Why both Contacts and Personal Address Book?

Last reviewed on January 20, 2013

Outlook has a confusing array of address books - the Personal Address Book (PAB), the Outlook Address book, and Contacts. If you use Exchange Server, you'll have an address book called the GAL (Global Address book).

The Personal Address Book (PAB) is a service available in Outlook 97, 2002 and 2003as well as in Outlook 98 or 2000 running in Corporate/Workgroup mode. The personal address book is supported in Outlook 2003, but because it's a deprecated feature, it's use is not recommended. Outlook 2010 will import it only. (This discussion does not apply to Outlook 98 or 2000 in Internet Mail Only as those versions do not support a PAB.)

Why does Microsoft Outlook seem to need both a Personal Address Book (PAB) and Contacts folders? It really doesn't. In Outlook 2000 and 2002, the PAB is obsolete and support for it disappears in Outlook 2010. However, if you are using an earlier version of have upgraded from Exchange or Windows Messaging, these reasons might apply:

  • Backward compatibility -- People who have a lot of PAB addresses from Exchange or Windows Messaging might not get around to importing them into Contacts for a while.
  • Odd addresses -- It's a little easier to use the PAB to store special types of addresses, such as mailing lists or Exchange Server public folders, that don't really fit into the Contacts mold (though there's no reason you can't keep an address for a public folder as a Contacts record).
  • Distribution lists -- While you can maintain distribution lists in Contacts in Outlook through categories and grouping or filters, many people find the PAB more efficient. However, since Outlook 2000 supports distribution lists in Contacts folders, this reason has become much less important.
  • Formatting options -- It's a very obscure feature, but if you connect to Microsoft Exchange Server, entries in the PAB have a Send Options button that allows you to set the format for each individual recipient to Plain Text, Rich Text or HTML. (Outlook 2002 adds this feature for all contacts.)

If you are using Outlook 2002 or later, we highly recommend importing the PAB into Outlook's Contacts. If you are using Outlook 2010 or later, you must import the PAB.

To import the PAB

  1. Open the Import and Export Wizard (File, Open, Import in Outlook 2010)
  2. Choose Import from another program or file; click Next
  3. Choose Personal Address Book; click Next
  4. Brose to find the PAB; click Next
  5. Select the Contacts folder you want to import to and click Finish

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.

2 responses to “Why both Contacts and Personal Address Book?”

  1. Mike Myers

    More ridiculous grief from Microsoft. I hate these pointless changes. It's like kids making mudpies--fun for them, but messy for the adults in the room.

  2. Ron Strilaeff

    Thanks Diane for keeping up with all the outlook tech craziness.

    I saved your site as a bookmark for my go-to place to figure out why my outlook doesn't do what I expect. The internal google search results work well. It seems that a generic google search finds all kinds of junk and obsolete or half-answers. Combine that with the fact that MS likes to rearrange and rename features for the fun of it, it makes trying to do what should be very basic things with ms-outlook unnecessarily complicated.

    I came here to find out the basics of address books, contact list, auto complete (and Suggested Contacts (!?) ... which I didn't even know existed but had hundred of weird addresses in it that I don't care about)

    You've sorted things out and kept up with recent changes, Thanks again.

Leave a Reply

If the Post Coment button disappears, press your Tab key.