Last reviewed on May 15, 2015   —  58 Comments

Outlook has a neat feature called Contact Linking that allows you to link a contact with any appointment, task, other contacts, or even email. Prior to Outlook 2007, the forms had a field with a Contacts button. In Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2010 you needed to go into Contact Options and enable a setting to see the Contact Linking field. In Outlook 2013 and 2016, this option is gone. You can still link Contacts in File, Properties (or Options dialog) of an open item but that is an extra step.

If you are looking for information about the new Linked Contacts feature, see Outlook 2013's Linked Contacts

Contact Linking in Outlook 2013

Fortunately, there is a way to enable the Contact Linking field: edit the registry.

Type Windows key + R to open the Run command then type regedit and press Enter.

Browse to the preferences key, right click on it and choose New > DWORD. Type or paste showcontactfieldobsolete and set the value to 1 to show the Contact linking field. Set it to 0 or delete the DWORD or to turn it off.

Outlook 2016 user key

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\office\16.0\outlook\preferences
DWORD: showcontactfieldobsolete
Value = 1

Outlook 2013 user key

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\office\15.0\outlook\preferences
DWORD: showcontactfieldobsolete
Value = 1

Outlook 2016 - Group Policy

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Policies\Microsoft\office\16.0\outlook\preferences
DWORD: showcontactfieldobsolete
Value = 1

Outlook 2013 - Group Policy

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Policies\Microsoft\office\15.0\outlook\preferences
DWORD: showcontactfieldobsolete
Value = 1

Do It For Me

If you don't want to edit the registry yourself, I have a ready-to-use reg file available for download.

Outlook 2016Outlook 2013
Outlook 2016 - group policyOutlook 2013 - group policy

To use the reg key, download the file then double click to run it. Answer the prompts to add it to the registry. Restart Outlook for the change to take effect.

(Either file will work for home or SOHO users; the group policy key is generally used in corporations.)

Comments

  1. Prabir Mittra says

    Why does MS keep taking off good things of the previous versions when a new version is introduced. Many of us don't want to use the cloud or internet collaboration or social networks.

    • Diane Poremsky says

      I wish I knew the answer to that. It annoys me to no end that they get us hooked on features then they take them away after a couple of versions.

  2. Prabir Mittra says

    I have found the OL 2013 has problems reading the pst file of 2010, the contact links can be displayed in 2013 but the link does not work.

  3. Victor Zamora says

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU.

    XOXOXOXOXOXOXO,

    Victor Zamora

    PS Office 2013 developers are idiots.

  4. Victor Zamora says

    BTW, do you have an answer to the BCM mess they have? I have a massive BCM 2007 database and my BCM 2013 just can't import it....I read the KB 2793723 but I am extremely confused:
    "Important If you are using Business Contact Manager for Outlook 2007, you must download the full installation from the links below. There is no upgrade path for a Business Contact Manager V3 database to a Business Contact Manager V4c database."

    So, do I need to download the 368.7MB, uninstall my BCM 2007, reinstall this thing and then what??!?!!??

    Please let me know...PLEASE...I can be reached at victor@paalz.com

    • Diane Poremsky says

      You do need to download the full 368 size file. I didn't test the upgrade scenario yet (I lost all of my virtual test machines in a hard drive failure :( ) but I would run the upgrade file and see if it tells you to uninstall 2007 first or if it will uninstall it for you. I'll try and get the upgrade scenario tested today.

  5. Frank Clarijs says

    I can see the "Contacts..." field when I create a new contact, but once the contact is saved with some text in the "Notes" it gets hidden behind the bottom bar where the icon image of the user is put, together with other -social- information. I have no scroll bar to move it in a place where I can reach the field. Help?

    • Diane Poremsky says

      Sounds like you either have a smaller screen or use low resolution/larger fonts. Do you have the People pane minimized? (double click on the bar to the left of the small images on the right or use the caret icon to minimize it.) If it's minimized, you can turn off the People Pane from the View tab.

  6. Frank Clarijs says

    Minimised the People Pane as suggested. Could not find the View tab, but while searching discovered that the issue disappears if I maximise the window: then the "contacts..." field becomes visible. Thank you for your help

    • Diane Poremsky says

      Yeah, that would help too. :) Sorry I didn't mention it, but for some reason I thought it was maximized. (Outlook was designed for 1024x768 or larger screens using default Windows settings.)

  7. mike says

    Thanks for the info. I have been using 2007 b/c I could never get 2010 to do what I need. I have to be able to open my contact, add appointment (or task), then set the date time. Then I need to go the the calendar (or tasks) to open the appointment...and be able to click on the contact that it is for....which brings up that customers info. This would never work on 2010, even with the linking enabled. Do you think it will work on 2013? Thanks so much.

