Don’t Lose Your Contacts: Keep Organized With These 4 Outlook Tips

By Robert Half on December 22, 2014 at 8:00am

What could possibly be more annoying than losing a contact? You just had it — and then suddenly it disappeared. In this next installment of our Microsoft Outlook series, check out four great tips to keep your contacts organized and in their place.

If you wear contact lenses, don’t be confused. The contacts we’re talking about are the ones in your email. Knowing how to get the most out of Microsoft Outlook might not help your vision, but it will help keep an eye on the address book you rely on every day.

Here are four Outlook tips for keeping your contacts organized.

1. Start with what you know

One of the biggest difficulties with keeping track of any kind of address book arises when you know who you want to find, but can’t remember a crucial piece of information, like the person’s name. This can lead to awkward searches like “that sales guy I got an email from three weeks ago about the Q4 order.”

So, when your normal alphabetical list isn’t cutting it, try searching by the information you do know. To do this, change your current view in the contacts section to List, found in a drop-down menu in the Office ribbon. (Mac users: Switch from “Details” to “List” in the Office ribbon.) You can now sort your contacts by any detail you like (such as company or work city) by clicking on the relevant headings at the top of the list.

2. Categorize

Now you know that Microsoft Outlook allows you to search contacts by pre-determined categories. One of our favorite Outlook tips is to take this a step further and add supplementary categories of your own. If you want to search all the sales people, create a Sales category. If you need a place for people you only talk to a few times a year but are still really important, make a Quarterly Check-In category.

To create new categories, click “Categorize” in the Outlook ribbon and then choose “All Categories” (Mac users: choose “Add New”). Simply choose the color you want to assign your category and give it a unique name.

You can also select contacts, right-click them and choose “Categorize,” which will allow you to assign categories and create new categories at the same time. (Mac users: click “Contact” and “Categorize”.)

3. Group up

Groups are searchable like categories, but they also serve a more active purpose because you can send emails to groups all at once. Consider making groups for your department, each project team you are on, and people you may need to send similar information to on a semi-regular basis, such as consultants or sales people. Simply click on “Contacts” in the left navigation, click “New Group” near the top left (Mac users: click “Contact Group” in the Office ribbon) and give the group a distinct name. Note that not all email servers support contact groups.

4. Formatting is your friend

People format their names in various ways: think about John Smith versus Smith, John versus Mr. J Smith versus John K. Smith IV. Outlook’s Address Book (found under Account Settings) can do a sweeping reformat of all your contact names if you go to File > Account Settings and choose the Address Books tab. Click on “Outlook Address Book” and then “Change.” You’ll be prompted to choose a standard formatting for all your names. All your contacts will now be listed as Lastname, Firstname (Smith, John). Restart Outlook for the changes to take effect.

What are your Microsoft Outlook tips for organizing your contacts? Share in the comments below.

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