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Making the Most of Public Folders in a Group Account

If you have an Arrowmail Group Account you get your own set of Public Folders which allows members of your group to have shared access to non-personal company emails, a company address book, a company diary or even regular files such as Word documents.
Personal emails still go to your own Inbox which only you have access to, unless you've specifically allowed another group member to have access rights to your account - but that's another story.
Public Folders are great and many companies overlook them as they aren't aware of the benefits they can bring.
If this is you, read on!

If you have an Individual Account you don't get any Public Folders because there'd be no point.

An Example of a Use for Public Folders

If your organisation has the email address, this could be setup as an alias for one member of your group so that emails sent to this address go straight into this person's Inbox.
What happens when this person is sick or on holiday, or you want to know how many emails are arriving at the sales@ address?

A better solution is to have a Public Folder called Sales and "mail enable" this folder with the address
Emails sent to this address will now automatically appear in the Sales folder.
You can set the permissions on this folder for different members of staff to anything from
Full Control to Folder Invisible:-

You could have Full Control.

Your 2 sales people could have read/write/create/delete permissions.

A couple of others might have Read Only access.

To everyone else, the Sales folder might be invisible.

With an Individual Account, you would achieve the same result by creating a separate folder in your mailbox called Sales, having sales@ as an alias for your main email address and using Outlook Rules to automatically move emails sent to sales@ into the Sales folder.

Public Folders are Not Just for Emails

The following are some of the other uses for Public Folders:-

You can have a Contacts Public Folder to provide a company-wide address list.
Exchange does have a built-in Global Address List but this is really just internal users of Exchange and doesn't include customers, suppliers etc.

You can have a Calendar Public Folder to act as a company diary showing things such as staff holidays and other important events.
A company diary can be used to automatically schedule meetings and send out meeting requests.

You can have a Public Folder that contains regular files such as Word documents and PDFs.
Storing files in Exchange folders is called FreeDocs.

Setting up your Public Folder Tree

We create your top-level Public Folder and give it the same name as your group, company or organisation.
Only the Arrowmail Administrator account has Full Control of this folder as we don't want you inadvertently making it visible to other Group Accounts on our server.
Your Group Administrator has the permission to create sub-folders over which they will then have full control and everyone in your group can read the contents of the
top-level folder.
You can copy emails to your top-level folder if you like, but access permissions to them are fixed so that group members that aren't administrators will only have Read permission for them.

Every Public Folder has 2 special entries for which permissions can be set:-
Default and Anonymous.
These entries can't be deleted from the list of permissions.
Default means any user on our server not mentioned on the permissions list and Anonymous means a user who doesn't identify themselves.
On your group's top-level Public Folder we set Default and Anonymous to have no permissions.
This means that if you give Default any permissions to any sub-folders you create, they will only apply to any user on our server who is a member or your group.
In order for Exchange to be able to deliver emails to a mail-enabled Public Folder, the folder must have the Contribute permission assigned to Anonymous.

Because your top-level Public folder has no permissions assigned to Default or Anonymous, and only Arrowmail is allowed to change this folder's permissions, whatever you do to the sub-folders you create, such as assigning Full Control for Default and Anonymous, nobody outside of your group, and the Arrowmail Administration Team, will be able to access, or even be aware of the existence of, your Public Folders.

From within Outlook, you can create an unlimited number of Public Folders under your top-level folder and then sub-folders, sub-sub-folders etc and assign access permission to every individual folder for each member of your group.
You can also delete, rename or move the folders you have created.
We have to mail-enable your public folders for you and you can request this using the Customer Request Webform.
Just remember not to delete the Contribute permission for Anonymous on any mail-enabled
Public Folders.

Sending a Reply so it Appears to come from a Public Folder's Email Address instead of Your Email Address

If someone emails you may want to reply from your own email address to "personalise" your reply and perhaps establish a relationship with the sender.
At other times it may be more appropriate to replay as to keep thing more formal and allow other people, monitoring the Sales Public Folder, to reply to future emails from this sender.
There are several ways to do this, but we think that setting up a dummy POP3 account for each alternative Send As address you want is the easiest way.
Details of how to set this up are here.

How do Emails get into Public folders that aren't Mail-Enabled?

1 -

You, or someone else in your group, copies or moves an email from another Public Folder or from one of their own mailbox folders into a Public Folder.


2 -

An automatic process on our server moves emails to one of your Public Folders.
An example is if you have opted to have everyone's Probable Spam moved to a single Public Folder for one person to check for false positives.

Generally speaking, mail-enabled Public Folders are more useful than ones that aren't.

Setting an Age Limit to Items in a Public Folder

Say you have a Public Folder which is mail-enabled to receive newsletter emails of interest to various members of your staff, and these newsletters arrive weekly.
If newsletters over 3 months old are no longer relevant, it can be helpful if such emails are automatically deleted to keep the Public Folder tidy and not use up your on-line storage allowance unnecessarily.
For each Public Folder you can set an age limit to achieve this so, in this case, you'd set it for 90 days.
By default, no emails are automatically deleted from Public Folders no matter how old they are.
We set the Probable Spam folder, if you have one, to deleted emails more than 7 days old but you can change this.

Why Can't I see my Group's Public Folder Tree in Outlook?

Public Folders are not displayed by default in Outlook so click:-
Go - Folder… and select Public Folders from the list and click OK
The Public Folder tree will now appear at the bottom of the left-hand-side Folder List but the Favorite Folders section in the top-left will have disappeared.
It's one or the other I'm afraid.
To get Favorite Folders back, click:
Go - Mail

The solution is to right-click on each Public Folder you're interested in and select
Add to Favorites…  and click Add.
Then find this new entry in the Public Folder Favorites top-level folder and right-click and select Add to Favorites Folder.
When you've finished, to hide the Public Folder tree but keep your favourite ones showing, click Go - Mail

An advantage of this is that when a new email arrives in a favourite Public Folder, the folder name in Favorite Folders goes bold to indicate a new unread email.

You don't get a popup and audible notification like you do for a new personal email but you can get a 3rd party add-on which will do this for new Public Folder emails.

When you're using Outlook Web Access, there's a Public Folders button which makes the Public Folder tree open in a new browser window.


Official: Microsoft has De-emphasised Public Folders

This means they want you to stop using Public Folders and use, instead, their Sharepoint server - and just when you were getting the hang of Public Folders!

In practical terms this means with Exchange 2007, which was released in November 2006, Public folders are:-

Less convenient to administer because some of the GUI tools have been removed, which is our problem, not yours.

Not Accessible from Outlook Web Access.

You can also expect that Pubic Folders will be entirely absent from the version of Exchange that follows Exchange 2007.

Maybe Microsoft are right and Sharepoint provides a better way of providing a shared information store.

At Arrowmail we plan to offer Exchange 2007 accounts in the near future because of all their other whizzo features, but we'll continue to offer Public Folders until we're satisfied that we have a Sharepoint-based alternative that can provide everything, and more, that Public Folders can today.
There should also be an easy way to upgrade an existing Pubic Folder setup to Sharepoint.

Extending the use of Public Folders to store regular files, such as Word documents and PDFs, so that a group of users can access them, is where things start to get tricky:-
You don't want 2 people editing the same file simultaneously and independently otherwise the last person to save the file wins and any changes the other person made will be lost.
This is exactly what Sharepoint has been designed to address and so should, indeed, be a natural successor to Public Folders.

If only people would listen to Microsoft and start using Sharepoint.

In February 2005 Bill Gates said:-
"SharePoint is one of the most underutilised assets of the Office system."

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De-emphasised is a beautiful management-speak euphemism.
Pray that you never get de-emphasised.

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