automating Outlook [repost]

klassa at klassa at
Tue May 29 17:19:39 CEST 2001

[ I managed to let this one slip by without a subject last time.
  Sorry for the repost. ]

If you're interested in my motivation for this, see the footnote[1].

Bottom line: I wanted to be able to edit my drafts, in Microsoft
Outlook, with the editor of my choice.  In this case, Emacs.  The
following script does this for me...  You tell Outlook to start a
reply, and then you hit the "Edit" button that this script creates.
It sucks the text out of Outlook, puts it into Emacs (you need to
tweak the paths), then puts it back into Outlook when you're finished.

The thing I'd like to add, still, is the ability to put an icon into
the system tray, rather than have it be a free-floating application
with a button.  The sample code I found was a bit hard to grok (given
that I'm not a Windows programmer, nor more than a novice python
programmer).  If you know how to do that, and would care to add it in,
I'd love to hear from you. :-)

The only snag I've found is that you can't run the script without
having run first, to make the Outlook library available.
The full dynamic dispatch mechanism doesn't work, for some reason.

That said, here's the script.  It's undoubtedly ugly, but the
important stuff is there. :-)

-- snip --

import win32com.client
import os
import Tkinter
from Tkconstants import *

def launch():

    # Default to an empty body.

    body = ""

    # Get a handle to Outlook.

    o = win32com.client.Dispatch("Outlook.Application")

    # Work our way down to the reply (a "MailItem").

    insp = o.ActiveInspector()
    if insp == None: return
    item = insp.CurrentItem
    if item == None: return

    # Grab the body.

    body = item.Body

    # Should make this a guaranteed-unique file...

    fh = open("c:/temp/editor.txt", "w")

    # Write the body.  Had to add a try/except because of ASCII
    # encoding problems when the reply is in one of Outlook's more
    # funky formats.



    # Launch emacs to edit the file.  Should make this configurable.
    # Note that by default, Emacs seems to come up in Unix mode, and
    # so the ^M characters are visible.  A persistent, bound-to-a-key
    # Emacs macro takes care of that nicely, however.

              ["d:/Editors/emacs-20.7/bin/emacs", "c:/temp/editor.txt"])

    # Read the result back into memory.

    fh = open("c:/temp/editor.txt", "r")
    body =

    # Store it as the body of the reply.

    item.Body = body

# Create a single button that, when clicked, takes care of the rest.

if __name__=='__main__':

    tk = Tkinter.Tk()

    frame = Tkinter.Frame(tk, relief=RIDGE, borderwidth=2, background="white
    frame.pack(fill=BOTH, expand=1)

    button = Tkinter.Button(frame, text="Edit", command=launch,
    button.pack(fill=BOTH, expand=1)


-- snip --

Comments welcomed.


[1] Every so often, I make it a point to try some other language or
tool, so as to widen my perspective a bit.  For example, I'm an ardent
emacs fan, but I've learned vi so that I'm able to edit anywhere
(well, on any Unix machine), and so as to appreciate other ways to
edit files.

In this same way, I decided to try Microsoft Outlook.  I'm an exmh
hacker/fan (have been, for years), but thought I'd try Outlook just to
see what my business/marketing/managements friends have to deal
with. :-)

My one biggest gripe is that you can't use the editor of your choice
when you edit your drafts.  The Outlook editor is okay...  I mean,
it's like every other Microsoft editor -- that is, reasonable, but
lacking features (like the ability to reflow your text).

So, I decided to give Outlook the ability to use the editor of my
choice.  I'm also a perl fan, but discovered that what I wanted to do
was a lot harder (or at least seemed to be) in perl.  So, I turned to
python.  Python seems to have a lot of nice Win32 support...  This is
maybe my fifth or sixth small python script, and I'm liking it
(python) more and more.

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