Metadata About Locations

In an August 2019 article, I described the Outlook Places service and its role in surfacing information about locations in OWA’s calendar. Places use room mailboxes as the basic source of information about locations, and administrators can update metadata for each room mailbox to add geocoordinates and other information about room equipment to make what’s shown to end users more comprehensive and useful. For instance, if your organization equips conference rooms with Teams meeting devices, you can add that information to the room metadata.

At the time, I suggested that tenants should update room metadata because it was obvious that Microsoft would make more use of this information over time. Well, the pandemic intervened, and conference rooms haven’t had much use over the last year and a half, so that advice wasn’t as valuable as intended. And then Microsoft updated Outlook desktop to use the OWA room finder, which introduces the places information to desktop users for the first time.

Outlook and OWA’s Room Finder

Using OWA components in Outlook desktop is part of Microsoft’s One Outlook strategy to speed up the delivery of new functionality to end users by using common components across clients. Outlook desktop consumes OWA components using the Edge WebView2 Runtime. Sometimes this has unintended consequences, such as when credentials aren’t synchronized for Outlook and OWA and the Room Finder prompts for a sign-in unexpectedly (Figure 1). After you authenticate, the Room Finder pane attempts to display the full OWA client, which isn’t the best experience.

Room Finder prompts for authentication
Figure 1: Room Finder prompts for authentication

A comment posted to the article said that after Outlook picked up OWA’s room finder, “some meeting rooms are not displaying at all, despite being available.” This deserved some investigation about how the room finder decides which rooms to display when someone uses it to find a place to meet. As it happens, Microsoft documents how to configure the Room Finder, but it’s worth underlining some of the major points about how the Room Finder works.

Room Mailboxes and Workspaces

Room mailboxes (and optionally, workspaces) are schedulable locations for meetings. Room mailboxes represent conference rooms while workspaces, a variation of room mailboxes, represent other spaces where work gets done, anything from individual desks to areas used for presentations to small individual rooms used by people when they need some privacy. You can create a regular room mailbox through the Resources section of the Exchange admin center (EAC). The information collected there (Figure 2) allows the room mailbox to show up in the GAL and be scheduled as a meeting location.

Creating a new room mailbox in the EAC
Figure 2: Creating a new room mailbox in the EAC

However, the EAC doesn’t support the creation of a workspace. To set up a workspace, create a regular room mailbox and then use the Set-Mailbox cmdlet to set its type to workspace:

Set-Mailbox -Identity “Atrium Workspace 3” -Type Workspace

The EAC lists all room mailboxes (including those marked as workspaces) and you can manage the calendaring settings for the rooms there. You don’t need to assign licenses to room mailboxes.

Room Lists

Room lists are distribution lists for rooms and workspaces. Only room mailboxes can be members of distribution lists used for room lists. You can’t create a room list through the EAC, but you can create a regular distribution list and then update its properties to make it a room list (if the membership doesn’t contain anything but room mailboxes):

Set-DistributionGroup -Identity "Executive Rooms" -RoomList

You can’t manage room lists in the EAC and must use PowerShell to populate its membership with room mailboxes:

Add-DistributionGroupMember -Identity "Executive Rooms" -Member "Board Conference Room"

To see the set of available room lists, use this command:

Get-DistributionGroup -Filter {RecipientTypeDetails -eq "RoomList"} | Sort DisplayName | Format-Table DisplayName

DisplayName
-----------
Building 1 Rooms
Executive Rooms
HQ Rooms
San Francisco Rooms

Places Metadata

The basic calendaring settings for room mailboxes govern how people can scheduled them for meetings. The Room Finder depends on additional metadata to make good suggestions. The metadata includes the room equipment and its precise location (geo-coordinates). A separate arrangement to store and manage location metadata is needed because the mailbox properties don’t include this information. Microsoft could have expanded the property set, but this would affect all mailboxes rather than just room mailboxes. Almost 300 properties already exist for mailboxes, which is why the Get-ExoMailbox restricts the properties it returns to the bare minimum.

I cover how to use the Set-Place cmdlet to populate the location metadata in my original article. To help Room Finder make good suggestions, it’s important that every location includes information about its city, building, and floor.

