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How to Organize Your Outlook Contacts

This post is part of a series called How to Use Microsoft Outlook (Essential Tutorial Guide).
MS Outlook Calendar: How to Add, Share, & Use It Right
How to Organize Your Outlook Contacts

As a business owner, you need to keep track of your contacts. Lost contact information could mean a lost opportunity to do business. You can't follow through with a potential customer if you don't know how to reach them. With Microsoft Outlook, your contact list is as close as your email with your Outlook contacts list.

If you know how, you can do a lot with your MS Outlook contacts. You can create contact lists in Outlook, share contacts and contact lists with other tools and with other email users, and even send group messages. Learning how to make the most of your Outlook contacts is a great way to get organized.

In this tutorial, you'll learn all the basics including how to add contacts to Outlook and how to create a contact group in Outlook. We'll also examine some of the more advanced features such as how to share a contact group in Outlook. Let's get started.

Why Your Microsoft Outlook Contacts Are Important

A contact in MS Outlook is a person or business that you contact frequently. For frequent contacts, Outlook allows you to keep multiple online address books right inside your email.

Each entry in your email address book is known as a contact. As a business professional, or just someone who relies on email, having your address books online is convenient. It also means you never need to worry about losing a contact’s information again.

To find your Outlook address book, click the Address Book icon (it looks like an open book) on the right of your Home tab. The Address Book: Contacts dialog box displays with some basic information about each contact:

Address Book Contacts dialog box
You'll see some basic information about your contacts in the Address Book: Contacts dialog box.

Your default address book is Contacts – [Your Email Address], but you can create additional address books as needed.

To view more detailed information about a contact, double-click on their name to open their contact card: 

A contact card in the MS Outlook address book
An MS Outlook contact card contains detailed contact information.

As you can see, your contact card includes more than just your contact’s email address. In addition to the ability to store up to three email addresses for each contact, there are fields for you to enter the following information:

  • Job title
  • Web page address
  • IM address
  • Phone numbers (Business, Home, Business Fax, Mobile, and many more)
  • Addresses (up to three physical addresses per contact)

You can even attach an image to the contact card if you’ve got one. Plus, there’s a Notes field for you to type additional information.

Not only does your Outlook address book allow you to organize and find contact information quickly, you can also use it to send group emails by means of contact groups. Learn more about Microsoft Outlook in these tutorials:

Learn Helpful Email Organizational Tips & Strategies

Before we tackle to topic of how to organize your MS Outlook contacts, don't forget to sign up to the Tuts+ Business newsletter and grab our free eBookThe Ultimate Guide to Inbox Zero Mastery. It's packed with inbox organization strategies and killer tips for managing all your incoming email more efficiently.

Ultimate Guide to Inbox Zero

Now let's move on to learning about contacts and contact groups in MS Outlook:

1. How to Create New Contacts in MS Outlook

Now that you understand the importance of your Outlook address book, you’re ready to begin building your contact list by creating new contacts. There are basically two methods you can use to add contacts to Outlook:

  1. from within an address book
  2. from within an email

Let’s examine each method separately.

Step 1. How to Add Contacts to Outlook From Your Address Book

This method of adding contact information is especially helpful if you’ve got business cards you want to add to your contacts in MS Outlook. Having your contact information neatly organized in your email inbox is much better than keeping a stack of cards, which might get lost or accidentally discarded.

To start, open an address book in MS Outlook and right-click anywhere within the address book. A pop-up menu appears:

Address book pop-up menu
Click the New Entry option to add a new contact to your address book.

Click the New Entry option. The New Entry dialog box displays:

Outlook New Entry dialog box
You can add a new contact or a new contact group from the New Entry dialog box.

Select the New Contact option and click OK. You’ll see a blank Contact Card:

A contact card in the MS Outlook address book
The contact card allows you to store a variety of information about each contact in your Outlook address book.

Fill out each contact field with the appropriate information.

Whenever you see a down arrow the right of a field, you can click on it add additional information. In the example below, there are three types of addresses you can add to a contact card: 

A closer look at the Address field on a contact card
You can store more than one physical address for each contact.

When you’ve finished typing in your contact’s information, select Save & New to save the contact and continue adding contacts to your address book. Or, select Save & Delete to return to the Address Book: Contacts dialog box.

Step 2. How to Add Contacts to Outlook from an Email

When you receive an email from a new contact and you want to save their information in your MS Outlook address book, it’s easy to do so. Start with the email that contains the contact information open:

Saving a contact from an email
You can save contact information from emails you receive in Outlook. 

Right-click on the sender’s address. A pop-up menu appears:

Adding a contact to MS Outlook
Use the Add to Outlook Contacts option to add a new contact to your address book from an email.

