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Birthday reminders wake me up at night

It’s great that Outlook automatically generates Birthday reminders for the contacts I create with Birthday information but, sadly, it puts a default reminder of 15 minutes before the Birthday. As I sync Outlook with my smartphone, it wakes me up at night.

Can I make Outlook remind me of the Birthday at a more appropriate time?

Although you cannot change the default, it is luckily quite easy to modify all the Birthday reminders at once to a time that is more convenient to you by using a custom view.

If you’d like to get additional Birthday features, then you could also directly check this CustomBirthdays add-in from OutlookStuff. It will not only allow you to set a different reminder, but also notify you how old that person will become.

Creating the custom view

We’re going to create a custom view which reveals the Reminder Beforehand time and group this view by this field as well so we can easily change it for a lot of items at once.

  1. Select your Calendar containing the Birthday reminders.
  2. Open the Views Manager;
    • Outlook 2007 and previous
      View-> Current View-> Define Views…
    • Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2013
      tab View-> Change View-> Manage Views…
  3. Click New…
  4. Name your view. Naming it “Birthday Reminders” will do.
  5. Verify that the type of view is set to “Table” before clicking OK.
  6. Click on the Fields… or Columns… button.
  7. Set the dropdown list “Select available fields from:” from “Frequently-used fields” to “Date/Time fields”.
  8. Select “Subject” in the list on the right.
  9. Select “Remind Beforehand” in the list on the left and click the “Add ->” button.
  10. Click OK.
  11. Click on the “Group By…” button.
  12. Set the dropdown list in the bottom left named “Select available fields from:” from “Frequently-used fields” to “Date/Time fields”.
  13. Set the dropdown list at the top to “Remind Beforehand” and verify that the option “Show field in view” is selected.
  14. Click on the “Filter…” button.
  15. In the field “Search for the word(s):” type “Birthday” (or the word for it in your own language)
  16. Click OK and then OK again to close 2 of the open dialogs.
  17. Click Apply View.

Changing the “Remind Beforehand” time

You’ll now have a view that should more or less only display all the Birthdays (as it will also display other appointments with the subject set to Birthday). Since the appointments are grouped by the reminder time, it is easy to change all items after you have changed one.

  1. Click a single time on a Birthday appointment in the field “Remind Beforehand”. The default value is 15.
  2. Click once more and you’ll see a cursor.
  3. Type the reminder beforehand in minutes. For instance, type 240 in order to get reminded at 8 in the evening on the day before the Birthday.
  4. Press ENTER on your keyboard to confirm the input.
  5. You’ll now get a new Remind Beforehand group with that value. In our example; Remind Beforehand: 240
  6. Select all the remaining Birthdays and drag and drop them into the “Remind Beforehand: 240” group.

Your done! Writing it down in steps makes it look like more work than it is ;-)
Of course you can also repeat this for other all day events such as Anniversaries and Holidays.

If you want to disable the reminders for Birthdays, you can still use the steps as indicated above but instead of using the “Reminder Beforehand” field to group by, choose the “Reminder” field. Then you can simply drag and drop the Birthday from the Yes group to the No group.

Some Math

The Reminder Beforehand needs to be specified in minutes. Writing things like “3 hours” or “1 day” will not work here. So, some math in advance;

  • 240 = you’ll get the reminder at 8 in the evening; you still have time to send a digital greeting card
  • 480 = you’ll get the reminder at 4 in the afternoon; last minute present shopping?
  • 2160 = you’ll get the reminder at noon, 2 days before the Birthday. Send out the Birthday card already ;-)
  • 9360 = you’ll get the reminder at noon, 1 week before the Birthday. Still got plenty of time to do most things.

Note 1: Setting the Reminder Beforehand value to 0 will not disable the reminder; it will wake you up at midnight.

Note 2: Although Holidays have a default reminder time of 15 minutes beforehand, by default the reminder for it is also disabled.

Note 3: To switch back to the standard Calendar view, choose:

  • Outlook 2003
    View-> Arrange By-> Current View-> Day/Week/Month
  • Outlook 2007
    View-> Current View-> Day/Week/Month
  • Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2013
    tab View-> Change View-> Calendar