Get-ExoMailbox -RecipientTypeDetails RoomMailbox | Sort DisplayName | Get-Place | Format-Table DisplayName, Building, Floor, City

DisplayName               Building   Floor City
-----------               --------   ----- ----
Atrium Workspace 1        HQ             2 Dublin
Atrium Workspace 2        HQ             2 Dublin
Atrium Workspace 3        HQ             2 Dublin
Board Conference Room     HQ             1 Dublin
Dublin Conference Room    Building 1     1 Dublin
Flayosc Conference Room   Building 1     2 Dublin
HQ Building Atrium        HQ             2 Dublin
Las Vegas Conference Room Building 1     2 Dublin
Room 101                  HQ             1 Dublin
Room 102                  HQ             1 Dublin
Room 103                  HQ             1 Dublin
Room 104                  HQ             1 Dublin
SF Room 101               Western HQ     1 San Francisco

Workplaces support floor plans to help people find somewhere they’ve booked. Floor plans are available in Outlook calendar and can be found in Microsoft Search by Bing. This is because floor plans and the locations the plans belong to are configured through the Microsoft Search section of the Microsoft 365 admin center. While useful, floor plans are an optional extra and don’t affect how the Room Finder works.

Updates to rooms, room lists, and room metadata can take up to 24 hours before the Conference Room assistant (a background process) runs to update the data used by Room Finder. You can’t affect when the assistant runs and be patient for changes to show up for users.

Room Finder Suggestions

To make suggestions, Room Finder checks for the last building selected by the user (on the basis that they probably want to reserve rooms in the same building). If the user never selected a building, Room Finder shows the first 20 rooms it finds in the tenant (Figure 3). These rooms are not specific to a location. Workspaces are not included in the list.

Room Finder starts with no building selected
Figure 3: Room Finder starts with no building selected

The user can apply a filter to create a more refined list. The most important choice is the building. When they select a building, the selection is for a room list. To help, Room Finder shows cities in a drop-down list. Room Finder creates the list of cities from the City property for locations updated by Set-Place. Selecting a city reveals room lists with rooms in the selected city and selecting a room list reveals the individual rooms (Figure 4).

Selecting a room list for a city
Figure 4: Selecting a room list for a city

The Type field allows users to choose between the conference rooms and workspaces in a room list. Room Finder only shows the Type field when workspaces are available.

When it lists rooms, Room Finder shows details for each room including its availability and features. Room features are indicated using icons (Figure 5), including:

  • Audio.
  • Video conferencing.
  • Display screen.
  • Wheelchair accessibility.
Room Finder displays room characteristics
Figure 5: Room Finder displays room characteristics

Room Mailbox Features

Users can search for a conference room by applying a filter to identify rooms with certain features (Figure 6). The last two features listed are custom tags created for rooms using the Set-Place cmdlet. While the examples I’ve used describe the view from a room, more productive uses would be to indicate if a room needs a special badge for access, can host a Teams online meeting, or can be catered for meals.

Filtering rooms by equipment
Figure 6: Filtering rooms by equipment

Room features can be updated through EAC through the Additional information section of the mailbox’s properties (Figure 7).

Updating the equipment information for a room mailbox
Figure 7: Updating the equipment information for a room mailbox

Here’s what the data looks like when viewed through PowerShell:

Get-DistributionGroupMember -Identity "Building 1 Rooms" | Get-Place | Format-List DisplayName, City, AudioDeviceName, VideoDeviceName, DisplayDeviceName, IsWheelChairAccessible, Tags

DisplayName            : Dublin Conference Room
City                   : Dublin
AudioDeviceName        : PolyCom
VideoDeviceName        : InFocus WXGA Projector
DisplayDeviceName      : Samsung OLED 55"
IsWheelChairAccessible : False
Tags                   : {Amazing View}

DisplayName            : Flayosc Conference Room
City                   : Dublin
AudioDeviceName        : Polycom
VideoDeviceName        : Surface Hub 25
DisplayDeviceName      : Samsung OLED60
IsWheelChairAccessible : True
Tags                   : {Great view over the River Liffey}

Workspaces don’t support features, possibly because many workspaces are small and not equipped in the same way as conference rooms often are.

