Using Out of Office Assistant with Outlook 2003 and Exchange 2007

Problem

The use of Outlook 2003 in an Exchange 2007 environment seems to result in the Out Of Office assistant being out of sync. Duplicate or old Out of Office replies are sent back to sender.

Cause

The duplicate OOF messages are sent because the legacy rule is enabled on an Exchange 2007 server - as well as the new EXCHANGE 2007 OOF rule(s).

When OOFAssistant see an interesting mapiEvent for a mailbox for the first time on an EXCHANGE 2007 server, it disables the legacy OOF rule.  After that, it does not disable the legacy OOF rule again (unless the user changes the OOF settings with OWA or Outlook 2007).

When an Outlook 2003 user turns on OOF for the very first time, it creates the legacy OOF rule (enabled).  When turning OOF off/on, Outlook 2003 leaves the legacy OOF rule in place and just changes a mailbox property to enable/disable OOF messages.  Thus, if something (say OOFAssistant) had disabled the legacy OOF rule, it remains disabled when Outlook 2003 turns OOF off and on.

The problem appears in the following situation also: [more]

  • A mailbox is created on an EXCHANGE 2007 server.  OOFAssistant sees some interesting mapiEvent related to that mailbox.  OOFAssistant runs code to disable the legacy OOF rule, but since Outlook 2003 has not created one yet, OOFAssistant does nothing.
  • The user turns on OOF with Outlook 2003 for the very first time.  Outlook 2003 creates the new legacy OOF rule (enabled).
  • OOFAssistant processes the change to the legacy OOF rule by creating the new EXCHANGE 2007 OOF rule(s).
  • Duplicate OOF messages are sent.

In addition, Out of Office replies can be corrupted by the Blackberry Enterprise server.

Solution

  1. Install Microsoft Exchange 2007 SP1 - this update checks and disables the legacy OOF rule every time it encounters an interesting mapiEvent
  2. and Blackberry enterprise Server 4.1.5 MR1 or later (refer to http://www.blackberryforums.com/bes-admin-corner/112250-out-office-oof-corruption-blackberry-bes-exchange-2007-a.html for an explanation of the blackberry issue that is resolved with the fix)

Other Workarounds

Workaround #1:

The problem is more likely a problem with OOF rules. OOF is actually a server side rule in user's mailbox. It may corrupt, or damaged. When this occurs, we run Outlook with the /cleanrules switch to clear out the rules and recreate the OOF rule, so everything will then come back normal.

Workaround #2:

  1. Launch the MFCMapi tool.
  2. Open the Mailbox of the affected user.
  3. Right click on the Inbox folder and select Open Associated Contents Table.
  4. Select the Message Class column and find the IPM.Rule.Message and IPM.Note.Rules.OofTemplate.Microsoft messages.
  5. Before deleting the messages you can take backup of the template message the user had set for his OOF rule.
  6. Delete these messages for the affected user.

Workaround #3:

Set up OOF through OWA 2007

Networking Exchange 2007 Outlook