that would take hours, so here�s a faster way.

1. Switch to the folder that you need to categorize. Let�s say it�s Contacts.
2. Under the View menu, click Current View > By Category

Figure 3: Data with no categories assigned to it

3. This will give you a list of your data organized by categories. If you�ve never assigned categories to any of you information previously, you�ll likely see all your data under the �none� category (Figure 3).
4. Now you need to assign the information to a category. If you have a mixture of business and personal contacts, hold down the CTRL key as you click on each contact that falls in the business category � this allows you to select multiple contacts that aren�t sequential. After you�ve selected ten or twenty contacts, right click on one of the contacts and select Categories from the menu. The Categories window (Figure 1) will appear, and you can assign those contacts to the business category. I suggest you do this in batches, because after you�ve selected dozens of contacts it�s very frustrating to accidentally left click by mistake and lose your selection. Repeat the same procedure for all your personal contacts. Alternatively, you can drag and drop them into the appropriate category as long as there�s at least one contact in that category � remember that categories aren�t visible until after there�s at least one piece of data assigned to that category.

Figure 4: Data assigned to categories

5. Once you�ve completed assigning categories to your contacts, you�ll see them grouped together. You�re done assigning categories! Remember you�ll need to do this on any computer you want to sync with � and the categories need to be named the same way.

The procedure outlined above used contacts as an example, but it will work for calendar, notes, and tasks. The basic procedure is the same for all the data types.

Step 4: Working with categories on your Pocket PC

Now that you�ve done all the hard work of assigning categories to all your data, let�s look at how it works on your Pocket PC (you�ll need to Synchronize your data at this point). Contacts, Calendar, and Tasks are category-aware. Notes is not � you can view, sort, and work with categories for your Notes on the desktop, but on the Pocket PC it simply lists them all.

Figure 5: Changing categories in Contacts

The Contacts application on your Pocket PC works wonderfully with categories � you can tap the Show menu (Figure 5) to see all the categories you have available. I�ve divided mine up in several ways � the categories make it really easy to find the contact information I need, whether it�s for a client I need to call or a store I want to buy something at. You can also cycle through the Contact categories by hitting the Contacts hardware button on your Pocket PC.

Figure 6: Changing categories in Calendar

Calendar works a little differently with categories. Once you�ve loaded the Calendar application, tap Tools, then Categories. This loads the category list (Figure 6) where you check off the category you want to see. This acts as a filter � you�ll only see appointments that are in the category you picked.

Tasks work similar to the way Contacts works � tap in the upper-left, and select the category you want to look at.

Categories are a great way to get rid of those Outlook sub-folders, get all your important data onto your Pocket PC, and work a little faster on it. Give it a try!
Reply With Quote
Old 08-27-2002, 06:52 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 15
Default Categories with notes?

I was unable figure out how to do categories on the PocketPC with Notes.
(DISCLAIMER: I am a brand-new PocketPC user, with less than 24 hours of experience under my belt. (fedex dropped it off yesterday))

On the PC side, you can do "properties" for notes and get categories, but it didn't seem to have that ability on the handheld. I looked deeply through the menus for such a thing, because I am a "list" person, and since I figured that most people need lists, PIMs must have them, and outlook must have them.

Although it might be a little cumbersome to do so, I figured that I could make folders or categories for each of my lists, (like "shopping" or "travel needs") and make a separate "note" for each line-item, thereby allowing activesync to be able to cope with updates on either the PC or the handheld. No Joy.

I am currently investigating "checklist" and "listpro", but am disappointed with microsoft; usually they can be counted on to at least provide a shoddy, watered down version of what I want. "Tasks" might have worked if they were a little more generic; "notes" are actually a little too generic. (no checkboxes)
Reply With Quote
Old 08-27-2002, 07:46 PM
Jason Dunn
Executive Editor
Jason Dunn's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 29,160

If you want to do categories with your Notes, you'll need HPC Notes from Phatware:

It's a GREAT app and is available in a few different versions (Lite, Standard, Professional)
Reply With Quote
Old 08-27-2002, 10:53 PM
Join Date: Jun 2002
Posts: 13
Default Life is Too Short for Categories

Life is too short to go the categories route.

Get Pocket Lookout 2.1.1 from for US$20.00 and sync any or all Outlook sub-folders.

Short of Microsoft making the syncing of Outlook sub-folders native to the Pocket PC OS, there is probably no route even theoretically better than Pocket Lookout. There sure isn't any better existng practical solution.
Reply With Quote
Old 08-28-2002, 03:58 AM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 179
Default Using categories to keep data separate

I have found in the past that the situation is worse than you describe, Jason. When I tried to set up two devices syncing with one desktop, using different categories, the devices got really screwed up and lost a whole bunch of stuff - gone from all 3! the desktop and both devices...enough of a hassle to put me off, you would have thought...but no, stubborn me persevered...and managed to trash my whole pst file. Everything gone...not a happy camper!

