Reach out with contact groups (distribution lists)

Group contacts using categories

Your browser does not support video. Install Microsoft Silverlight, Adobe Flash Player, or Internet Explorer 9.

If you can’t create contact groups in the contact folder, one alternative is to use categories. Categories are pretty easy to use, but the lists are only available on your local computer. If you want to create a contact group that’s stored online with your email contacts, you can log on to your email account with a browser. Watch this video to learn more about these alternatives.

Want more?

Create a contact group

Create a contact group from a list of names in an email message

Create a contact group from a list of contacts in Excel

The ins and outs of BCC

So, what does it mean when the New Contact Group command isn't available?

Well, in most cases a contact folder is associated with an email account.

So, if you can't create contact groups in the folder, then it may be because the email provider uses Exchange ActiveSync or EAS.

And Outlook doesn't currently support syncing contact groups with EAS.

But there are two good alternatives.

The best option is to create contact groups by logging on to your email account using a browser.

But if that doesn't work for you, you can use categories. Let's look at the category approach first.

In People, click the folder that contains the contacts you want to add to the distribution list.

On the HOME tab, in theCurrent View group, select List.

Then, go to the VIEW tab and in the Arrangement group, click Categories.

By default, contacts have no categories. You have to assign them manually.

Go back to the HOME tab, select the first contact you want to add to the list, click Categorize, and All Categories.

Outlook comes with six default categories that you can use any way you want, or you can create a new category.

Type the name you want to use for your distribution list. Assign a color if you want. And click OK.

Now select contacts you want to add to the list. Hold down the Shift or Ctrl keys to select multiple names.

Right-click the selection, click Categorize, and select the name of the new category. And the category is assigned to the contacts.

Scroll down if you need to and you'll see the new category and the first members.

Now to add more members, you can use the same method, or simply drag contacts into the category.

When you want to send an email to the list, click the name at the top of the category.

Then, on the HOME tab, click Email, click OK, and all the contacts are added to the To line of a new email message.

Categories are pretty easy to use, but the lists are only available on your local computer.

If you want to create a contact group that is stored online with your email contacts, you can log on to your email account with a browser.

Sign in to your Microsoft email account. Click the arrow next to Outlook, and open People.

In the contact list, check the people you want to add to the group.

When you add more than one name, the Save as a group command appears in the taskbar.

Click it. Type a name for the group and click Save. And the contact group is saved in your online contact list.

Now open Outlook, and open contacts for that email account.

On the HOME tab, select the List view. And on the VIEW tab, arrange by Categories.

The contact group shows up as a category. Now, you can send email to the group the same way you send it to a category.

Select the name at the top of the category.

Then, on the HOMEtab, click Email, OK, and all the contacts are added to the To line of a new email message.

Keep in mind that if you want to add or remove people in the contact group, you cannot do it by editing the category.

You need to log back in to your account using a browser. In People, select the group, and click Edit. Add a contact, or click the X to remove a contact, and click Save.

Then in Outlook, press F9 to update the category.

So far, we have been thinking fairly small.

But you can use contact groups to send email to large groups with hundreds of members.

And often, the easiest way to do that is to create a list in a spreadsheet program like Excel.

Up next, we'll create a contact group from an Excel list.

Connect with an expert
Contact us
Expand your skills
Explore training

Was this information helpful?

Thank you for your feedback!

Thank you for your feedback! It sounds like it might be helpful to connect you to one of our Office support agents.

×