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Distribution Lists

3.35 What Is a Distribution List?

A distribution list is essentially a named collection of contacts. Distribution lists provide you with a way to quickly and easily send an e-mail to a group of people. For example, we have a distribution list called Outlook Book that contains the addresses of the various people who need to be advised on the status of this book’s production. This includes the book’s project manager, the authors (us), and various editors. Having a distribution list enables us to simply e-mail that list and know that everyone on it will receive the e-mail.

Another key point to keep in mind is that distribution lists can be used when addressing meeting requests and task assignments. You can even nest distribution lists within other distribution lists. As an example of that, we’ll again use the production of this book. Using distribution lists, we created four lists: project management, copyeditors, technical editors, and marketing/salespeople. Using these base lists, we can create lists that include only the lists of people who need to be included in certain discussions.

3.36 How Do I Create a New Distribution List?

The mechanism for creating a distribution list is almost identical to that of creating a single contact:

  1. From the File menu, first click the New option and then select Distribution List. This displays the Distribution List dialog box (see Figure 3-14).
  2. Enter the desired name for the new distribution list in the Name field. The name can contain spaces and, therefore, be something meaningful, such as Outlook Book Project Management.

    Figure 3-14

    Figure 3-14 The new Distribution List dialog box.

  3. Click the Select Members button to display the Address Book.
  4. Select the desired address book from the drop-down list labeled Show names from the.
  5. From the list of contacts, select the contacts you want to include in the distribution list. You can add multiple contacts by double-clicking each desired contact; that contact’s e-mail address then is added to the Members text box at the bottom of the dialog box.
  6. When you’ve finished adding contacts to the distribution list, click the OK button to return to the Distribution List dialog box.
  7. Click the Save and Close button to create the new distribution list.

3.37 How Do I Add or Remove Names from a Distribution List?

Sometimes you want to add or remove members from a distribution list. Perhaps a new person has started in the accounting department, or maybe someone has left a company with which you do business. Whatever the reason, adding or removing names from a distribution list is very easy:

Adding new members to a distribution list:

  1. Ensure that you are viewing your contacts (see FAQ 3.12).
  2. Open the distribution list that you want to modify.
  3. If you want to add a contact that is defined in an address book, click the Select Members button to display the Address Book dialog box. (If the desired contacts are not in an address book, skip to Step 6.)
  4. Select the contact entries that you want to add to the distribution list by double-clicking each one. This adds each member to the Members text box. (You can also hold down Ctrl while clicking each member and then click the Members button to add them en masse to the Members text box.)
  5. When you’ve finished selecting members, click the OK button.
  6. To add contacts that are not in an address book, click the Add New button. This displays the Add New Member dialog box (see Figure 3-15), where you can specify the name and e-mail address of the contact, as well as whether you want this person added to your contacts.

    Figure 3-15

    Figure 3-15 Adding a new member to a distribution list that does not exist in the Address Book or Contacts folder.

  7. When you are finished adding members to the distribution list, click the Save and Close button to return to Outlook.

Removing members from a distribution list:

  1. Ensure that you are viewing your contacts.
  2. Open the distribution list from which you want to remove members.
  3. Highlight the member you no longer want on the list and click the Remove button.
  4. Click the Save and Close button when finished to save your work and return to Outlook.

3.38 How Do I Send an E-mail to a Distribution List?

You address an e-mail to a distribution list just as you would a single contact.

  1. While in the New Message (e-mail) dialog box, click the To or Cc buttons to display the Select Names dialog box (see Figure 3-16).

    Figure 3-16

    Figure 3-16 Distribution lists are listed in bold and alongside a distinctive icon in the Select Names dialog box.

  2. From the list of contacts and distribution list, select the desired distribution list(s) and click the To, Cc, or Bcc buttons, depending on whether the e-mail is being sent directly to the list or is being copied on an e-mail being sent to someone else.

Note that while on the New Message dialog box, you can type the first few letters of the distribution list name into the To or Cc text boxes and then click Ctrl K. If only one distribution list (or contact) matches what you’ve typed, that name automatically is inserted into the text box. Otherwise, the Check Names dialog box appears, filtered to include only contacts and distribution lists that begin with the letters you’ve typed. Select the desired contact or distribution list and click the OK button.

After you’ve specified a distribution list for the e-mail, you will note that the distribution list name will be displayed in bold with a plus sign to the left of the name (see Figure 3-17). As you can probably guess, you can click that plus sign to expand the list to view its individual members. However, if you do that, you will not be able to collapse the list again. About the only benefit for doing this is if you want to send an e-mail to many different members—but not all—of a given list. Therefore, instead of manually selecting each contact, you simply select a list that contains the desired addressees, expand the list, and then remove the members of that list who are not to receive the email.

3.39 Can I E-mail a Distribution List?

Two of us are authoring this book, and we live quite a ways apart—Tom in Atlanta, Georgia, and Brian in Ireland—so being able to share a distribution list is obviously a feature that’s nice to have; while working on this book, we need to communicate with the same people. Whatever your reason is for sharing your distribution lists, here’s how that can be accomplished.

Here are two ways of e-mailing a distribution list; the first (drag and drop) is quicker, but the second offers additional control:

Drag and drop (faster):

  1. Start a new e-mail message.
  2. In Outlook, display the Contacts folder.
  3. Locate and drag the desired distribution list onto the new e-mail. Outlook attaches the distribution list to the e-mail in the form of a vCard. (See FAQ 3.32 for information on this topic.)
  4. Complete and send the e-mail as you would any other.

Inserting the distribution list into the e-mail (more options):

  1. Start a new e-mail message.
  2. From the Insert menu, click the Item option.
  3. In the top half of the Insert Item dialog box, you’ll see the folders that are also displayed in the Outlook Navigation Pane. Locate and expand the Contacts folder and, if necessary, the subfolder under it that contains the distribution list you want to e-mail.
  4. After you’ve located the desired Contacts folder, the bottom half displays that folder’s contacts and distribution lists. Select the desired distribution list.
  5. Below the OK and Cancel buttons, you’ll note two option buttons that control how the item is attached to the e-mail. If you select the option labeled Text only, the e-mail of each member of the distribution list will be copied into the body of your e-mail. This is akin to manually typing in the e-mail addresses, with the obvious difference that this is easier and less error prone. Selecting the option labeled Attachment attaches the distribution list to the e-mail as a file attachment.
  6. Click the OK button when finished and then complete and send the e-mail as you would any other.

3.40 How Do I Import a Distribution List Someone Else Sent to Me?

As mentioned, sharing distribution lists can be a great timesaver when multiple people need to continuously e-mail the same groups of individuals. Assuming that the distribution list was e-mailed to you as an attachment, as explained in FAQ 3.39, here’s how you would incorporate a received distribution list into your Outlook installation:

  1. Open the e-mail containing the distribution list.
  2. In Outlook, open the Contacts view from the Go menu.
  3. Drag the distribution list attachment from the e-mail message onto the desired Contacts folder. Outlook automatically creates the contact entries for you.
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