Use Windows Live to handle tasks on a Windows Phone

There is no task application on Windows Phone 7 and so there’s no way to sync tasks from Outlook 2010 (or earlier versions of Outlook) to WP7.  Windows Live (which is now known as Outlook.com) includes a task option that is buried within the Calendar hub, which is still quite limited.

I recently published an article that documents one method you could use to handle your tasks on a windows phone, which you can read here.  At the time I also mentioned another method that I was formulating.  This method uses a windows live account to manage tasks. It’s a little complicated to set up, but it’s  free and integrates nicely with Outlook and the phone’s calendar.

Setup Windows Live to accommodate your Tasks

Create a new Windows Live account that is different from your primary Windows Live account.

Login to your new Windows Live account, select Hotmail > Calendar

Select Share > My Calendar > select Share My Calendar and place a checkmark in the box next to “Share your calendar privately with friends and family” > select the “Add people” button

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Input the email address for your primary Windows Live account in the “Enter a name or email address” space, then select the down arrow underneath “Choose how much these people can see and do” and select “Co-owner.”  Select the Add button and scroll down to the bottom of the page and select “Save”.”

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Select OK to send an email to your primary Live ID account to complete the set up, then log-in to your primary Windows Live account and select Hotmail. Open up the email that was just sent from your other Windows Live account and select the Orange “Accept” button in the upper right hand corner of the email.

Select Hotmail > Calendar. Now you should see a new calendar button in the left hand control panel called “My Calendar”.  Click on the new calendar and rename it to “My Tasks.”  Now you can view, modify and delete items from the new Windows Live calendar.

Move Outlook tasks to your new Windows Live Calendar

To gain access and sync to your new Windows Live Calendar, you should have already set up the Outlook Hotmail Connector to sync your primary Windows Live account information with Outlook.  If you’ve already set up the Connector, when you open up Outlook and select Calendar, you should now see the new Windows Live Calendar in the left hand control panel.

In the screenshot below, the Windows Live Calendar I’m using for my appointments is labeled “Julie’s Calendar” and the Windows Live Calendar I’m using for tasks is labeled “Julie’s Tasks” (you can click the screenshot to see a larger version of it).

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Right now your Windows Live Tasks Calendar is empty.  You could start manually inputting tasks to it, but you can also export the tasks that are stored in your Personal folder to a CSV file and then import the CSV file into your new Windows Live Tasks Calendar.

Export your Outlook tasks to a CSV file:  Select File > Import and Export > Export to a file > Next > Comma Separated Values (DOS) > Next > select Tasks (This computer only) > Next > select the Browse button and navigate to the folder and create a file name for the file > OK > Next > Finish > Change date range to accommodate all your Tasks > OK.

Before you import the CSV file into your new Windows Live Calendar, open up the file in Excel and edit the file as follows:

  • Input a date in the Start Date.  This field must have a date in it or else the record will not import into your Windows Live Tasks Calendar
    • For tasks with Due Dates: I copied the Due Date to the Start Date field (or you could map the Due Date to the Start Date field when you import the file into your new Windows Live Tasks Calendar)
    • For undated tasks: If you want to track these tasks on your phone, you’ll have to input a date in the Start Date field.
    • Input a date in the End Date. If you don’t input a date in the End Date field, Outlook will treat the task as an all day event with a start time of 12:00 AM on the Start Date and an end time of 12:00 AM the next day.  (See the screen shot below)

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  • Add Start Time & End Time columns and input a time in them. If desired, you can add start time and end time columns in your CSV file and input whatever time you desire for each task or you can import the tasks into your Windows Live Tasks Calendar and then move them around on your calendar in Outlook.

Import the Tasks CSV file into your new Windows Live Tasks Calendar: Select File > Import and Export > Import from another program or file > Next > Comma Separated Variable (DOS) > Next > select the Browse button and navigate to the folder where the CSV file is stored > Ok > Next > select your new Windows Live Tasks Calendar > Next > you can select the Map Custom Fields to make sure the fields in your CSV file are mapping to the right fields in the Windows Live Tasks Calendar

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Then select Ok > Finish.  Your tasks have now been imported into your new Windows Live Tasks Calendar. Finally press the F9 button to synchronize the tasks to your online Windows Live account.

Create some Outlook Views to Handle Tasks

Now that your tasks are stored in the new Windows Live Tasks Calendar, you can create some views to help you work with tasks as if they were still stored in your Tasks folder.  I replicated some views that parallel the views I’ve used to work with tasks for several years, which include the following fields:  Icon, Attachment, Importance, Subject, Complete, Status, Start, End, Duration, Categories, Created, Flag Status.  I’ve created three different views that show these fields, and included the following advanced filters:

  • Active Tasks:
    • Start: in the next 7 days
    • Flag Status: equals UNFLAGGED
  • All Open Tasks
    • Flag Status: equals UNFLAGGED
  • Completed Tasks
    • Flag Status: equals COMPLETED

You can view your Windows Live Tasks Calendar and your main Windows Live Appointments Calendar individually and you can also overlay the Tasks Calendar with your main Appointments Calendar in the Day/Week/Month views by placing or removing checkmarks in the boxes next to each Calendar in the left hand control panel.  If you go back and review the screenshot of my weekly calendar which appears earlier in this article, you’ll see an example of this.

Now you are ready to set up your windows phone to synchronize to your Windows Live Tasks Calendar.

Synchronize the Tasks Calendar to your Windows Phone

One really nice feature that windows phone 7 offers is the ability to sync multiple calendars to the phone.  Once the calendar data is on the phone, you can display each calendar’s entries in a different color on the phone’s master calendar and you can toggle the calendar displays on and off.

To synchronize the new Windows Live Tasks Calendar to the phone, go to Settings > email & accounts > add an account > Windows Live > input your Windows Live Id and Password for your second Windows Live account.  Then all the data that is stored on that account will synchronize to the phone (you can modify this account later to change the account name, set the sync times, etc to your preferences).

To change the color for the calendar display or to turn the calendar on and off, open up the Calendar on the phone, tap the three dots in the bottom right hand side of the screen.  Then select “calendars” to change the color of the calendar items and to turn the calendar display on and off.

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Final Notes

It took some time to get used to seeing my tasks included in with my calendar items, but now that I’ve become accustomed to it, I really like it.  I also like the idea of scheduling blocks of time in my calendar to work on tasks.  I may not get the satisfaction of checking off my tasks on my phone, but I can do that in Outlook and I’m finding it very useful to organize my week in Outlook’s weekly view, where I can move tasks around and schedule my tasks.  All-in-all, I think this method will actually make me more effective and more focused on getting things done.

Try this method out and let me know what you think of it.