Accepting Outlook Invites from Apple Mail

I’ve been using Thunderbird for quite some time for company e-mail, and for the most part, I’ve been happy with it, but when the company uses Microsoft Exchange Server for shared calendars and scheduling, anyone that’s not using Outlook on a PC gets left out in the cold. Keeping track of my schedule has been the source of increasing frustration. Our recommended solution is to simply use OWA to accept all calendar invitations. However, this defeats the purpose of using Thunderbird in the first place, and if you use a browser other than Internet Explorer, your experience is severely limited and downright fugly. The root of the problem is that I use a Mac. I could choose to use OWA or Entourage, but OWA is simply unacceptable, and Entourage is clunky and slow at best.

I don’t want to ramble too much longer before getting to the point, but I’ll just say: Thunderbird’s Lightning extension is also fugly and also doesn’t appear to recognize many calendar invitations. For those it did recognize, I couldn’t add them to the calendar.

Finally, I decided to try the combination of Apple Mail and iCal, but, again, I encountered problems. Some calendar invites included the proper .ICS calendar attachments, while others appeared not to have the .ICS attachment. However, this was misleading since the VCALENDAR data is clearly in the raw message source and the message includes the Content-Class header with a value of “urn:content-classes:calendarmessage.” What?! Why can’t Apple Mail read it?

Nevertheless, after some searching, I came across a nice AppleScript that will detect the calendar message and automatically add it to iCal for you to accept/reject. Your acceptance of the message still doesn’t communicate with the Exchange server, so others can’t see your free/busy times, but it does send an e-mail to the person who scheduled the event, and it gives me peace of mind knowing that iCal will notify me every time I have a meeting and I won’t miss any more. :-)

After several years and many nice updates, I wonder why Apple Mail still has problems accepting Outlook calendar invitations…