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Microsoft Outlook Addess Book, Contacts, and Distribution Lists: A Survival Guide

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Microsoft Outlook includes several tools for keeping track of your contacts, but keeping them straight and understanding which one does what can be a little confusing. This chapter will help you to understand what address books, contacts, and distribution lists do, and how you can use them to make your Outlook experience more efficient.
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Address Book

3.1 What Is the Address Book?

The Address Book in Outlook is actually a collection of address books of different types and formats. These address book types are covered in FAQ 3.3. Regardless of the exact address book type, all address books enable you to save contact information for your business acquaintances, friends, colleagues and so on. For example, you can store information such as the following and much more:

  • Full name
  • Display name (such as a nickname)
  • Addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Fax numbers
  • E-mail addresses
  • General notes

When you are composing an e-mail and enter a name in the To, Cc (carbon copy), or Bcc (blind carbon copy) fields, Outlook automatically searches the Address Book for the entered name and inserts the e-mail address associated with the located information. If the name matches the name of a distribution list (see FAQ 3.35), the e-mail will be sent to all the addresses of the people in that particular distribution list.

As mentioned, the Address Book in Outlook is actually a collection of different types of address books. Outlook enables you to add and remove address books of different types to this collection. How to perform these tasks is covered in FAQs 3.5 and 3.6.

3.2 How Do I Display the Address Book?

There isn’t much point in having the Address Book in Outlook without actually knowing how to display it. As with most items in Outlook, you can open the Address Book in a number of ways. Some of them are listed here:

  • From the Tools menu, select Address Book.
  • Use the Ctrl Shift B keyboard combination.
  • When writing an e-mail, just click the To, Cc, or Bcc buttons.

The first two methods display the Address Book as shown in Figure 3-1. This view of the Address Book is the primary view to use when you want to modify the contents of the Address Book.

Figure 3-1

Figure 3-1 The Address Book in Outlook.

However, clicking the To, Cc, or Bcc buttons when writing an e-mail displays the Address Book as shown in Figure 3-2. As you can see, this view is slightly different: It is designed to make it easy to add addresses while you are composing e-mails, to make creating a new contact and e-mailing that person more efficient.

Figure 3-2

Figure 3-2 The Address Book in Outlook as displayed when you click To, Cc, or Bcc when writing an e-mail.

3.3 What Different Types of Address Books Can the Address Book Store?

As explained in FAQ 3.1, the Address Book is actually a collection of address books rather than a single list of addresses. This is so that Outlook can support multiple address book types and formats, and enable you access to them via a single point.

To further explain what we mean, Outlook currently supports the following four types of address books that individually can have different formats and can be stored in different places. However, all these address books can be access via the Outlook Address Book so that you don’t have to manually search through each of the four for the desired contact information.

  • Outlook Address Book—Confusingly, the collection of address books is called the Address Book and one of the types is called the Outlook Address Book. However, that’s how Microsoft chose to name these entities, so we’re basically stuck with it. The important thing to know here is that the Outlook Address Book is made up of the Contacts folders that you see in the Navigation Pane. Therefore, you will sometimes hear the terms Outlook Address Book and Contacts used interchangeably. However, they are quite different because you can have only one Outlook Address Book, but within it you can define multiple Contacts folders.
  • Global Address List—A Global Address List is present only if you are using a Microsoft Exchange Server e-mail account. This address book normally contains the details for all the people who have e-mail accounts on the Microsoft Exchange Server to which you are connected. The Global Address List can also contain Global Distribution Lists that the Microsoft Exchange Server administrator has set up.
  • Personal Address Book—The Personal Address Book was the predecessor to the Contacts folder and works in a similar fashion. However, the Personal Address Book uses older internal technology, doesn’t support Unicode, and is present only in current versions of Outlook for backward compatibility for users who started using it with past versions of Outlook and have not moved their contact information to the Contacts folder. Because of these factors, we strongly recommend using the standard Outlook Address Book (Contacts folder) instead of the Personal Address Book mechanism for storing contact information.
  • LDAP—The Lightweight Directory Access Protocol is an Internet protocol that can be used to find e-mail addresses in LDAP servers based on the Internet or on your local network.

The Address Book can contain any address book of the types just listed. However, you can view only one address book at a time. FAQs 3.7 and 3.8 explain how to change which address book is currently being displayed when you are viewing the Address Book.

3.4 How Do I Create an Outlook Address Book?

Before showing the steps to creating an Outlook Address Book, it’s important to know a few things about the Outlook Address Book:

  • The Outlook Address Book contains the Contacts folders that you see in the Navigation Pane.
  • The Outlook Address Book is maintained internally, as opposed to Personal Address Books, which are stored in their own distinct files.
  • Each Outlook profile can have only one Outlook Address Book.

This is how you create a new Outlook Address Book for the current Outlook profile.

  1. From the Tools menu, select E-mail Accounts to display the Email Accounts dialog box.
  2. Select the Add a new directory or address book option and click the Next button.
  3. Select the Additional Address Books option and click the Next button. You will see a dialog box containing a list of address book types you can create: Outlook Address Book or Personal Address Book. As mentioned in FAQ 3.3, the Outlook Address Book type holds your Contacts folders and can be defined only once per profile.
  4. If you want to create an Outlook Address Book, click that option and then click the Next button. Outlook creates the new address book and stores it in your Outlook profile. (You will receive an error message if you already have an Outlook Address Book defined for your profile.)
  5. To start using your new address book, you must close Outlook and then reopen it.

