Outlook Contact & Address Book Options

Last reviewed on December 20, 2012   —  63 comments

Applies to Microsoft Outlook 2010, Outlook 2007, Outlook 2003 and under

Contact and Address book settings are found in three locations in Outlook. These settings control the search order of the address books (when Outlook needs to resolve the addresses) as well as the display in the address book when you click to To button.

One area which leaves many users confused is where the Outlook address book gets the display names from. As seen in the screenshot below, Contact’s File as field is used in the Name field of the address book and the email display name (Display as) field is used for the Display name field. If a contact does not have an electronic address, they will not be listed in the address book.

Where the address book entries come from

Note that when you change the Address book display format used in the Name column, the new format is not displayed in the Address book until you restart Outlook.

To remove the email address from the Display as/Display Name field, see Bulk Change Email Display Name Format.

Address Book

Address book options

In the Address Book's (Ctrl+Shift+B) Tools, Options dialog, you'll find the options to select which address book is shown first when you click To, where your personal addresses are kept, and the order auto-resolution searches your address books.

Outlook 2010 Address book optionsThe dialog is slightly different in Outlook 2010, due to the new feature where Outlook chooses the sending account based on the folders you are viewing.

You can choose to start with the Global Address list (Exchange server accounts only), the Contacts folder, or Custom order. If you maintain one contacts folder for all accounts, the Custom order is best, but it can be confusing if you have separate address books for each account type.

Contact Options (in Options dialog)

Contact book options

In Tools, Options, Contact Options you can control the file as format and the default name order. In Outlook 2010, this dialog is at File, Options, Contacts.

The default name order tells Outlook that "Mary Smith" is in first name last name format. If you prefer to enter names in last name first name format, without using commas ("Smith Mary"), this is the setting you'll need to change.

When Outlook files names in "Mary, Smith" format, check your default name order setting. Changing this setting will not change existing contacts, it applies only to new contacts.

Restart Outlook to insure changes made here to take effect.

Please note that changing this does not change existing contacts, it applies only to new contacts. You need to edit existing contacts, or use the macro at Bulk Change File As Format for Contacts or, if a number of contacts have the first and last names in the wrong fields, see Macro to Swap First and Last Name Fields.

Account settings, Address Book settings

Directory and Address book settings are found in Account Settings (Tools menu in older versions or File tab in Outlook 2010). This controls the sort order you see when you click the To button or view the address book. Double click on the address book or select it and click Change. Restart Outlook for changes here to apply to Outlook’s Address Book.

Address book settings

If your contacts use different FileAs formats, we have a macro you can use to change them to a universal format at Bulk Change File As Format for Contacts.

Click to view Video Tutorial:

Written by

Diane Poremsky
A Microsoft Outlook Most Valuable Professional (MVP) since 1999, Diane is the author of several books, including Outlook 2013 Absolute Beginners Book. She also created video training CDs and online training classes for Microsoft Outlook. You can find her helping people online in Outlook Forums as well as in the Microsoft Answers and TechNet forums.

Please post long or more complicated questions at Outlookforums.

63 responses to “Outlook Contact & Address Book Options”

  1. M P Wideman

    Exactly the answer to the question I had. On transfer from one computer to another the names started to be listed by first instead of last. You took me right to the solution. Thank you.

  2. Wayne Shaddock

    Hi Diane,

    I found your reply to a question about changing the default address book in Word 2010 which led to this article which, however, doesn't mention how to get the default in Word to change. I have successfully configured Outlook to bring up the desired default, but it had no effect in Word|Mailings|Labels. Any suggestions?

  3. Bob roe

    Somehow iCloud ate my Outlook addresses

    Is there a recovery?

  4. Joe Scanlon

    Most of the info was a real help organizing my Address Book but i still show 15 different items or contact groups in the pull down menu when i click the To button.
    Most of these items are not one of my contact folders, like "Offline global address list".
    All i really want to see is two or three groups.

  5. Bob Redwitz

    In Outlook 2010 contact view I have always used the full name column for my contacts. Recently the full name of all my contacts became the company name. If I change the view to First Name and Last Name columns it shows First Name and Last name. If I revert back to Full Name I get the company name again. Also if in list mode and I click on a contact in list mode and pull up the contact form, at the bottom of my screen it shows the full name but not in the contact form.

