Coordinating Contacts and the Personal Address Book

Last reviewed on May 22, 2013

Note that the Personal Address Book service is not available in Microsoft Outlook 2010; if you still use a PAB you will need to import it into Outlook's Contacts folder.

A Slipstick Systems Exchange Center visitor writes:

How do I get my Personal Address Book and my Contact information to work together? When I add an e-mail address to one, the information does not automatically appear in the other. I have to add the same information twice whenever I put someone new in the database.

The Personal Address Book (PAB) is a service available in Microsoft Outlook 97 and 2002 and in Outlook 98 or 2000 running in Corporate/Workgroup mode. (If you’re using Outlook 98 or 2000 in Internet Mail Only, this discussion does not apply to you.) In Outlook 97 and 98 (CW mode), it was the only way to have distribution lists. However, in Outlook 2000 and 2002, the PAB is essentially obsolete. There isn’t anything you can do in the PAB that you can’t do in an Outlook contacts folder, so Outlook will offer to import your PAB for you, so that you don’t have the confusion of two different places to store addresses.

You don’t need to keep every e-mail address in both places. It’s best to choose one or the other location for adding new recipients. So what should you do? It’s really up to you. There are three different possibilities:

Plan #1: Ignore the Contacts folder and stick to the Personal Address Book — not recommended. This method will not work in Outlook 2010 and up and is not recommend for earlier version.

Plan #2: Add new contacts to the Contacts folder and eventually migrate most of the PAB. Use this method if you have not already migrated. If you use Outlook 2010 or Outlook 2013, you will need to import your personal address book to Contacts.

Plan #3: Migrate the entire PAB — recommended for Outlook 2000 and up. Required for Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2013.

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Plan #1

Ignore the Contacts folder and stick to the Personal Address Book

I can’t recommend this plan, because it misses a lot of the point of upgrading to Microsoft Outlook. You won’t be able to create Journal entries from contacts, drag a message to Contacts to create a new entry, or use many of Outlook’s other features involving Contacts.

If you insist, though, the way to implement this is to remove the Outlook Address Book from your profile. You will not be able to remove the Contacts folder. That’s required as part of Outlook.

To add new contacts to the PAB, right-click names on incoming messages and choose Add to Personal Address Book. Starting in Outlook 2002, there is no explicit Add to Personal Address Book command, however. Instead, you’ll see an Add to Contacts command.

Plan #2

Add new contacts to the Contacts folder and eventually migrate most of the PAB

If you’re not in a hurry, this is a fine way to get started. Follow these steps:

  1. Add the Outlook Address Book to your profile, if it isn’t there already.
  2. Add the Contacts folder to the Outlook Address Book.
  3. Choose Tools | Services and switch to the Addressing tab. (In Outlook 2002, choose Tools | Address Book, then in the Address Book dialog, choose Tools | Options.)
  4. Under Show this address list first, you can choose either Contacts or Personal Address Book. This setting governs which list you see first when you open the Address Book. I’d recommend that you use Contacts.
  5. Under When sending mail, check names…, add Contacts. The address list that you use the most should be the one at the top, whether that’s Contacts, your PAB, or a global or postoffice list.

To add new names from e-mail messages to the Contacts folder, use either of these techniques:

  • Drag an incoming message to the Contacts icon. A new item will be created with the name and e-mail address of the person in the From field.
  • In an open message, right-click a name in any of the address fields and choose Add to Contacts.

When you’ve used Contacts for a while and feel ready to migrate the PAB, follow the steps in Plan #3.

Plan #3

Migrate the entire PAB

You’re ready to take the plunge and start using Microsoft Outlook Contacts to the fullest. First, you need to follow Steps 1-5 under Plan #2, using Contacts in Steps 4 and 5 for the Show the address first and top When sending mail, check names… setting.

Next, it’s time to import the PAB into the Contacts folder (thanks to Robert Kniffin for steps 10-14, which enable you to see the actual e-mail addresses in the Contacts records):

  1. In Tools | Services, bring up the properties for the Personal Address Book service and make a note of the location and file name. The PAB that you want to import from must be part of your profile.
  2. Use File | Exit and Log Out to completely quit Microsoft Outlook.
  3. In Windows Explorer, make a copy of the PAB file. (It might be called "Copy of Mailbox.pab.")
  4. Start Outlook again.
  5. Bring up the Address Book and open it to the Personal Address Book.
  6. If you are using Outlook 97 or Outlook 98, delete any distribution lists. (This is to prevent a problem with duplicate addresses in Contacts.)
  7. In the Outlook Viewer, choose File | Import and Export, then Import from Schedule+ or another program or file (obvious, huh?), then click Next..
  8. In the Import a File dialog box, select Personal Address Book, then click Next.
  9. Select Contacts as the destination folder, then click Next.
  10. Click Map Custom Fields.
  11. On the Map Custom Fields dialog box, click Default Map.
  12. On the left (From:) side, click the + sign next to E-mail to expand it. Do the same thing for the E-mail field on the right (To:) side.
  13. Drag E-mail Address from the left (From:) side, and drop it on E-mail Display. on the right (To:) side.
  14. Click OK to close the Map Custom Fields dialog box.
  15. Click Finish to perform the import.
  16. In Outlook 97 and 98, in Tools | Services, bring up the properties for the Personal Address Book service and change the file name to the copy of the PAB file you made in Step 3. In Outlook 2000, you can remove the PAB service. In Outlook 2002, you’ll have Tools | E-mail Accounts instead of Tools | Services.

If you’ve followed the above procedures, your Address Book is now set up to work like this:

  • When you type a name in the To box, the Contacts folder will be checked first for matching names, then the Personal Address Book.
  • When you open the Address Book, Contacts is the first address list displayed.
  • In Outlook 97 and 98, the PAB contains duplicates of the e-mail addresses you’ve now imported into Contacts, but this doesn’t really matter, since Outlook will check Contacts first. As you find the time, you can go through the PAB and delete the old e-mail addresses for individuals, leaving only those for personal distribution lists.
  • You can add new names from e-mail messages to Contacts using either of the methods listed under Plan #2.

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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.

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