Microsoft KB Archive/252976

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Article ID: 252976

Article Last Modified on 8/29/2007


  • Microsoft Outlook 2000 Standard Edition

This article was previously published under Q252976


This article provides a top-level overview of what to consider if you want to use Outlook as part of a workflow or routing solution.


Outlook offers many e-mail features that make it a logical choice for implementing a routing or workflow solution. These solutions typically require that a piece of information (such as an expense report) be passed to a certain number of users where it is reviewed and approved along the way. However, Outlook does not provide any direct way of performing workflow or routing tasks. To accomplish this, you need to either use a third-party solution, create your own custom solution, or use a different product or approach that is specifically designed to create workflow solutions.

Client-based vs. Server-based Routing

Before considering a specific solution, first decide whether you require a client-based solution or one that requires some server-based technologies or logic.

One type of routing solution is a client-based solution. An example of this type of solution would be using custom Outlook forms with Visual Basic Scripting Edition (VBScript) code that handles the logic of how an item is routed. In this type of solution, VBScript code helps ensure that the item is properly routed from user to user. One major limitation of this approach however, is that if one of the users does not perform the required action (such as opening the mail message), then the routing process may not respond.

To ensure that routing processes respond, consider implementing a server-based routing solution. In this type of solution, some or all routing information and programming logic is stored in a centralized location. If one person does not perform a necessary action, server-based logic can perform an action to ensure that the workflow continues.

There are many factors to consider when deciding between a client-side or server-side solution, including:

  • Product availability: Are you currently in a client-server environment, or is everyone configured for peer-to-peer use?
  • Time and cost: Generally, server-side routing solutions involve greater time and cost to implement.
  • Importance (robustness): Server-side solutions should be implemented in scenarios where you need to ensure the workflow process does not stop responding. An expense reporting workflow for a large company would be an example of when server-side technologies should be employed.
  • Number of users: Generally, server-side routing solutions should be implemented if you have many users involved. The greater the number of users, the greater the likelihood that client-side workflow may not respond. This is because it is typically more difficult to tightly control the actions of a large group of people.

Technology Considerations

After you have enough information about whether you require a server-based routing solution or a client-based routing solution, you should consider the products and technologies that can be used to implement that solution. You generally have three options when considering Outlook as part of a routing solution.

Consider Using Built-in Microsoft Office Features

Aside from basic e-mail functionality, Outlook does not provide a built-in feature to route items from one person to another in sequential order.

Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel both provide the ability to add a routing slip to a file. This is an example of simple client-side routing. To use this feature in either program, on the File menu, point to Send To, and click Routing Recipient. The Routing Slip window enables you to specify a list of people to route the file to, and if you select One after another in the lower left corner of the window, the file may be routed to the individuals in the proper order.

Consider Third-Party Add-Ons

Depending on your needs, implementing a routing or workflow solution can become quite complex. Prior to investing time and money in creating your own custom solution, investigate third-party add-on products that may suit your needs. These types of solutions are typically oriented towards mid- to large-sized enterprises.

The following Microsoft Web site can help you find third-party solutions for Microsoft Exchange Server:

Consider Using Other Microsoft Products

Microsoft provides other products and technologies specifically designed to implement workflow or routing solutions. These technologies are all server-based.

  • Exchange Server Scripts and Routing: Exchange Server version 5.x includes features designed to create robust, enterprise-level routing solutions. For additional information about implementing an Exchange Server routing solution, please see the following Web site:

    The following whitepaper also provides general information about implementing a routing solution based on Exchange Server:

  • Microsoft Access Workflow Designer for SQL Server: This product is included in Microsoft Office Developer (MOD) version 9.5 and is available free of charge to registered MOD version 9.0 owners. This solution uses a SQL database on the back end and is not directly hosted by Microsoft Exchange Server. For more information about the Access Workflow Designer for SQL Server, please see the following Web site:

Develop Your Own Custom Outlook Forms Solution

If you decide that a client-based routing solution is adequate for your needs, there are no third-party products that meet your needs, and you do not wish to use the Word or Excel Routing Slip feature, implementing a routing solution using custom Outlook forms may be your best choice.

The Microsoft Knowledge Base article in the "References" section of this article provides a summary of where you can find information about creating custom Outlook forms. In addition, it explains how you can find a Microsoft Solution Provider if you decide to hire a consultant to do the development for you.


For additional information about available resources and answersto commonly asked questions about Outlook solutions, click the article number below to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:

146636 OL2000: Questions About Custom Forms and Outlook Solutions

Additional query words: OutSol OutSol2000 OL2K

Keywords: kbinfo KB252976