    • Diane Poremsky says

      It *should* work, but if it didn't work in Outlook 2010 for you, I don't think it will work in 2013. The feature hasn't changed at all.

    • mike says

      It drives me nuts that I can't use the latest version for this reason. I just can't understand why I am the only one that ever used this feature. So there is no way to get someone to modify the program? If there was, I would certainly pay for that patch. Thanks so much

    • Diane Poremsky says

      No, sorry, it cant' be patched and no, you aren't the only person that uses it, although it doesn't get a lot of use. Contact linking is being removed from future versions of outlook. It's in 2013 for backwards compatibility. It's being replaced by the social connector, which is better in some ways, worse in most ways for things like this. :(

  8. Phil says

    Thanks so much, I do not know where I would be without this feature.

    I am not very technical and mucking around with the registry was a concern but seems to have worked fine.

    Wonder what other essential elements Microsoft have not carried forward on to 2013 in their wisdom...not!

  9. Daniel says

    Thank you so much, This was driving me crazy. I organize my Tasks for employees using this field. Worked like a charm. Thanks again.

  10. Michele says

    Hi Diane and thanks for solving one of Outlook's more annoying problems.

    I have contacts saved in different folders (one for contacts, one for companies) and I'm wondering if you know a way to change the default folder the "Contacts" button searches. That is, have it default to the folder called Accounts rather than the folder called Contacts.

  11. Steven says

    Thank you, registry entry worked like a charm, I really like and use the contact linked to the appointment feature.

  12. annconnollyremax says

    Thank you Diane! With this field missing when setting an appointment the contact name would not sync to my phone which in turn I could not access the contacts record with phone number. What good is an appointment if you don't now who its with!! The useful things Microsoft is stripping out of outlook is driving me crazy I was a heavy user of the Journal feature in Outlook which is GONE. I logged all my calls with clients along with other activates connected with them. Is there a fix for this or an add-on to outlook to accomplish this?

    • Diane Poremsky says

      You can turn the field back on it Outlook but because the underlying linking was removed, it may not work. I'm not aware of any addins that will help with this if enabling the linking fields doesn't help.

      If you just need to see the contact name & details, you could use a macro to add it to the appointment body.

  13. Thomas says

    Hi Diane,

    Thank you for providing this info and all the other feedback on all things Outlook. We all appreciate it.

    It frustrates me to no end the way Microsoft's Outlook developers seem to constantly to edit out features that many of us love. WHY, WHY, WHY.

    You seem to know Microsoft well. How can any one get through to them? What can users do? It seems as if they are totally isolated and have no empathy to users who want just a little control over their Outlook experience.

    Do you have any advice on how to get through to these decision makers at Microsoft. There has got to be a way to get their attention.

    Thanks to you or anyone who can provide any advice or insight.

    PS - It seems that Microsoft only seems to listen when they screw things up bad enough that I.T. professionals refuse to endorse new systems. That's what happened with Windows 8.0 and led to 8.1 -- Microsoft got out there and listened. I sure wish they'd do that with Outlook. I guess I'm a little concerned about the next version of Outlook. I guess we will see...

    • Diane Poremsky says

      Hey, I like Win8 and hate the changes in Win8.1. :) My secret was learning the Windows key is my friend. Once that stuck in my head, it was much better.

      I don't think they lack empathy, but they do change programmers every couple of years, and product managers usually only stay for one version - so often the guy who wrote the feature and knows about it, moves on and the new guys don't know the features, and writing new code is easier than reading old code. They have some younger guys there now who had no idea what Journal is.

  14. tmiq says

    Thanks for your response. What you say, I've heard before and it does make sense.

    What you describe -- the change in programmers who don't know the significance of the previous programmed features -- is a problem for end users. As you say, those programmers are there for a version, maybe two. Outlook users are usually a little bit more long-lived; what's a good guess, maybe 3-5 versions? Also, the customers pay for the software. In my case, I have about 70 Outlook/Office 365 users to manage. Some users express dissatisfaction with the changes with a huff, but what can they really do? Nothing. They'll say, "Do we really have to go with the newer version?" So I get to deal with and teach these end users how to deal with unwanted changes and loss of control of obscure, but cool features that a developer deemed "obsolete." Hmmm... Yep, some changes are inevitable, but some changes they make really do leave end users scratching their heads asking, "Really? Is it that difficult to leave a cool, but obscure feature or option in place?

    In regard to the Win8.0 vs 8.1 event, my point in the previous post is better made in the Wall Street Journal story titled "The Morning Download: Microsoft Says CIOs Helped Fix Windows 8" dated October 24, 2013. The article explains the influence IT people had with Microsoft because Microsoft reached out to them. It is a very good article.