3.5 How Do I Add a New LDAP Address Book?

To add a new LDAP-based address book, simply follow these instructions:

  1. From the Tools menu, select E-mail Accounts to display the E-mail Accounts dialog box.
  2. Select the Add a new directory or address book option and click the Next button.
  3. Select the Internet Directory Service (LDAP) option and click the Next button. You are presented with a screen similar to the one in Figure 3-3.

    Figure 3-3

    Figure 3-3 Adding an LDAP-based address book.

  4. In the Server Name field, enter the name of the LDAP server.
  5. Using the Username and Password fields, enter the necessary authentication information if your LDAP server requires security credentials.
  6. Click the More Settings button to bring up the Microsoft LDAP Directory dialog box, where you can change the display name and connection details (such as the Port Number).
  7. After you have configured the details of your LDAP server, simply click the Next button to add the LDAP address book.
  8. To start using your new address book, close Outlook and then reopen it.

3.6 Can I Remove Address Books?

Sometimes you want to just clear out an address book. Instead of manually removing each entry, it might be quicker to remove that address book from the Address Book and then add a new one.

  1. From the Tools menu, select E-mail Accounts, to display the E-mail Accounts dialog box.
  2. Select the View or change existing directories or address books option and click the Next button.
  3. Highlight the address book that you want to remove and then click the Remove button.
  4. Outlook displays a prompt asking you to confirm that you want to remove the address book. Click the Yes button. The address book is removed.

3.7 How Do I Change the Default Address Book?

This is probably the most requested task we get regarding Outlook and addresses. This option controls which address book you see when you open the Address Book (via clicking Ctrl Shift B) and when you click the To, Cc, or Bcc buttons when composing e-mails.

If you are using a non–Microsoft Exchange e-mail account, by default, Outlook displays the Outlook Address Book. If you are using a Microsoft Exchange Server e-mail account, the Global Address List is displayed by default.

However, you can change this default by doing the following:

  1. From the Tools menu, select Address Book (or click Ctrl Shift B) to open the Address Book dialog box.
  2. From the Tools menu, select Options to display the Addressing dialog box.
  3. From the drop-down list labeled Show this address list first (see Figure 3-4), select the desired address book.

    Figure 3-4

    Figure 3-4 Setting the address book that is displayed by default.

  4. Click the OK button.
  5. Close the Address Book dialog box.

3.8 How Do I Change Which Address Book Is Being Displayed in the Address Book?

When you view the Address Book, you will see only the entries defined in the default address. In FAQ 3.7, we explained how to change this default behavior to display the address book you use most often. However, sometimes you simply want to see the entries in your various address books without changing the default address, such as if you’re using a Microsoft Exchange account and you want to quickly view entries from either the Global Address List or the Outlook Address List. Here’s how to do that:

  1. From the Tools menu, select Address Book (or click Ctrl Shift B) to open the Address Book dialog box.
  2. You should see two controls on the dialog box just above your address book entries: a text control for entering the entry to look for and a drop-down list of address books defined for your Outlook installation. From the drop-down list (labeled Show Names from the), select the address list that you want to view. As soon as you select a different address book, its entries will be displayed.

3.9 Why Are My Contacts Not Appearing in the Address Book?

This is typically because someone inadvertently changed the setting that defines your contacts folder as being an e-mail address book. The option exists to specify that a contact is not an e-mail address book for a simple reason: You might want to keep a contact list, such a phone list, of people you never e-mail and, thus, don’t want to appear when you are viewing the Address Book. Here’s how to ensure that your Contacts folder appears in the Address Book (and, conversely, how to omit its display in the Address Book dialog box):

  1. From the Navigation Pane, go to Contacts view. (You can also get there from the Go menu.)
  2. At the top of Contacts view, you should see a heading labeled My Contacts. Under that, you will see your Contacts folder(s). Right-click the desired Contacts folder and then select the Properties option from the context menu that appears.
  3. When the Contacts Properties dialog box is displayed, click the Outlook Address Book tab.
  4. You will now see a option labeled Show this folder as an e-mail address book. Make sure that it is checked to view the contacts defined in this folder in the Address Book dialog box. (Leaving it unchecked obviously omits its listing.)

If the Show this folder as an e-mail address book option is not visible, that means that an Outlook Address Book has not been defined. To create an Outlook Address book, follow the instructions in FAQ 3.4.

3.10 How Do I Make an Address Book Available Offline?

If you are using a Microsoft Exchange Server e-mail account, you will have an address book available when you are working online. However, when you do not have a connection to the Microsoft Exchange Server, you are said to be working offline; unless you have downloaded your address book, you will not be able to view the entries that it stores.

To download your address book so that you view the entries even when you are working offline, just follow these instructions:

  1. Make sure you are not working offline at this moment. Outlook must connect to the Microsoft Exchange Server to download the contact information. From the File menu, you can toggle your offline status by clicking the Work Offline option.
  2. From the Tools menu, select Send/Receive and then Download Address Book. This displays the Offline Address Book dialog box (see Figure 3-5).

    Figure 3-5

    Figure 3-5 You can choose which address book to download and also select what level of detail about each entry you want to make available offline.

  3. To download all the details for each entry in the address book, ensure that the Full Details option is checked.
  4. If there are multiple address books on the Microsoft Exchange Server, you can choose which one you want to download by selecting it from the Choose address book drop-down list.
  5. When you are ready to download the address book, simply click OK.
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