Manage and use addresses in Outlook

Applies to
Microsoft Office Outlook® 2003
Microsoft Outlook® 2002

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This article was adapted from Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 Inside Out by Jim Boyce. Visit Microsoft Learning to buy this book.

At some point you've probably asked yourself why Outlook gives you so many places to store contact information, including e-mail addresses and fax numbers. Isn't one place enough? Does the Outlook Address Book really store any addresses? Let's take a look at how Outlook really stores addresses to help you better manage your contacts, their addresses, and your address lists in general.

The Outlook Address Book

When you set up Outlook for the first time, or you add a new profile to an existing installation, Outlook automatically adds the Outlook Address Book to your profile (a profile stores your account and address book settings). To view the Outlook Address Book, click the Address Book button on the Standard toolbar. You can also open the Outlook Address Book by clicking the To, Cc, or Bcc button on a message form.

The first thing to understand about the Outlook Address Book is that it really doesn't store any addresses at all. Instead, the Outlook Address Book is just a special container that Outlook uses to let you view all of the available address lists. So, the Outlook Address Book brings together address lists from several possible sources into one window so you can easily view and use those addresses when addressing an e-mail message. Think of the Outlook Address Book as just a binder that stores all of your other address books and address lists.

If the Outlook Address Book doesn't store addresses, where do they come from? One place is Contacts.


The first place most people think of storing contact information such as e-mail addresses is Contacts. Items in Contacts include much more than just an e-mail address or fax number, however. A contact card can include a name, physical address, several phone numbers, multiple e-mail addresses, fax numbers, and lots of other information about the contact, such as birthday, anniversary, and so on. If you don't use a Microsoft Exchange Server e-mail account, Outlook stores your Contacts with the rest of your Outlook data in a Personal Folders file that has a PST file extension.

If you use an Exchange Server account, Contacts are stored on the Exchange server with the rest of your information (Mail folders, Tasks, and so on). Regardless of the type of account you use, you can use Contacts to store all of your contacts and their addresses, if you prefer.

Bottom line: Contacts is the best place to store contacts because it offers more contact information fields.

Personal Address Books

Outlook also supports Personal Address Books (PAB). Like Contacts, a Personal Address Book can store a contact's name, address, e-mail address, phone, and other information. Outlook stores the Personal Address Book in a file with a PAB file extension. The PAB is completely separate from your other Outlook data stored in your PST file (or in an Exchange Server store). You can add more than one PAB to an Outlook profile.

So why include Personal Address Books in Outlook? The Personal Address Book is a holdover from earlier versions of Outlook. A Personal Address Book does not support Unicode characters, which are an expanded set of characters that includes many more symbols and language-specific characters than the original ASCII set of characters. (The Contacts folder does support Unicode in Outlook 2003.) However, an entry in a Personal Address Book doesn't offer the same breadth of information about the contact as an entry in Contacts. So, Contacts in general is often a much better place to store contacts.

Why use a Personal Address Book? One situation is when you want to completely separate your personal contacts from your business contacts (which you would store in Contacts). A better alternative is to create a separate Contacts folder just for your personal contacts. To create a new Contacts folder, open the existing Contacts folder. On the File menu, point to New, and click Folder. Enter a name (use Personal Contacts in this example) in the Name box and click OK. You should now see a new folder named Personal Contacts under Contacts.

Bottom line: A second Contacts folder is usually a better choice than a Personal Address Book. However, you can use a PAB to keep your personal addresses completely separate from your other Outlook data, if needed.

Addresses for Exchange Server users

If you use a Microsoft Exchange Server e-mail account, the Outlook Address Book also gives you access to other address lists that exist on the Exchange server. The Global Address List is one example. It typically lists all of the Exchange Server users. The Exchange Server administrator might create other address lists to organize Exchange users by department, surname, or other criteria. These additional address lists show up under the All Address Lists group in the Show Names from the drop-down list in the Outlook Address Book.

Generally speaking, you don't have the capability to add or modify addresses in the Exchange Server lists. Think of these address lists as the place where you go to address messages to people who work in your company. By contrast, your Contacts folder is typically the place where you store contact information for people outside of your company, such as clients, friends, and so on.

