How to Use Contact Categories as Distribution Lists in Outlook

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How to Use Contact Categories as Distribution Lists in Outlook

How to Use Contact Categories as Distribution Lists in Outlook

How to Use Contact Categories as Distribution Lists in Outlook

Categorized contacts make for flexible email distribution lists using Outlook mail merge.

An Alternative to Groups and Distribution Lists?

Outlook distribution lists are handy for sending to a group of people fast. They are also impossible to search, hard to administer and a bit finicky to boot.

Fortunately, Outlook also lets you assign any number of categories to your contacts. You can then sort your address book by category—and, presto, here’s your new elegant, versatile and stable distribution list.

Use Contact Categories as Distribution Lists in Outlook

To create a distribution or mailing list with categories in Outlook:

  1. Open Contacts in Outlook.
    • ​Press Ctrl-3, for example.
  2. Make sure all contacts you want to add to your new distribution list are highlighted.
    • To add people not yet in your Outlook contacts, create them first, of course, using Ctrl-N.
    • You can highlight multiple entries by holding down Shift-Ctrl while you select them using the mouse, and a range by holding down Shift alone.
  3. Make sure the Home ribbon is selected and expanded.
  4. Click Categorize in the Tags section.
  5. Select All Categories… from the drop-down menu.
  6. Click New… in the Color Categories window.
  7. Enter the distribution list’s desired name (e.g. “Friends and Family (List)”) under Name:.
  8. Choose None under Color: or, of course, your desired color.
  9. Click OK.
  10. Now click OK again after you have verified the new category is checked in the Color Categories window.

To add new members to the distribution list at any time:

  1. Go to Contacts in Outlook.
  2. Highlight all the contacts you want to add to the list.
  3. Make sure the Home ribbon is expanded.
  4. Click Categorize in the ribbon’s Tags section.
  5. Make sure the list’s category is selected.
    • ​If the category does not appear in the menu:
      1. ​Select All Categories… from the menu.
      2. Make sure the list’s category is checked in the Name column.
      3. Click OK.

Send a Message To Your Category Distribution List

To compose a new message or meeting request to all members of the category-run distribution list:

  1. Go to Contacts in Outlook.
  2. Click Search Contacts.
    • ​You can also press Ctrl-E.
  3. Make sure the Search ribbon is expanded.
  4. Click Categorized in the Search ribbon’s Refine section.
  5. Select the desired category from the menu that has appeared.
  6. Open the Home ribbon.
  7. Click Mail Merge in the Actions section.
  8. Make sure All contacts in current view is selected under Contacts.
  9. Typically, make sure
    • Form Letters is selected under ​Document type: and
    • E-mail under Merge to: in the Merge options section.
  10. Enter the subject for the email under Message subject line:.
  11. Click OK.
  12. Compose the email’s text in Word.
    • ​You can use the tools in the Write & Insert Fields section of the Mailings ribbon to adapt greetings for each recipient, for example, and insert or use other address book fields.
    • Preview Results lets you test what your fields and rules will produce in each recipient’s email text.
  13. Click Finish & Merge in the Mailings ribbon’s Finish section.
  14. Select Send Email Message… from the menu that has appeared.
  15. Make sure the appropriate email address book field (typically Email) is selected under To: for Message options.
  1. Select Plain text or HTML (includes formatting) under Mail format:.
    • ​It is usually better to avoid Attachment for this selection; it will deliver the message’s text as a Word attachment, which recipients typically cannot read directly but have to open separately.
  2. Make sure All is selected under Send records.
  3. Click OK.
  4. If prompted:
    1. Click Allow under A program is trying to access e-mail address information stored in Outlook. .

You can close and discard or save the document in Word as you please.

Use Contact Categories as Distribution Lists in Outlook 2007

To create a distribution or mailing list with categories in Outlook:

  • Go to Contacts in Outlook.
  • Highlight all contacts you want to add to your new distribution list.
    • To add people not yet in your Outlook contacts, create them first using Ctrl-N.
  • Click the Categorize toolbar button.
    • You can also select Actions | Categorize from the menu.
  • Select All Categories… from the drop-down menu.
  • Click New….
  • Type the distribution list’s desired name (e.g. “Friends and Family (List)”).
  • Choose None from the Color: drop-down menu.
  • Click OK.
  • Click OK again after you have verified the new category is checked.

To add new members later, assign to them the appropriate category individually.

Send a Message To Your Category Distribution List in Outlook 2007

To compose a new message or meeting request to all members of the category-run distribution list:

  • Go to Contacts in Outlook.
  • Select View | Current View | By Category from the menu.
  • Click the desired list category’s heading.
  • Select Actions | Create | New Message to Contact or Actions | Create | New Meeting Request to Contact from the menu.
  • Click OK if Outlook notifies you that your action will apply to all items in the group.
  • Click in the To… field.
    • Outlook has put all address in the To: field. For a list messages, it is usually better to have all addressees in the the Bcc: field to avoid revealing addresses. If appropriate, you can leave the addresses in the To: field, of course, or move them to the Cc: field.
    • For contacts with multiple email addresses, Outlook has inserted each. It is best to delete the unneeded addresses.
  • Press Ctrl-A.
  • Press Ctrl-X.
  • Make sure the Bcc… field is visible.
  • Click in the Bcc… field.
  • Press Ctrl-V.
  • Type your email address in the To… field.
  • Continue composing the message or meeting request.

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