Outlook tasks

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Outlook tasks

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Edited: May 10, 2008, 5:35pm

Hi programmers! I guess this group is the most suitable for my question.

Every book/article that I have to/want to read I enter as a task in Outlook. The tasks are arranged by categories.

Now, I am trying to find a way for Outlook to go to my LibraryThing data and automatically create a task for each book in my library - and maybe even assigning categories to the books, based on their LT tags.

Ideally, if the book already exists as a task, I'd like Outlook to add a category to it ("Home library").

Any ideas as to how to do this are most welcome!

May 10, 2008, 10:10pm

What is in these tasks? I'm guessing that the book title becomes the task subject. What else? Are Date Started and Completed carried over as well? In general, what is the purpose of these tasks?

Do you have any familiarity with the Outlook COM Automation model?
Basically what you want to do is get the Tasks default folder and then use Find to see if there's an existing item and CreateItem(olTaskItem) otherwise. To keep items in sync, put LT's book-id in a UserProperty and match on that.
Then once you have the item, update the other fields from the book record.

Can you program in Visual Basic for Applications? That's the easiest way; then it can be an Outlook macro. Though any .NET programming language will work for a standalone application.

As for getting the data from LT, the easiest thing currently is to parse the tab-delimited export file. I have code that does this in various languages lying around; it's not hard.

Or did you come here hoping that some programmer would write this for you, rather than help explain how to write it? I happen to have written zillions of these sorts of things, and even implemented a visual programming language to let others write them rapidly, ages and ages ago. But it seems like it's more likely to happen if what you're aiming to do at a higher level is useful in general.

May 11, 2008, 12:40am

Hi Mike, thank you for your reply, it puts me in the right direction. I didn't come here hoping that someone would write this for me - I still hope to be able to do this myself.

Generally, I want to learn how to have Outlook create tasks from any list of books - not just from LT.

I'm a doctoral student in literature, so I have an insane amount of reading.
I've been using Outlook tasks to organize and prioritize the items on my various reading lists.

I create a task for every book or article (the task title is the last name of the author and the title of the book). Each task gets appropriate categories (i.e. "German Literature", "Literary Theory", "PhD reading list 1", "Coursework Prof. X", etc.). Some tasks have start/due dates, others don't.

To all books that I actually own, I am now adding another category, "Home Library", to keep track of how many unread books I have (trying not to buy to many books!).

The only fields in LT to be used would be author, title and tags. Tags would be used to assign categories and to rule out books that I have read (I have a tag for that).

But first I'll learn how to program in Visual Basic. Or is there an easier programming language that you recommend? (I only learned Pascal 12 years ago... have a good grasp and the love for it, but no knowledge of current programming languages).

Thanks again!

May 11, 2008, 6:09am

I'm not a Microsoft kind of guy but I think you have two main choices -
VB.NET or C#. Both have lots of info on them both online and in book form and for both you can download a Visual Studio Express version for free.

I would suggest working with the CSV export from LibraryThing - as this would be easily extended to any comma separated list of books.

Edited: May 14, 2008, 10:54pm

Thanks andyl and Mike for your help.

When I realized that I'd better spend the time on my Russian rather than learn another (programming) language, I found a way to do it through Excel (where I'm feeling comfortable).

I exported my library as tab-delimited text (CSV messed up the characters). Generated a sample of Outlook task fields, and used Excel formulas to fit the info from LT to my Outlook tasks.
Then all that was left to do was to import the Excel sheet to the Outlook Tasks Folder.

Now I have to read the books!