Select the Add to Outlook Contacts option. A contact card opens with the sender’s name and email address already filled. If you’ve got additional information about this contact, add it to their contact information now.

When you’re done adding information click Save & Close or Save & New to save the contact to your address book.

Step 3. How to Add an Image to an Contact

If you’ve got it, you can add an image or logo to a contact card. Start by opening the contact card of the individual you want to add the image to. Click the Add Contact Picture icon to the right of the individual’s name. A browser window opens:

Browser window for adding image to Outlook contact
You can add an image to your MS Outlook contact.

Navigate to the file with the image you want to add. Click on it to select it and click OK. The image you selected now appears on the contact card:

MS Outlook contact card with image
You can add a photo or a graphic image to an MS Outlook contact card.

Step 4. How to Delete a Contact

Occasionally, you may want to delete a contact. The information may no longer be valid, or you may no longer need it.

Fortunately, it’s easy to delete a contact in Outlook. Start by opening the Address Book: Contacts dialog box. Click the name of the contact you want to delete to select it. Next, right-click anywhere in the dialog box. The pop-up menu displays:

Address book with pop-up menu
Select the name of the contact in the address book, then click Delete.

Select the Delete option. The system prompts you to confirm that you really want to delete the contact:

Contact deletion prompt
Click the Yes button to delete the selected contact.

Click Yes and the contact is removed from your MS Outlook address book.

3. Build a Contact Group

If you need to send more than one message to the same group of people, a contact group can help you save time by letting you send the same message to all members in your group at one time. By using a contact group, you can be sure everyone got the same information. Best of all, you eliminate the risk of forgetting to send the email to someone—which you might do if you emailed each group member separately.

(Note: This feature was known as the Distribution List in some earlier versions of Outlook.)

Let’s take a closer look at contact groups.

Step 1. How to Create a Contact Group in Outlook

Start by opening the People window. Click on the three dots in the lower left corner MS Outlook. The Navigation Options pop-up menu appears:

Navigation Options pop-up menu
Select the People option from the Navigation pop-up menu.

Select the People option from the pop-up menu. The People window displays with a complete list of your contacts:

People window in Outlook
You can see a complete list of your Outlook contacts on the People window.

Click the New Contact Group in the Ribbon. An empty Contact Group window appears:

Empty Contact Group window
Use the Contact Group window to create a new contact group.

Type the name of the contact group you wish to create in the Name field. Now that you’ve created a new contact group, you’re ready to begin adding contacts to it.

Step 2. How to Add Contacts to an Outlook Contact Group

To add new contacts to a contact group, start with the empty Contact Group window open. Click the Add Member icon in the ribbon. A pop-up menu displays:

Adding a member to an Outlook Contact Group
To add members to an Outlook contact group, choose between Outlook contacts, your address book, or a new email contact.

You can choose between selecting members from your existing Outlook contacts, from your address book, or creating a new email contact to add to the contact group.

If you choose the From Outlook Contacts or the From Address Book option from the pop-up menu, the Select Members: Contacts window displays. You can choose a contact name from that.

For this example, we’re going to choose the New E-mail Contact option. Rather than getting the full contact card, the Add New Member dialog box appears:

Add New Member dialog box
Use the Add New Member dialog box to add members to your Outlook contact group.

Type in the name and address of the contact you wish to add to the group. Notice that the checkbox next to Add to Contacts is checked by default. If you uncheck it, the contact will be added to your new contact group, but not to your address book. This can be helpful if you only need to contact this person as part of the group.

Once you’ve entered your information, click OK. The contact is now added to your contact group. Continue adding as many contacts to the group as you need. 

When you’re done adding members to your new contact group, click the Save & Close icon in the upper left of the Contact Group window.

Step 3. How to Use Your Contact Group

The next time you’re ready to send a message to the members of your contact group, simply type the contact group name in the To field. Click the Send button when your message is complete. The message will be sent to all members of your contact group:

Type the contact group name into the To field
Type your contact group name into the To field of a new message to send it to all contact group members.

Step 4. How to Rename a Contact Group

After you’ve created a contact group, you can rename it. For example, if a project ends and the project group is assigned to a new project you might want to rename your contact group.

To rename your group, open the Navigation pop-up menu and select the People option:

People option on the Navigation pop-up menu
Use the People option on the Navigation pop-up menu to open the Contacts window.

The Contacts window appears:

The Contacts window in Outlook
Contact groups appear at the top of the Contacts window.

The contact group name appears at the top of the contact list (next to the people icon). Click the contact group to select it. Double-click on the selected contact group to open the Contact Group window:

Renaming a contact group
You can rename an existing contact group.

Type a new contact group name in the Name field. When you’re done, click the Update Now icon. Or, click the Save & Close icon to save your changes and exit the window.