    In the end, Microsoft needs to try harder to listen more closely to both the end users and the people who support the end users -- both on the operating systems and on the applications such as Outlook. I'm not sure how that happens, but they really need to examine this. I hope they do.

  15. John says

    Thank you so much Diane. I am just finding this is the best site on the net for all things Outlook. And you can go to the column choser and add "contacts" and the linked contact will show.
    Cheers
    John

  16. Craig says

    Thanks Diane, I got over the butterflys with the regedit, looked for the common threads, and did it. Worked first time. So relieved, so happy.
    Cheers,
    Craig

  17. David Abrahams says

    OK, how about the opposite problem. I would like to look at a contact file and find the appointments, if any, for that contact. Usually if I look at an appointment it tells me the contact; but I want to look at the contact and see any linked appointment, No comment on the "improvements" made by MS. Thanks

  18. David Abrahams says

    I am sure MS does everything by email, therefore has meetings, many of us make arrangements by phone and don't clutter inboxes with extraneous emails. I want to look at a contact file and mind "appointments". I will return to using my previous contact manager and strongly recommend against anyone using Outlook 2013. Thanks

  19. Neill says

    Diane

    Thank you so much for this, my whole contacts and sales routine was based around this link on Outllook 2010 and I am really not capable of messing around with the registry, so your download was absolutely brilliant.
    Thanks again for saving me so much trouble.

    Kind regards
    Neill

  20. Alice Meyers says

    The download didn't execute so I edited the registry manually, using your step-by-step instructions. Thank you so very much!

    Alice

  21. Hans Wiemann says

    How do you modify the macro above "New Journal entry for Contact" to also populate the "Contact Link" field at the bottom of the Journal?

  22. CyberOldie says

    I am unable to see the field. Using Outlook 2013 in Windows 8.1 Pro environment on Sony Ultrabook. Resolution 1920 by 1080. The People pane is minimized and the Outlook active window i maximized.

    • Diane Poremsky says

      Did you set the registry key to enable it? You may need to restart Outlook after setting the key.

  23. Ahmed says

    How to create a user defined field on such a task to get data from this linked contact e.g. job title, phone number ... etc

    • Diane Poremsky says

      if you want to include contact information in a task, you'll need to use vba code behind the task form.

    • Ahmed says

      Thanks Diane. Have got limited experience with VBA. Is it possible to post a sample code, which I can modify to suit the information that I need?

  24. Cameron Piper says

    Diane,

    Now that I am able to link my contacts to their tasks. Is there a way for me to show all of the tasks for a contact? I thought there used to be a tab on the contact form a couple of versions back that could do this, but I couldn't find anything. Ideally I would be able to add this feature to a custom form, any thoughts?

    • Diane PoremskyDiane Poremsky says

      Older versions of Outlook has the Activities tab in Contacts that showed all activities. That was removed from Outlook 2013. You'd need to use Instant Search - I have a macro that triggers an instant search for a contact (saves typing their name :))

  25. Cameron Piper says

    Diane,

    Thank you for the response. I am willing to develop the idea, but I was wondering whether you think it would be possible to set up a button on a custom form to launch a userform that would use vba to populate a list of all related interactions with a contact. Ideally it would be on another tab in the custom form, but I guess I can settle for a popup userform if necessary. I wonder if there would be a way to make the interactions live (click on it and it opens the task, appointment, or email - maybe an "open" button next to each item) rather than static (just a list of those items)? Thoughts?

    • Diane PoremskyDiane Poremsky says

      You can use command buttons linked to macros to open the selected items. It takes a bit more programming, but is doable.

  26. Elena V. says

    Attention! I activated the obsolete Contacts box on Outlook 2013 Task form and after several months the links in the Contacts stopped working causing Outlook freeze!!!
    This has happened on several workstations already. Is anybody experiencing the same problem? Is there a fix?

    • Diane PoremskyDiane Poremsky says

      I wasn't aware of that. When did the problems start? Are you also using Social connector with the linkedin provider? The linkedin provider was disabled about 2 weeks ago and if you have any linkedin contacts linked, it could cause issues.

  27. tmiq says

    Might anyone know how to enable Contact Linking in Outlook 2016 Preview Edition. I'm trying it out now, but am finding that Contact Linking cannot be enabled in the same as is spelled out in this article for Outlook 2013.

  28. tmiq says

    If Microsoft is planning to eliminate the Contact Linking feature, maybe now is the time for Outlook users interested in seeing this feature brought back to start e-mailing the Outlook team about this. Also, if you are currently using the Outlook 2016 Preview version, you can click on the Smile Icon in the upper right corner of the program and send a "frown" and detail your complaint about not having this re-enabled. If enough people complain, maybe they'll listen. It seems Microsoft is listening a bit more lately. Maybe they'll listen on this issue. This is just the sort of thing they really should be accommodating to customers on.

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