iCal – Exchange Time Zone Fix – Chapter 2

It was a few months ago that I originally wrote the first incarnation of the MailExchange2iCal script. Since then I’ve been in contact with a few users trying to make it work for them and I’ve found a number of peculiarities in the types of email invites sent by Exchange/Outlook. The biggest problem was that the time zone data for the event was improperly formatted. This caused all sorts of problems for Mac users.
Let’s start at the beginning. Sometimes integration of a Mac in the corporate environment is a bit difficult and takes a bit of ingenuity. This is especially true when dealing with Exchange. The current versions of iCal and iCal Server are CalDAV and iCalendar compliant. Only Outlook 2007 is said to be CalDAV and iCalendar compliant. Previous versions of Outlook are not compliant and don’t play well with other calendar applications. Here’s the actual time zone (TZID) spec and the spec for how it should be formatted. You can see by looking at it that the TZID that Outlook produces is non-compliant.
A quick Google search shows an article or two that explain this very well.
I’ve found that there are at least 3 different types of invites that can be sent by Exchange/Outlook.

  1. METHOD:REQUEST – This is the usual email requesting that you attend a meeting.
  2. METHOD:PUBLISH – This is essentially a publication notice for an event. It doesn’t ask you to reply.
  3. METHOD:CANCEL – This is a cancellation notice for an event.

Additionally, I’ve found that the emails that contain these invites are formated in at least 3 different ways. Sometimes the calendar event is within the body of the message and is encoded with Content-Transfer-Encoding in either 8bit or quoted-printable. Always the .ics file is attached.
My script does the following:

  1. It parses the message to either extract the calendar data from the body of the message or from the .ics attachment.
  2. It then figures out if the invite is of type METHOD:REQUEST, METHOD:PUBLISH or METHOD:CANCEL.
  3. If the invite is one of the first 2 types. The time zone is fixed and the event is imported into iCal. You might have to select into which calendar the event will be imported.
  4. If the invite is of type METHOD:CANCEL then the script will locate the corresponding event and set it’s status to cancelled.
  • You will have to manually delete the event. It will appear in iCal to have a white strike-through font style.
  • Repeating events all seem to have the same UID (Unique IDentifier).

I don’t know why. Every repeating event will be thusly marked as cancelled. You will then manually delete the specific event and manually run the script again while the cancellation message is selected. This will reset the remaining repeating events back to confirmed. Yes, I know this is a bit of a kludge but I don’t have a better method.

  1. It will parse the message to allow for invites from multiple Exchange servers.

My script, now re-named iCal-Invite-Fix.scpt, will need to be customized for each Exchange server from which you receive invites. There are 3 properties at the beginning of the script. They are exchange_fragment, ical_tzid and myCalendar. These first two properties are lists and the order of the items is crucial. The specific item (position in list) of each list must correspond to each other.

  • exchange_fragment is a unique fragment of the TZID that your Exchange server sends.
  • ical_tzid is the time zone of the Exchange server in proper format.
  • This means no spaces, though spaces are replaced automatically with the underscore ‘_’.
  • For instance, I’m in Southern California and the correct time zone should be written as US/Pacific or America/Los_Angeles. You can find this information by selecting the time zone drop down menu in the upper right corner of your iCal window and select Other.... If you look in iCal’s upper right corner for the time zone menu bar the last example will appear as America/Los Angeles.
  • myCalendar is the name of the calendar that normally receives the events. It is needed for the cancellation to function.


ical-fix-properties2.jpg
Save the script and either set it up to run from a mail rule or as I do call it from the System AppleScript menu. You will need to save the script in ~/Library/Scripts/Applications/Mail/ folder. Create this folder if it doesn’t exist.
To set the script up to run automatically you will need to create a new Mail rule as follows.

  1. Mail -> Preferences -> Rules -> Add Rule
  2. Description “iCal Invite Fix”
  3. If “any” of the following conditions are met:
    • “Any Attachment Name” “ends with” “.ics”
  4. Perform the following actions:
    • Run AppleScript “~/Library/Scripts/Applications/Mail/iCal-Invite-Fix.scpt”
  5. Click “OK” and then “Apply”

ical-fix-rule.jpg
You can also run the script manually from the system-wide script menu. To install this menu. Open up the /Applications/AppleScript/AppleScript Utility.app and check the Show Script menu in menu bar box. If you put the script in the folder location indicated above it will now be visible when Mail.app is the current application.
Download the iCal-Invite-Fix script.
Please let me know if there are any problems or you need help setting this up. The script was not entirely my creation and credit also goes to others. I’m quite certain any errors are likely mine. 😉
Updated: Now produces CalDAV-compliant TZIDs, no quotes.
Updated again: Now will move the .ics files from /tmp to the Trash.
Update 12/03/2008: Fixed the METHOD:PUBLISH invite to no longer ask to select which calendar to add event. It will automatically select the first local calendar, like it does with METHOD:REQUEST.
Updated 12/28/2008: Added ability to use single script with multiple Exchange servers. The trade-off is a slightly more complex set up.

iCal – Exchange Time Zone Fix – Part 2

I’ve come across a problem with the original MailExchange2iCal-TZ-fix script. It seems if the .ics invite was only listed as an attachment or in base64 encoding then the script would fail. I’ve subsequently revised the script to handle this and to more gracefully ask into which calendar you want the event imported.
I’ve also fixed the script so that it runs successfully from a rule.
Note: The ical_TZID property cannot have any spaces. Replace all spaces with underscores “_“. In iCal America/Los_Angeles will look like America/Los Angeles in the iCal dropdown menu.
Let me know if there are any problems.
As always you can download the MailExchange2iCal-TZ-fix script here.