Workspace booking is supported by Outlook mobile clients. However, when you create a “normal” event with Outlook mobile, it uses Bing maps for its location rather than Outlook places.

Deprecated Equipment and Configurations

Exchange on-premises servers don’t use Outlook places. Instead, they are limited to room and equipment mailboxes. Equipment mailboxes represent items which might belong to conference rooms (like VCRs, when we used VCRs) or can be moveable. Equipment mailboxes still exist in Exchange Online, but the information which can be defined for a location now makes them less useful than in the past. However, if your organization has equipment mailboxes, there’s no reason not to use them by scheduling them for meetings.

What is deprecated are the old resource configuration cmdlets (Set-ResourceConfig and Get-ResourceConfig) to define custom properties for room and equipment mailboxes. Outlook places ignoIt’sres this configuration data.

Important to Configure Your Places

The Room Finder can’t work properly if location data is missing or inaccurate for room mailboxes (including the location metadata) or room lists aren’t in place. Once configured, room mailboxes make the Room Finder much more useful. And the best thing is that room mailboxes are low maintenance. They should not take much management unless their equipment changes, so an update might be needed every couple of years or so.

About the Author

Tony Redmond

Tony Redmond has written thousands of articles about Microsoft technology since 1996. He is the lead author for the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook, the only book covering Office 365 that is updated monthly to keep pace with change in the cloud. Apart from contributing to Practical365.com, Tony also writes at Office365itpros.com to support the development of the eBook. He has been a Microsoft MVP since 2004.

Comments

  1. Deepak

    Hello Tony. Our Room Lists work just fine but we have a problem with Cities. All Room Mailboxes have place set to Newark, but the Room Finder shows NewarkJ in the cities list instead of Newark. I tried to look up everywhere but NewarkJ is nowhere to be seen. How do we correct it?

    1. Avatar photo
      Tony Redmond

      I’d go to Microsoft support and ask them to check out your tenant. I obviously can’t connect to it, and without sight of the data, it’s impossible for me to say.

  2. Vrushal Salunke

    I have done above settings but still the when I click on Room finder it shows nothing.

    1. Avatar photo
      Tony Redmond

      How long did you wait? It can take a while before the settings appear in Room Finder. If they don’t show up within a day or so, report the issue to Microsoft and have them investigate what’s happening in your tenant.

  3. Tom

    Does anyone know if you can remove entries from the Suggestions tab, without deleting the room or room list?
    Room has been removed from the room list but still appearing.

    1. Avatar photo
      Tony Redmond

      It takes a little time before updates ripple their way into full visibility. Microsoft was having some difficulties with the Room service, but I believe those problems are now resolved.

  4. Jakub

    In my case it was modified GAL that didn’t display roomlists (why would you want to display that in user’s addressbook?)
    No roomlists in GAL = no roomlists in room finder.

  5. ned

    when we enable -AutomateProcessing AutoAccept on a workspace room mailbox, it accepts the meetings, but as FREE and not busy. When we manually accept the meetings, it occurs as busy.

    When workspace resource-type mailboxes are booked, it automatically processes the accepted invitation as FREE. And this remains FREE until the invited user manually accepts it and then it shows as BUSY.

    This behavior is quite different for the non-workspace resource mailbox which processes the accepted invitation as BUSY.

    Why is this so?

  6. M

    New Room Finder vs. Old Room Finder issues with the New one..

    My Set-Place command always returns Encountered an internal server error.
    Even though a Get-Place for the same RoomMailbox returns the value set.

    In Teams the Room Finder works as expected – Select my two Places (RoomLists) with my RoomMailboxes are member of… In Outlook and OWA – Room Finder does not show any Buildings / Locations.

    Workaround for now:
    Revert to the old View:
    https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/office/how-to-revert-the-outlook-desktop-webview-based-room-finder-to-the-legacy-room-finder-e872b6f2-0d36-41ff-861d-adaab2da9c28

    Anyone had the same issues?

  7. Tony

    Prior to the new Room Finder behavior, all we have are Room Lists. Are Room Lists still being used as a filter OR they are now called Buildings?

