Create a custom Outlook holiday file

Posted in Tools by Sumit Thomas on January 8, 2010

Like many of my friends, the first thing I check at the start of the year is the list of public holidays for that year. Outlook’s holiday feature comes really handy as it makes it convenient for me to update my Calendar with a predefined list of holidays.

To add a predefined holiday list to your Outlook calendar go to Tools -> Options -> Calendar Options -> Add Holidays and select your country and click OK.

The predefined holiday list is stored in the file  Outlook.hol which is called as the Outllook holiday file.

You don’t have to stick to the predefined list as you can edit this file and add your custom holidays using a notepad.

A holiday file has the following format…

[Section Name] [Number of Holidays]
Holiday Description, yyyy/mm/dd
Holiday Description, yyyy/mm/dd
Holiday Description, yyyy/mm/dd
and so on..

You can have as many sections as you want.

So what if you want to create your Company specific holiday list? Suppose there is a fictional company ABC, which has branches in Chennai, Bangalore and US. You can create a custom holiday file for this company which can be distributed to all its employees. To do so…

  1. Open notepad and paste the following…
    [ABC Bangalore Office 2010] 15
    Makara Sankranthi    ,2010/1/14
    Republic Day        ,2010/1/26
    Maha Shivarathri    ,2010/2/12
    Ugadi            ,2010/3/16
    Good Friday        ,2010/4/2
    May Day            ,2010/5/1
    Independence Day    ,2010/8/15
    Janmashtami        ,2010/9/1
    Id-ul-fitr (Ramzan)     ,2010/9/10
    Gandhi Jayanti        ,2010/10/2
    Vijaya Dashami        ,2101/10/17
    State Formation Day    ,2010/11/1
    Deepavali        ,2010/11/5
    Bakrid            ,2010/11/17
    Christmas        ,2010/12/25
    [ABC Chennai Office 2010] 13
    Pongal            ,2010/1/14
    Republic Day        ,2010/1/26
    Maha Shivarathri    ,2010/2/12
    Good Friday        ,2010/4/2
    May Day            ,2010/5/1
    Independence Day    ,2010/8/15
    Janmashtami        ,2010/9/1
    Id-ul-fitr (Ramzan)     ,2010/9/10
    Gandhi Jayanti         ,2010/10/2
    State Formation Day    ,2010/11/1
    Deepavali        ,2010/11/5
    Bakrid            ,2010/11/17
    Christmas        ,2010/12/25
    [ABC US Office 2010] 11
    Memorial Day        ,2010/5/31
    Independence Day    ,2010/7/5
    Labor Day        ,2010/9/6
    Thanksgiving Holiday    ,2010/11/25
    Thanksgiving Holiday    ,2010/11/26
    US Corporate Holiday    ,2010/12/20
    US Corporate Holiday    ,2010/12/21
    US Corporate Holiday    ,2010/12/22
    US Corporate Holiday    ,2010/12/23
    US Corporate Holiday    ,2010/12/24
    New Year's Eve        ,2010/12/31
  2. Save this file as ABC 2010 Holidays.hol

To use this file just double click and select the sections you want to add to your Calendar.

This file can be distributed to all the ABC employees through email or a shared location.

Hope you found it useful![tweetmeme style=”compact”]

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23 Responses

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  1. Shamwow FAQs said, on March 7, 2010 at 5:09 am

    Great blog post.. I hope you continue on posting these great posts! I will be subscribing to your rss 🙂

  2. anupama84 said, on December 5, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    This is a good one Sumit!

  3. christoffel said, on October 11, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    i’ve copied your example into a .hol file, but when i double click on it, it just open in note pad don’t automaticlally update my calender

  4. Dan said, on December 15, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    Is there a way to configure the entries as “out of office/busy/tentative” etc, or to configure the colour flag?

    • Cielie said, on February 22, 2012 at 11:52 pm

      Hey there! Did you get an answer to your question?

      I also want to know how do I change the category to show something else than “holiday” and the heading that appers when double clicking on the file.

      Thank you

      • Andrew Wheatley said, on March 15, 2012 at 4:19 pm

        You can’t with a HOL file, but you *can* specify busy status and categories with a CSV file (spreadsheet) as mentioned in Sumit Thomas’s reply of 2012-02-23 and his link. The easiest way of doing this, if you don’t want to create the spreadsheet from scratch, is to create the entries in your calendar exactly as you would like others to see them, then export the calendar as a CSV file for this date range. You will then need to edit the CSV file in Excel (or Notepad, as it is a plain text file) and remove the other appointments (Excel is probably easier, as you can sort on the Category heading). But remember to save it as a CSV.

        Note that the CSV file is a lot more laborious for users to import. I have deployed at my workplace, a HOL file containing pay days, financial boundaries, English and company holidays and shut-down days, and it has been imported by hundreds of people – they simply need to click on the Intranet link, and Outlook does the rest. Even then I have had questions. I think the CSV file would be more challenging for a bog-standard user to import.

        As it is, whether you deploy a HOL or CSV file, be willing to help users who have questions. If your file contains public holidays, users might confuse the Outlook-provided dates with yours.

        One other comment, the date format in the CSV is important. By default the dates are saved according to your regional preferences and will cause problems for users with different ones. However I have found that putting the dates in yyyy-MM-dd format e.g. 2012-03-15, which I use anyway, and the times in HH:mm:ss format e.g. 20:40:59, allows the file to be imported regardless of users’ own settings.

    • Sumit Thomas said, on February 23, 2012 at 1:46 am

      I am not sure if you can do that with a .hol file.

      You can refer this link for options to import entries in to your outlook calendar. http://www1.towson.edu/adminfinance/ots/training/documents/Outlook_2003_Importing_Calendar_Data.pdf

      This website might provide you more info as well http://www.msoutlook.info/question/572

      • Vivek said, on March 19, 2014 at 10:57 am

        thanks for this.. exactly what i needed

  5. Sukesh Nambiar said, on December 30, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    Thanks, Saved a lot of time for me.

  6. Aejaz said, on January 6, 2012 at 11:29 am

    Quite useful, didn’t know such a feature existed.

  7. Hareesh said, on July 31, 2013 at 5:25 am

    When we create custom holiday list, is there a way to have some description about of the event/holiday displayed in the message window whenever any user double clicks the event from the To-Do area?

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  14. Elaine said, on December 16, 2014 at 10:19 am

    Does anyone know, is there a way to enter a date range – eg Christmas Hols 2014/12/24 to 2015/01/15

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