Addressing messages and managing address lists

Now that you have a better understanding of what the Outlook Address Book is all about and the other places you can find addresses, let's take a look at how to accomplish some specific tasks in addition to those explained above:

  • Address a message    Click the To, Cc, or Bcc button on the message form to open the Address Book, choose an address list from the Show Names from the drop-down list, and, under Message Recipients, click To, Cc, or Bcc.
  • Use AutoComplete to address a message    On the Tools menu, click Options. On the Preferences tab, click E-mail Options. Click Advanced E-mail Options. Select the Suggest names while completing To, Cc, and Bcc fields check box. Click OK three times. Open a new message, click in one of the three address fields, and start typing the address. Outlook can use AutoComplete only after you have used an address at least once.
  • Send a message from Contacts    Right-click a contact and choose New Message to Contact.
  • Specify which address list is shown by default in the Outlook Address Book    Open the Address Book from the toolbar and in the address book, on the Tools menu, click Options. Use the Show this address list first drop-down list to specify which address list gets displayed by default.
  • Copy contacts from a Personal Address Book to Contacts    Open the Address Book, right-click the contact, and choose Add to Contacts.
  • Change the way names appear in the Address Book    In Outlook, on the Tools menu, click E-mail Accounts. Select View or change existing directories or address books, and then click Next. Click Outlook Address Book, click Change, and choose the desired options. Click Close, and then click Finish.
  • Include or exclude a Contacts folder from the Outlook Address Book    In Outlook 2003, in the Navigation Pane, click the Contacts folder. In the Contacts pane, right-click the Contacts folder (under My Contacts) and click Properties. (For earlier versions of Outlook, right-click the Contacts folder in the Folder List and click Properties.) On the Outlook Address Book tab, select the Show this folder as an e-mail Address Book check box to include the folder in the Outlook Address Book list. Clear this check box to exclude the folder.
  • Move contacts from one Contacts folder to another    Make sure the target folder is configured for Contact items (you specify this when you create the folder), and then select the contacts and drag them to the other folder.
  • Copy contacts from a Contacts folder to a Personal Address Book    Open the Outlook Address Book, and on the Tools menu, click Options. In the Keep personal addresses in drop-down list, choose the Personal Address Book and click OK. Close Outlook and restart it. Open Contacts, select the contacts you want to copy, right-click the contacts, and choose Add to Contacts. Optional: Open the Address Book and set the default location back to Contacts.
  • Set a Personal Address Book as the place to store addresses    Open the Outlook Address Book, and on the Tools menu, click Options. Select the Personal Address Book from the Keep personal addresses in drop-down list.
  • Import contacts from a Personal Address Book to Contacts    Open Outlook and on the File menu, click Import and Export. Choose Import from another program or file and click Next. Choose Personal Address Book, click Next, and follow the wizard's prompts to add the contacts.
  • Use Bcc (send to multiple recipients without the recipients seeing the recipient list)    If Outlook is the default e-mail editor, start a new message and on the View menu, click Bcc Field. Enter the addresses in the Bcc field. If Word is the e-mail editor and the Bcc field is not shown, on the Tools menu, click Options, and click the Mail Format tab. Clear the Use Microsoft Office Word 2003 to edit e-mail messages check box, and click OK. Follow the steps above to display the Bcc field, close the new message form without sending it, and then on the Tools menu, click Options, and select the option to use Word as the e-mail editor.
  • Create a distribution list to send mail to multiple recipients    In Outlook, on the File menu, point to New, and then click Distribution List.

About the author:    Jim Boyce has authored more than 50 books on software and operating systems, including more than a dozen titles on Microsoft Office and Microsoft Outlook. In other lives, he has owned and operated an Internet services company and been a college instructor, engineering technician, CAD systems manager, and UNIX administrator. In his spare time, he enjoys flying both real and model aircraft. See Jim's Web site for other Outlook, Office, and Microsoft Windows tips.

Applies to:
Outlook 2003