The process of automation allows you to script your way through Office applications—even Outlook. Here’s how.
Back in November, I asked you to send me your suggestions for where you
would like me to take this column. What areas of scripting do you want
to learn? To encourage the shy, I offered incentives in the form of a
prize if I used your suggestion. Over the next several months, I’ll be
covering some of these suggested topics in detail. Because you know how
I love to keep you in suspense, I’m not going to tell you the names of
the winners until we cover their suggested topics.
And The Winner Is...
The first winning suggestion was submitted by Don Baker, an MCSE from
Internosis.com. Don wins a copy of Scripting Windows 2000 by Jeffrey
Honeyman (Osborne/McGraw-Hill). Actually, Don had several ideas. I may
ultimately get to them all because I really liked them (don’t worry—he
can only win one prize), but I’ll start with his first request: Outlook
You’ve Been Exposed
If you’ve ever used any of the Microsoft Office suite of programs,
you know about Object Linking and Embedding (OLE), which allows you to
place an Excel spreadsheet into a Word document or put an AVI file in
your PowerPoint presentation. Well, OLE is simply part of COM (Microsoft’s
Component Object Model), and COM is exposed to the Windows Script Host.
Therefore, as long as the application has an exposed object model (and
virtually all Microsoft apps do), you can access it from your scripts
to create and edit its documents or files. In other words — you can access
an application as you would a component. The process is called automation,
and it’s really cool!
To find out what you can actually do with the application from within
our scripts, we need to take a look at its object model. For components,
the object model is represented in the DLL or OCX (remember all those
times I used X-Ray to look at components?). In an application, the object
model is usually expressed in a type library file (.tlb or .olb). You
can look at these files using X-Ray in the same way you look at DLLs.
In fact, if you recall, the Active Directory object model I referred to
so often over the last few months was in the form of a .tlb file.
shows the Outlook object model viewed with X-Ray. The file — MSOUTL9.OLB
— is located (along with all the other Microsoft Office object models)
in your Office directory. Assuming you installed Office with the default
settings, this will be C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office. Next
time you have some spare time (not now, of course—I need your full attention),
search your entire hard drive for files with .OLB and .TLB extensions.
You may be surprised to discover how many applications allow automation.
|Figure 1. The Outlook Object Model shows which interfaces are
exposed for automation.
X-Ray shows all of the exposed interfaces, I find that the Visual Basic
Object Browser is easier to look at. For one thing, it’s sizeable. You
can also load multiple libraries and switch between them. That right there
is worth the price of admission! Figure 2 shows the same Outlook object
model viewed in the VB Object Browser. See what I mean?
|Figure 2. The Visual Studio Object Browser allows viewing of
multiple types of libraries.
The Deep End of the Pool
As you browse the object model of Outlook, you may become a bit overwhelmed.
There are tons of exposed properties, methods, constants and more. Don’t
try to understand it all just yet. Many of these properties and methods
you may never have to use. I’ll start with something simple: Starting
Outlook and sending an e-mail message.
Dim objOutlook, clsMessage, clsRecipient
' Open Outlook Session
Set clsMessage=objOutlook.CreateItem(0) ' Value of '
Value of 1="To"
Just Went Down!!!”
clsMessage.Body="The Server went down at "
Time & "on "& Date
clsMessage.Importance=2 ' Value of 2=Important
If Not clsRecipient.Resolve Then
what’s been done. In line 5, I create the automation object and start
Outlook. I tell the Outlook object to create a new object, specifically
a new message, by executing the “CreateItem(5)” method. The object model
contains a list of constants that tells you what number corresponds to
what item. More constants are also used in lines 8 and 11 for placing
the recipient on the “To” line and specifying that the message is high
priority. I then set the properties of the message, including the subject
line and the message body. Now I’m ready to send. First, I must resolve
the name in the Outlook address book. Line 11 tells the script to display
the message on the screen if the recipient name can’t be resolved. I can
also add alternate recipients at this point and try again. Once I’ve resolved
the name, I send the message.
|For more information about
Outlook Automation go to http://search.support.microsoft.com/kb.
Choose Outlook from the pull down menu;
click "search by specific article
ID number;" and read articles Q201096,
Q208527, Q146636 and Q271225.
Let’s Get WITH It
You’ve probably noticed that I’ve included a VBScript command I haven’t
yet covered: the WITH statement. This will really save on typing when
dealing with objects, classes or user-defined types. Simply tell VBScript
that you’re going to be working “WITH” a particular object, and every
time you precede a property or method with a dot (“.”), VBScript uses
the object specified in the WITH statement. END WITH puts things back
I’ll look at other ways to use automation with Outlook (and perhaps Word)
to accomplish some other tedious administrative tasks.
Chris Brooke, MCSE, is a contributing editor for Redmond magazine and director of enterprise technology for ComponentSource. He specializes in development, integration services and network/Internet administration. Send questions or your favorite scripts to email@example.com.