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Weekly Computer Tip # 67
21 May 2004

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using natural language to specify dates and times (Microsoft Outlook)

When entering an appointment, meeting, task or reminder in Outlook you can either type in the date exactly (for instance 30/05/04) or select a date from the Date Navigator calendar interface. However,

Did you know ...

Outlook's so-called AutoDate feature allows you to use natural language in an item's date or time field, such as a task's Due Date field or an appointment's Start Time field. Instead of typing numbers for a date or time, you can type a description of the date or time in words. Outlook then converts the description to a number format for you.

Here's (an example) how:

  1. Select the Task folder to open it.
  2. Click in the "Click here to add a new task" box and enter the subject of the task.
  3. Click in the Due Date box to the right, and enter the date on which the task is to be completed; for instance "next thu".

The due date as well as an automatic reminder are entered as the next Thursday from today. Outlook will display the numbers that represent the correct month, day, and year.

For dates, you can type phrases such as tomorrow, next Thursday, St. Patrick's Day or Valentine's Day. For a ful list of examples of what you can type in date and time fields, see the Outlook AutoDate Help topic "What you can type in date and time fields".

OK, the 'hunt-and-peck' typist who might average 10 words per minute (if they're lucky) will probably stick to using the mouse to select a date from the Date Navigator calendar interface, but the touch-typist will now jump up out of his or her chair, ecstatic and delighted.

Until next week.

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May 2004