  6. John Tate

    I have installed iCloud in Outlook 2013 and works fine under Windows 7.
    However I have noticed that when creating an email, the entries in the standard address book are empty as these have all been transferred to the iCloud address book.
    While I have copied all the addresses back to the standard Outlook address book, how do I make the iCloud address the default address book for emails so I have only one place to add/update addresses?
    Thanks for your help

  7. John Tate

    Thanks for your feedback.
    Your link to change the order in the address book is related to Outlook 2010.
    However Outlook 2013 does not have the same Tools Option but rather the Account Settings.
    How do I do this in Outlook 2013?
    Also I just want to confirm that I cannot make my email addressbook default to the iCloud contacts. If this is the case then this seems to be a serious limitation of Outlook as the whole idea is to have one address book to choose from.
    Thanks again.

  8. John Tate

    Found it.
    On the People Tab, move the iCloud contacts to the My Contacts.
    Select the Folder tab.
    Select the iCloud contacts and then select Folder Properties.
    Select Outlook Address book and click "Show this folder as an email address book". The name of the address book should be change another name e.g. iCloud.
    Then when an email is composed the iCloud address book can be selected from the Address book icon.


  9. Lisa Kruse

    Help! I have two addresses filed on one contact form for some contacts, one ranked as primary ("Email 1") and one secondary ("Email 2") in Outlook 2010.
    Occasionally I need to use the secondary email, say when someone is out of the office. If I enter the secondary address, either automatically by using the address book look-up menu or manually by typing, Outlook always changes it back to the primary address. I cannot find the setting to dis-enable that function. Can you tell me what setting to change?

    Thank you.

  10. Adrienne Johnson

    I need to know how you can set up your contacts with adding in company title with the email address so if you send an email it will have your title to anyone that you send it to.

  11. Donna Rummery

    Is there any way to sort the 'Display Name" when sending an email as I sort by surname in my contacts which I want to keep, but when sending emails I use their first name.

    Any light you can shed on this issue would be GREATLY appreciated!!

  12. Donna Rummery

    Outlook 2010. When I click on "New Email" and then I click on "To" it displays all the contacts. This is where I want to sort - particularly the "Display Name" field.

    Many thanks for getting back to me.

  13. Gabrielle Gagnon

    I'm very grateful to you for writing these articles. After spending all morning searching Outlook Developer Help, I found a workable answer to my problem here. A perfect solution for us, though, would have been to use VBA code to set the order of the address lists to search when resolving names. Let me explain. We have a program that sends out alerts to subscribers whenever someone on a watch list books time on a resource calendar, and it broke when one of our subscribers added a few mail drops for documents that began with his user name to the Global Exchange address book (e.g., Doe, John doc type 1; Doe, John doc type 2, etc.). Outlook was unable to resolve his user name so it was unable to send out his alerts. When we wrote the program, we assumed user names would be unique, but apparently Outlook doesn't look at the full entry when resolving names. Is there a way to programmatically tell Outlook to search "All Users" first, "All Groups" second, and finally the Global Exchange address list when resolving names?

  14. Gabrielle Gagnon

    Thanks for the prompt response. We don't have Redemption, and I haven't worked on the direct MAPI level. Is that accessed via the Property Accessor in the Outlook Object Model? We have another issue with those alerts -- when someone cancels an appointment, we can't include specific appointment information because the appointment no longer exists on the calendar, and although the information appears in the original meeting invitation, we can't access it via the OOM; we've had to add the invitation as an attachment to the alert. Someone told me we could use the Property Accessor to get it. Why didn't Microsoft expose these things in the OOM directly?

  15. JP Shore

    I have imported my address book from Lotus Notes, via a CSV file, into Outlook 2007. After lots of false starts, it's finally in place. In the "Contacts" folder, each name has a single entry. However, in the Address Book, each name has a duplicate entry. So I have to choose between two duplicate e-mail addresses for each name I try to resolve when sending an e-mail. How did this happen, and any way to fix it other than delete the dupes, one at a time (several hundred)?

  16. Nick

    Diane, you seem to be a godsend. But Outlook 2013 may defeat even you in getting consistency in last name first (or vice versa) when synching via Outlook.com. I have set both Outlook.com and Outlook 2013 to last name first - and this works if I search either program under People. But if I use the Address Book tab in Outlook 2013 some of the contacts stick as first name last - and can't be changed!

  17. Nick

    It just proves you ARE a godsend! I had to exit Outlook and reopen it for the change to take effect but your instructions work like a dream. I'd trawled through dozens of Microsoft help and community pages and couldn't find the answer. How come it takes you - rather than the mighty Microsoft - to make this so easy? Anyway, many, many thanks!