Mind you, this was back in the days of ActiveSync 3.0 - maybe it is better behaved now...but I don't intend to go back to find out.

Another alternative...although when I tried it ages ago, I was not that impressed... is Intellisync...but they have also gone through several revisions and refinements and I hear that it works much better now.

Finally, I believe that XTNDConnect PC, the deskop version can do something like this...I read about it a month on my "to test" list ...when I get a round TUIT!

My wife and I find that syncing two devices with one desktop is a great way to keep our schedules straight. We use Categories, as you suggested, as a way to view different items, rather than worrying about keeping them off each other's devices entirely. Is also handy in that we can check each other's items such as schedule when the need arises but exclude when we want to.

I do think that there is an increasing need for something like Exchange Lite - ie for home/personal use. Max of 3 users (or maybe 4). With real simple setup and maintenance - no sane person wants the hassle of setting up Exchange for home use. Perhaps this is what XTND PC offers...I'll have to give it a whirl.
Reply With Quote
Old 08-28-2002, 05:06 AM
Join Date: Aug 2002
Posts: 3

Wow...I can not begin to tell you all how I have searched for the last 3 days for an answer to this question. I seem to get what you all are saying and I will post back if I am having trouble. I just found your forum tonight, and it was because I was looking for information on how my wife and I can sync our schedules for cross over things (like the kids doctors appointments) but I could keep my work appts separate from hers and vise-versa. I just ordered myself a Toshiba e310 (my wife already has a Jornada 525). This will be great. I hope you don’t mind me picking your brains in a few days.

Topps and Jason do you have any additional hints/pitfalls to be looking for when I begin to do this?

Should I start the whole process on Outlook on the computer and then synch the PPC's?


Reply With Quote
Old 08-28-2002, 06:31 AM
Jason Dunn
Executive Editor
Jason Dunn's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 29,160

Originally Posted by bortiz1
...on how my wife and I can sync our schedules for cross over things (like the kids doctors appointments) but I could keep my work appts separate from hers and vise-versa.
Better re-read my post. You CAN'T keep the data separate - it's an all or nothing thing where all your work data will get dumped onto your home PC, and vice versa. ops:
Reply With Quote
Old 08-28-2002, 07:11 AM
Join Date: Aug 2002
Posts: 3


I set up separate categories
1. Mine
3. Family (where I would assume to put the kids stuff, our anniversary, our family birthdays etc).

So are you saying that when I sync to the home computer..all categories are there, but when she syncs to her PDA, can she can't choose to take her category and the family category only? I understand that the home computer keeps it all but you could choose what to take with you????? Am I correct? Or do I not really understand how this category thing works? I guess what I am trying to say is that as a teacher I would not want my wife to have, on her PDA, each of my daily lesson plans/appointments that are only important to me (thus my personal work category), but I do want to be able to create an appointment that we could both see if it was something like me working late or dinner for the two of us. Am I making sense?????

I was successful at categorizing our contacts first tonight (I am stopping there or now). I have my work contacts, she has her friends, and then in the third category is our family. So if all the data comes with you when you sync, does chosing a specific category after the sync allow you to browse only the ones you want and hide the other persons category? And am I correct in that when I make a note on a date for my calander, that regardless of which category I choose, we both (my wife and I) will see it???

Do you want to come over for a few beers and help me sort this out? :wink:



PS Thanks for all the help so far, I fear I will need more. I appreciate your patience.
Reply With Quote
Old 08-28-2002, 07:17 AM
Jason Dunn
Executive Editor
Jason Dunn's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 29,160

Originally Posted by bortiz1
I guess what I am trying to say is that as a teacher I would not want my wife to have, on her PDA, each of my daily lesson plans/appointments that are only important to me (thus my personal work category), but I do want to be able to create an appointment that we could both see if it was something like me working late or dinner for the two of us.
That's just the problem - Outlook will dump all those appointments or contacts onto your Pocket PC whether you like it or not. ActiveSync is a trickster here - it LOOKS like you should be able to control the flow of data based on categories, but you can't. This was the crux of my problem and why I was so ticked off when it didn't work - because it really SHOULD. The pieces are there, but the people who designed it didn't really think things through. They were working from a ONE POCKET PC = ONE PC paradigm, nothing more.

It's too complex to explain - I can only suggest you give it a try and see what I'm talking about. :-(
Reply With Quote
Old 08-28-2002, 07:20 AM
Join Date: Aug 2002
Posts: 3

I understand, and I did re-read your post so disregard my last edit. The only question I still have is about the appointments. If I make one, can she choose not to view my "work" appointments when she is looking at her calander?

Reply With Quote

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

All times are GMT +1. The time now is 10:05 PM.