Step 5. How to Change the Contacts in an MS Outlook Contact Group

Email lists tend to be fluid. Group members change over time. Outlook email can help you keep up.

You can quickly and easily change the contact group members from the Contact Group window. You can assign new contacts to the contact group or even delete existing group members.  Start with the Contact Group window open: 

Open Contact Group window
You can change the contact members in an existing contact group.

Let’s start by adding a new member to the existing contact group. Double-click the Add Members icon in the Ribbon. You’re given a choice to add a member from your Outlook contacts list, your address book, or to type in a new email contact. After you’ve finished adding a member, click on the Update Now icon in the Ribbon.

To remove a member from the contact group, click the member name to select it. Next, click the Remove Member icon in the Ribbon. The member’s contact information is removed from the contact group. (They’re not, however, removed from your Outlook email contacts list.)

When you’ve finished making changes to your contact group, click the Save & Close icon on the left of the Ribbon to exit from the window.

Step 6. How to Delete a Contact Group

From time to time, you may wish to delete a contact group entirely. Maybe you no longer need to contact the group members. 

To delete a contact group from your MS Outlook email, start with the Contacts window open. Your contact groups appear at the top of the list. 

Click the contact group you want to delete to select it. Click the Delete icon (it looks like an X) in the Ribbon. Your contact group is deleted.

4. Share Contact Info & Contact Groups

Whether you use your Outlook email for business or personal use, it’s helpful and timesaving to be able to share contact information with other MS Outlook users and with Microsoft OneNote. In Outlook, you can share contacts with OneNote or with other Outlook users.

OneNote is a note-taking application that’s part of Microsoft Office. To learn more about OneNote, review this tutorial:

Step 1. How to Send Contact Info to OneNote

Start with the Contacts window open. Click on a contact to select them, then click the OneNote icon in the Ribbon. The Select Location in OneNote dialog box appears:

Sharing an Outlook contact to OneNote
You can share Outlook contact information with Microsoft OneNote.

Expand the My Notebook option and select the OneNote notebook where you want to store the contact information. Click OK. Your information is added to OneNote in the notebook you selected:

Outlook contact information in MS OneNote
The Microsoft Outlook contact information has been shared to OneNote.

Note: You can also share Outlook contact card information to OneNote.

Step 2. How to Share a Contact or Contact Group in Outlook

If someone else needs your contact information or even your contact group, you can quickly and easily share the information with them through Outlook email.

Start with the Contacts window open. Click on the Outlook item you want to share to select it. The item can be a contact group or an individual contact. In this example, I'm demonstrating how to share a contact group in Outlook. 

Click Forward Contact on the Ribbon to bring up the pop-up menu:

Forwarding contact information through Outlook
You can forward Outlook contact or contact group information to someone else.

Note: Contact groups can only be forwarded as an Outlook contact. Individual contacts can be forwarded as either an Outlook contact or a business card.

Select the option for the format of the contact item. An email Compose window opens with the contact item already attached:

Outlook Compose wincow
The Outlook contact group information you're sharing is attached to the email.

Type in the email address of the person you want to receive the information. It’s also a good idea to add some text in the body of the message so your item doesn’t end up in the spam folder. When you’re done, click the Send button.

Practical Ways to Use Your Contact Groups

Once you’ve entered your contacts into Outlook and organized them into groups you’ll find that there are many uses for Outlook contact groups. Here are just few ideas:

  1. Project messages. If you need to send the same information to all your project team members, contact groups are a great tool. Make sure everyone on your team is on the same page.
  2. Meetings. While there are other ways to send out meeting notices, sending one through email via a contact group allows you to add attachments and other details.
  3. Announcements. If your business does company-wide announcements, or even department-wide announcements a group email sent using a contact list can help get the word out.
  4. Notifications and alerts. If you need to alert a group of clients about a software upgrade or other system changes, a contact list can ensure your message reaches the right people.
  5. Social events. Contact groups are also a great tool for organizing social events such as parties, group get-togethers, sporting events and other social occasions.

Using a contact group to send a message to more than one person is practical and timesaving. Once you become comfortable using contact groups, you’ll be able to think of your own unique uses for them.

Organize Your Email With Better Inbox Management

You're less likely to have a cluttered MS Outlook inbox if you're following good email management practices. Learn how to reduce your email inbox clutter with our free eBook: 

Free eBook PDF Manage Your Inbox


Now that you know how to add contacts to Outlook and how to organize those contacts into contact groups once you've added them, you're ready to make full use of MS Outlook contacts for your business and personal life. Start by creating a contact group in Outlook today.

How do you use Outlook contacts in your business? Do you make use of MS Outlook contact groups? Share your thoughts (or tips) in the comments below.

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