Text and Quote Wrapping

If any of you find yourself using webmail you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you’re at all like me, you like to be able to follow the replies in an email thread. Using webmail the quoting and wrapping get screwed up quite easily.
I was looking for a simple way to rewrap, unwrap, increase the quote level, and decrease the quote level of any selection of text. I found that there were several good shareware programs that did this, and many other things. But I was really looking for a simple one-trick pony of sorts. So in the usual fashion I decided to roll my own. What I did was create a single shell script that when passed a parameter will do what you want to whatever is in the clipboard. It then replaces the clipboard with the changed text.
I call the package quote_changes. Go get it.
After you unzip it, put it in ~/Library/Scripts/. Activate your system-wide script menu from the AppleScript Utility.app.
The scripts are all meant to be in the same folder. The scripts that does all the work is change_quote.sh. The usage of the script is as follows:
$ change_quote.sh increase — will rewrap the text on the clipboard and increase the level of quoting (>). The additional scripts in the package are simply calls with the appropriate parameters. The full usage is
$ change_quote.sh (increase|decrease|rewrap|unwrap)
If anyone has any problems let me know. I hope others find this useful. Enjoy.

iCal – Exchange Time Zone Fix

As any Mac user who deals with Microsoft Exchange invites will tell you Exchange screws up the time zone information. What this means is that you will likely miss your meetings. Not a good thing.
Justin Hartman has recently given you his solution to this problem. I haven’t tested it but in looking at it I’m certain it works just fine. I say this because he’s fixing the problem is a similar manner. It’s just that he’s using a combination of shell scripts and AppleScripts. I’ve got it down to a single AppleScript.
There is one property at the head of the script that needs to be fixed depending upon the location of your Exchange server. What you need to do is copy in the correct property from what iCal expects to see as time zone information.
ical-tzid.png
You can find this information by selecting the time zone drop down menu in the upper right corner of your iCal window and select Other....
Once there find the location of your Exchange server and see what the resultant time zone information looks like in iCal. In my case, I live in California and my time zone is US/Pacific or America/Los_Angeles but the Exchange server in question lives in Dallas. So I set the property to US/Central.
Note: The ical_TZID property cannot have any spaces. Replace all spaces with underscores “_“. In iCal America/Los_Angeles will look like America/Los Angeles in the iCal dropdown menu.
I think I’ve built in the enough logic to grab any twisted time zone information out of the Exchange invite that Exchange can produce. If I’m wrong let me know.
Save the script and either set it up to run from a mail rule or as I do call it from the System AppleScript menu. You will need to save the script in ~/Library/Scripts/Applications/Mail/ folder. Create this folder if it doesn’t exist.
The script was not entirely my creation and credit also goes to others. I’m quite certain any errors are likely mine. 😉
If it works for you let me know. If it doesn’t work let me know that too and I’ll see if it can be fixed.
You will likely need a different copy of the script for each Exchange server that send you invites.
Update – 5 August 2008
To set the script up to run automatically you will need to create a new Mail rule as follows.

  1. Mail -> Preferences -> Rules -> Add Rule
  2. Description “Fix Exchange Invites”
  3. If “any” of the following conditions are met:
    • “Content-Class” “Contains” “urn:content-classes:calendarmessage”
      Note that the Content-Class header is not in the default list of headers on which you can set a rule action, but you can add it. This hint originally here.
    • “Any Attachment Name” “ends with” “.ics”
  4. Perform the following actions:
    • “Run AppleScript” “~/Library/Scripts/Applications/Mail/MailExchange2iCal-TZ-fix.scpt”
  5. Click “OK” and then “Apply”

Update – 11 August 2008
I found a glaring problem that I believe I’ve fixed. Apparently if the invite is only sent as an attachment the previous version of the script wouldn’t parse out the .ics attachment. This new version will. Please download it.
Update – 18 August 2008
I re-wrote the script making it better and more versatile. Please go to it’s new post home.

WordPress SVN

OK, since I’ve switched over to WordPress I have to admit it’s been pretty painless. I decided to go with the [SVN update process][1] since I know it’s much easier. But the monkey wrench in the process is having to switch to the new checkout for every stable release.
So instead of
$ cd ./blog
$ svn up
I have to do the following.
$ cd ./blog
$ svn sw http://svn.automattic.com/wordpress/tags/2.3.2/
$ svn up
Why isn’t there a symlink for the latest stable release? Then I could set up..
$ svn sw http://svn.automattic.com/wordpress/tags/current
and be done with it.
[1]: http://codex.wordpress.org/Installing/Updating_WordPress_with_Subversion