    1. Avatar photo
      Tony Redmond

      Room lists are used to identify sets of rooms in buildings within locations. At least, that’s the way it seems to work to me.

  8. Alex

    Hi Tony! This was a really good thorough guide, and it helped lots. One thing I am struggling with though is after about a week, my room mailboxes have stopped accepting the “set-place” commands! They just throw a task exception!

    It worked earlier in the week no problem, but it looks a bit silly now with only half the meeting rooms having full info, and the others just having their cities.

    The error is the following:
    “Encountered an internal server error.
    + CategoryInfo : NotSpecified: (:) [Set-Place], TaskException
    + FullyQualifiedErrorId : [Server=xxxxxxxxxxx,RequestId=xxxxxxxxxx,TimeStamp=28.03.2022 07:12:41] [FailureCategory=Cmdlet-TaskException] Microsoft.Exchange.Management.RecipientTasks.SetPlace
    + PSComputerName : outlook.office365.com”

    Do you have any idea what the problem could be, if you’ve encountered it before?

    Many thanks!

    1. Avatar photo
      Tony Redmond

      Looks like it’s a bug that has crept it (I get the same error when I run Set-Place). Please report the issue to Microsoft support so that it gets logged and an engineer is assigned to investigate.

      1. Dominik

        We seem to have the same issue. Is there any news from MS already?

          1. Nikhita Rawal

            I faced the same issue and raised an incident and here are the details about it –

            SI EX354548 -Admins are unable to use the Set-place cmdlet to set values for Exchange Online meetings via PowerShell

            Status: Service restored

            More info: The values set via the Set-place cmdlet were used by the Room Finder in the Outlook desktop client and web clients to search for rooms when scheduling meetings.

            Final status: The fix has completed deployment to the affected environment, and we’ve confirmed with previously affected admins that impact is now remediated.

            Scope of impact: Any admin attempting to use the Set-place cmdlet in PowerShell to set values for Exchange Online meetings were impacted.

            Start time: Sunday, March 27, 2022, 2:30 PM (9:00 AM UTC) End time: Tuesday, April 12, 2022, 3:30 AM (4/11/2022, 10:00 PM UTC) \

            Root cause: A recent update intended to improve the code pathway responsible for recognizing whether rooms are enabled for Microsoft Teams Rooms devices contained a regression that resulted in a Set-place cmdlet error.

          2. Avatar photo
            Tony Redmond

            Terrific. Thanks for letting us know.

  9. Chris

    Thanks for this detailed explanation Tony!

    One question for me, I’m currently updating our list of rooms in our office. A few of the rooms need to be removed and some renamed. I’ve removed the rooms from the distribution list configured for what floors they are on, made all the name changes to the Active Directory account (our AD is still On Prem) and also made changes the room mailbox accounts on EAC. Ticked the box to hide from address list etc.

    I’ve found that the rooms no longer appear in the GAL when searching for them but they all still appear in the room finder, both on the Outlook client and OWA.

    Is there another area we need to make the same changes to for something like this?

    1. Avatar photo
      Tony Redmond

      I don’t know and can’t say because your configuration is invisible to me. You could file a support incident with Microsoft and ask them to check things out – the support people can access the data (I can’t).

      1. Chris

        Ok no worries, thanks for replying. Will see check with MS support.

        Cheers!

  10. Guru

    ‘Capacity’ & ‘floor’ filters are greyed out in room finder – both in OWA & outlook client.

    1. Avatar photo
      Tony Redmond

      Are these properties defined for the rooms? If they are, you should file a support call with Microsoft and ask them to check your tenant. I obviously have no access to your data.

  11. MHR

    How long does it take for the metadata information to update? I have updated it more than 24 hours ago and it is still not appearing.

    1. Avatar photo
      Tony Redmond

      Welcome to the cloud. Things take their own time and you can’t force anything to happen…

  12. Thomas Guldberg

    Thx Tony!

    As usual you are able to communicate the information that MS cannot. I have been pulling my hair since some meeting rooms stopped showing up in Room Finder while still being available in the All Rooms address list. The really tricky part was that it worked for some users and not others. That of course turned out to be different Outlook versions.

  13. Mike

    Hi. Can I configure the location metadata without entering geolocation? Does not seem to work for me

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