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Shared email folders in Outlook

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Introduction to shared email folders
Shared email folders allow multiple users to look at a single email folder, and to save emails into that folder (assuming appropriate permissions have been granted). Each shared email folder must have at least one donor (the original owner of the email folder) and can have numerous recipients (who are granted access to the shared folder).
Key benefits of shared email folders are that they save the effort of constantly forwarding emails to other persons on the same network, and allow multiple users to save all emails related to a client matter into a single folder which avoids the need to assemble a collection of such emails elsewhere (e.g. in a hardcopy file folder containing printed copies of all emails, which is wasteful, inefficient, and expensive).
The permissions granted can be modified to give recipients a high level of power (e.g. to delete emails), a low level of power (e.g. only view messages, but not save messages into the folder), or some appropriate level of power between those extremes. The donor controls the level of permissions granted to each recipient, and care must be exercised when granting permissions e.g. if a donor grants a recipient the power to delete emails then that recipient may use that power to intentionally (or perhaps accidentally) delete emails.
The following sets out the steps the donor and each recipient need to go through to set up shared email folders.
Steps to be followed by donor
The following describes the steps to be followed by the donor in order to set up a shared email folder:
  1. Right click on the folder to be shared (e.g. the “Dunbar” folder in the screenshot below) and then click “Properties”.
  1. Click on the “Permissions” tab of the dialog box that appears, and you will notice that the top portion of the tab has an area where persons with access to the folder are listed. At the outset the only users listed will be “Default” and “Anonymous”. [You should ensure that the Permission Level setting for each of those two users is set to “None” e.g. if your default setting is something higher than “None” then any person that you provide with access to a higher level folder will by default have those “more than none” permissions on subsequently created folders.] You can click the “Add” button to browse a list of users on your network and select them as recipients who you would like to grant sharing permission to. If you do not see any familiar names listed after clicking the “Add” button, ask your network administrator to enable sharing permissions.
  1. After adding the recipient you wish to share the folder with to the list of names near the top of the Permissions tab, you can then go ahead and define the permissions for that recipient:
1) Highlight the name of the recipient in the list at the top of the Permissions tab (in the screenshot below “Anonymous” is highlighted).
2) Using the checkboxes in the four categories (“Read”, “Write”, “Delete Items”, “Other”) near the bottom of the Permissions tab you can adjust the permissions to be granted to the recipient. Alternatively, you can select a pre-defined set of permissions from the “Permission Level” drop down list. For most donors the “Publishing Author” option available on the Permission Level drop down list (see screenshot below) will provide appropriate permissions to the recipient i.e. the recipient will be able to review all emails in the folder, and will be able to save emails to the folder, but will not be able to delete the donor’s emails from the folder.
3) Click Apply.
4) Repeat the three steps above for parent (and grandparent) folders, applying appropriate permissions in each case. In this example one would only have to set the permissions on the “Dunbar” folder and the “1 – Active Files” folder, but if you have more than two levels of folders then you should apply appropriate permissions at each of those additional levels as well. This step is very important, if you do not define the permissions all the way up the folder tree the shared folder will not work.
5) Give the recipient “Folder visible” permission to your entire email account. Note that this will not grant the recipient access to your Inbox or other folders in your email account apart from subfolders you have given higher level permissions to, but this minimum “Folder visible” permission is necessary at the top level in order for Outlook to show the lower subfolders for which higher level permissions have been granted. To reiterate, if you select the “None” option from the “Permission Level” dropdown list and check only the “Folder visible” box then the recipient will only be able to see that the folder exists and will not be able to see the contents of the folder (e.g. note how the “Read” permission is set to “None” in the screenshot below).
If you do not wish the recipients to see the contents of the various intermediate folders between the top level folder and the folder that you intend to share with them, give them just “Folder visible” permissions to those various intermediate folders. To reiterate:
  • “Folder visible” permission being assigned to a particular folder means that the recipient can merely see that such folder exists, but cannot look at the contents of that folder; and
  • in order for a recipient to see down and inside a subfolder below it is necessary that the recipient have at least “Folder visible” permission to each folder up the tree.
Note that when the permissions on a particular folder are adjusted they do not cascade down to pre-existing subfolders, but the permissions are inherited by new subfolders created after the permissions are set on the parent folder. Therefore, in this example:
1) If you gave a recipient “Publishing Author” permissions to the “1 – Active Files” folder then the recipient will have “Publishing Author” permissions to all subfolders subsequently created under “1 – Active Files”. This might be appropriate if the recipient is an administrative assistant who should have access to all newly opened client files.  
2) If you do not want the recipient to have “Publishing Author” permissions to future folders subsequently created under “1 – Active Files” then set the Permission Level of the “1 – Active Files” folder to “None” and only check the “Folder visible” checkbox (to ensure that the recipient can look down and through that folder level). Note that because the subsequently created subfolders will have permissions of “None”, but with “Folder visible” checked, the recipient will be able to see the subsequently created folders, but will not be able to see anything inside those subsequently created folders. If the donor wants to hide from the recipient the names of the subsequently created subfolders then the donor will have to physically uncheck the “Folder visible” checkbox for each of those subsequently created subfolders at the time of creating them.
Setting permissions may seem overwhelming at first, but after doing it a few times you will get the hang of it and then adjusting permissions to give appropriate access to others will take just a few seconds each time a new email folder is set up.
Steps to be followed by recipient of shared folder
The recipient of a shared folder should perform the following steps when first receiving access to a shared folder from a particular donor:
  1. Click the “File” menu item on the ribbon (top left of the Outlook window). 
  2. Go to the Account Settings control panel.
  1. Click the “Email” tab, highlight your email address, and then click the “Change” button:
  1. In the window that appears after clicking “Change”, click “More Settings”, and then click “Advanced”, and then click “Add”, and then type in the name of the donor. Be sure to type in the name of the donor exactly as that donor’s name appears in your Inbox when you receive an email from them. Then click “Apply”, and then click through the OK buttons.
  2. Shut down and restart Outlook (i.e. it is when Outlook starts that it opens up and displays shared folders). You should then notice the donor’s name near the bottom of the folder list on the left side of Outlook, and you should be able to drill down into the folders that the donor has shared with you as a recipient.
If the donor and the recipient are both sending emails on the same client matter they should both regularly file incoming and outgoing messages into the shared folder to ensure that the shared folder contains a complete library of relevant messages.