  18. Nick

    Actually I have another Outlook 2013 challenge. I have created a global address list and made it my default contacts folder. (In fact it is the only address book I want.) However whenever I create a new contact it seems to disappear. It actually saves in Outlook's Contacts data file and, if I remember, I have to manually move it to my chosen contacts list. Can you advise on how I get all my new contacts to save into the same list? Even better, can i delete the Outlook Data File and the "Contacts (This computer only)" folders altogether?
    Many thanks.

  19. Udo

    is there a way to sort the outlook 2010 address book by the E-Mail Address? all (hundreds) of my contacts had to be imported from web mail and these users do not necessarily have Names (First or Last) so i'd like to sort by email address to find them quicker!

  20. Nick

    Yes, I do use IMAP. I also have a pst file but that's only for archive. The global address list is stored in outlook.com with Exchange ActiveSync.

  21. Nick

    if I select the People tab (Outlook 2013) the left-hand column headed My Contacts has 4 entries. The 1st is Contacts - email address where I store my contacts through IMAP. The 2nd says "Contacts - This computer only". This is where any new contact gets saved by default and is thus orphaned from the main list. (I have to check it periodically and manually move data to the 1st Contacts folder.) The 3rd is labelled "Suggested contacts" and the 4th is "Contacts - Outlook Data File".
    if I create a new contact from Mail (using Address Book, File, New entry...) the default save is "Contacts - This computer only".

  22. Jeff

    Diane, do you know if there is a GPO/GPP setting to force the GAL to appear first when opening the address book in Outlook 2013, rather than the default setting of "Choose Automatically"?

  23. Glenn Twitchell

    I have two Hotmail addresses and I have solved a multitude of problems caused by the change to Outlook but I am now stumped.Though I have managed to get both of my email addresses and their folders to display when I open Outlook I ended up with divided address books, one for each address. When I attempt to send an email from one address it will not find the recipient's address unless it is in that particular email account's address book. How do I sync or merge the address books?

  24. Sally Bounds

    I created a new group, which shows up under my person contacts in my address book. But I want to make the group list available to anyone in the organization. How do I move it to a public address book?

  25. Singh


    is there any way to know that which person had edit or made any changes to a mail in a globally shared folder in outlook.

    anyone know please help!!

  26. Kaye Weiss

    I found just what I was looking for, easily and instructions were clear. Thank you so much.

  27. connie

    is there a way to consolidate address books? I somehow wound up with 2 outlooks and 2 mobiles, and now another popped up. any suggestions?

  28. TM

    Diane - Do you know of a way to add fields shown in the Address Book? I need to be able to see the Job Title for my contacts, but I cannot figure out a way to customize the Address Book views to add additional columns. Are you aware of a utility that allows this or some other work-a-round?

  29. alston28

    I have Outlook 2007, and I have a ton of contacts, all nicely categorized. I went to create a Distribution List. When I tried to select names to add, it brought up my global address book and there are no names in it. I use the Microsoft Exchange Server, to facilitate syncing of email, calendar, contacts, tasks and notes between my pc and iphone. What gives? Why aren't my contacts listed in my global address book? Thanks.

  30. Gene Beatty

    No dice. Didn't work. Still nothing listed. Any other suggestions? Thanks.

  31. Karla

    My Outlooks is saying a contact does not have an email address when it does - why would this be?

  32. Karla

    It is when I try to send an email to a category - there are 100 in the category but only 15 email addresses come across with the message that some do not have an email address

  33. Liz Zoob

    You seem so knowledgeable! I hope you can help me figure out this annoying Outlook quirk. I use an iPhone and I sync it with Outlook 2007. If I add a contact on my iPhone and then sync, the contact's email address always defaults to E-mail 2 or even E-mail 3, meaning it is not displayed in Outlook unless I open the contact's details and manually open the E-mail 2 category. So I have a few questions: Why?!! Can I change this behavior on Outlook's part in some setting? and Can I bulk transfer all the email addresses from E-mail 2 to E-mail?

    I have been manually correcting this little by little by cutting the data in E-mail 2 and pasting it into E-mail, but would like it to stop happening in the first place.

  34. Liz Zoob

    Thanks for your reply. I sync using iTunes. I do have ways of working around this but still find it odd that iTunes automatically sends the single email to Email 2.

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