Last reviewed on March 26, 2014   —  17 Comments

This method is not necessary if you use Outlook 2010 or Outlook 2013. In Outlook 2010/2013 you can hit Reply to All then copy the addresses from the To and CC fields and paste into the members field of a Contact Group form (DL).

If all recipients are in your address book (in Contacts or GAL) or the address is in the display name (either the address only or in this format: "Diane (" ) you can copy from the To and CC fields in any version of Outlook. Outlook will resolve the names to the contacts.

You can use any list of email addresses to create a DL (or Contact Group), including from Excel or a custom view in Outlook (with only the display name and email address visible.) The only requirement is that each member's information needs to be delimited with a semi-colon or paragraph mark (one name and address per line). If there is not a display name, the address will be used for the display name in the finished DL.

poremsky <>
Diane Poremsky <>; <>;

Create a DL (Contact Group) from a List of Addresses

While you can get the addresses from any semi-colon delimited or one address per line list, this page was originally written to help people who wanted to create a DL from addresses in a message they were CC’d on. The instructions to create the DL once you have the list of addresses is below.

To get the addresses from the Internet header

  1. Right click on the message.
  2. Choose Message Options
  3. Click in the header field of the Message options dialog and press Ctrl+A to select all, Ctrl+C to copy.
  4. Close the dialog.
  5. Open a new message form and paste the header into it. I press Ctrl+A to select the signature then Ctrl+V to paste over it.
  6. Delete the content below the addresses and above it.
  7. Remove the text "To:" "CC:" and "From:"
  8. Use Find and Replace to replace the commas with semi-colons and tabs (^t) with a space.
    If a name and corresponding address are on different lines, backspace to remove the paragraph mark. If you aren't sure, Ctrl+Shift+8 to toggle marks on and off. Or use Find and replace to replace paragraph marks (^p) with spaces.
  9. Copy the prepared addresses. (Ctrl+A to select all, Ctrl+C to copy)

Create the Distribution list

These screenshots are from Outlook 2010 but the screens look similar in other versions.

Outlook 2010 or Outlook 2013
add members to a contact group

  1. Open a new Contact Group form
  2. Click on Add Members (1) and select either From Outlook Contacts or From Address book
  3. Click in the Members field (at the bottom) (2)
  4. Paste (Ctrl+V) the address list into the field
  5. Click OK to add them to the Contact Group. (3)

Save and close.

Create a new contact group from a list of addresses

Outlook 2007 and older

  1. Open a new DL form
  2. Click on Select Members
  3. Click in the Members field (at the bottom)
  4. Paste (Ctrl+V) the address list into =the Members field
  5. Click Ok to add the names to the DL

Save and close.

Video Tutorial

This video tutorial shows you how to get addresses from the header of a message in your Inbox and create the distribution list.

More Information

This will work in all versions of Outlook except Outlook 98/2000 in Internet Only mode. In older versions, paste the addresses into the Add to Distribution list box on the right side of the select names dialog.

This method will also work to create distribution lists in OWA.


  1. Beverly McElroy says

    I assign color categories to Outlook Contact entries such as Blue for Family members and Red for business contacts. When I sort by category, the contacts within each category are not alphabetized. Instead, they are in the same order that they were added. Is there a way to make the contacts within a color category arrange themselves in alphabetical order?

    • Diane Poremsky says

      It sounds like you are sorting by the created date, not name field. go to view ribbon, view settings and sort by name or file as field.

  2. flagger says

    This Distribution list is nearly exactly what I'm looking for,,, but the one trouble I am having (Outlook 2007) is that when I "Paste" into the members lists, it takes the "Display Name" instead of the "email address" ... For example, I get an incoming email with 10 names on it and I want to add to a distribution list. I select all and try to paste, but those that are formatted as follows:


    get pasted into the address as "Home"... The same thing happens when I try to cut and paste it into Excel, even when using "paste special"...

    Any thoughts on how to do this without creating a new outlook contact for every single one of these?!

  3. flagger says

    Wow... even my post didnt capture the way that the trouble occurs. Maybe because the greater than and less than signs get snagged up in HTML? I'm going to just type it out

    Home (less than sign) than sign)

    • Diane Poremsky says

      Yes, you can't use greater and less, you need to use the code: < is & lt ; and > is & gt ; for greater than - 4 characters without the spaces. Or use (, {,[ instead.

      If you get the addresses from the message header (as shown in the video) you should have the addresses. I paste the list into a new message body and use Find and Replace to clean it up.

  4. Rebecca says

    I am using Outlook 2010 and using groups to send out newsletters to subscribers. However, whenever I add new subscribers to a group, they also show up in my main contacts list which I do not want. How can I keep the group contacts confined to their group so they do not appear anywhere else?.

  5. Jay says

    Ok, now tell me how to add multiple names at a time with an Exchange distribution list. So far I have discovered no way but adding names one by one and when creating a list with a couple hundred names this a PITA. But, it is Microsoft so that's a given.

    • Diane Poremsky says

      In the GAL? When possible, you should use a dynamic dl that uses AD properties - users are added an removed as they move around or leave the company.

      Which version of Exchange are you using?

  6. Elena says

    This seems like a great way to accomplish what I need, however, every which way I try choosing the email addresses, when I get to the field to "paste" them, nothing happens. Same outcome whether I use shortcut key or right click and choose paste. I even tried both methods for copying, but doesn't make any difference. Any suggestions?

    • Diane PoremskyDiane Poremsky says

      Are the addresses on the clipboard? Try pasting into an email message - if nothing pastes, the addresses aren't on the clipboard.

  7. Bette Sue says

    Ok! So I created a distribution list from a previous list of emails. There were no names just emails and when I cut/pasted it put the email under the "name" as well as the email. Will persons on this list receive duplicate mailings?

    • Diane PoremskyDiane Poremsky says

      If the address is in both the name and address field, no, they won't get duplicates - their address will be in the display name field though.

  8. Tina Cummins says

    I want to create a distribution list for one of our companies, however when I go to select members there is no way to find my contacts by company...just name, display name, and email address. Any ideas for how to do that?

    • Diane PoremskyDiane Poremsky says

      filter or sort them in contacts so you can select them as a group (remove all fields from the view except email and name), then paste into the members field.

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