Maintaining a Happy and Healthy Contacts Folder in Outlook

In pathology, which is the study of diseases and how they are transmitted, a contact is a person who passes on a communicable disease, but in Outlook, a contact is someone about whom you keep information. Information about contacts is kept in the Contacts folder. This folder is a super-powered address book. It has places for storing people's names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, Web pages, pager numbers, birthdays, anniversaries, nicknames, and other stuff. When you address an e-mail message, you can get the address straight from the Contacts folder to be sure that the address is entered correctly.

A Contacts folder is only as good and as thorough as the information about contacts that you put into it. These pages explain how to enter information about a contact and update the information if it happens to change.

Entering a new contact in the Contacts folder

To place someone on the Contacts list, open the Contacts folder and start by doing one of the following:

  • Click the New Contact button.
  • Press Ctrl+N (in the Contacts Folder window) or Ctrl+Shift+C.
  • Choose File --> New --> Contact.

You see the Contact form. On this form are places for entering just about everything there is to know about a person, except his or her love life and secret vices. Enter all the information you care to record, keeping in mind these rules of the road as you go along:

  • Full names, addresses, and so on: Although you may be tempted to simply enter addresses, phone numbers, names, and so on in the text boxes, don't do it! Click the Full Name button on the General tab, for example, to enter a name. Click the Business or Home button to enter an address in the Check Address dialog box. By clicking the buttons and entering data in dialog boxes, you permit Outlook to separate the component parts of names, addresses, and phone numbers. As such, Outlook can sort names and addresses more easily, and it can use names and addresses as a source for mass mailings and mass e-mailings with Microsoft Word.
    When entering information about a company, not a person, leave the Full Name field blank and enter the company's name in the Company field.
  • Information that matters to you: If the form doesn't appear to have a place for entering a certain kind of information, try clicking a triangle button and choosing a new information category from the pop-up menu. Click the triangle button next to the Business button and choose Home, for example, if you want to enter a home address rather than a business address.
  • File As: Open the File As drop-down menu and choose an option for filing the contact in the Contacts folder. Contacts are filed alphabetically by last name, first name, company name, or combinations of the three. Choose the option that best describes how you expect to find the contact in the Contacts folder.
  • Mailing addresses: If you keep more than one address for a contact, display the address to which you want to send mail and select the This Is the Mailing Address check box.
  • E-mail addresses: You can enter up to three e-mail addresses for each contact (click the triangle button and choose E-mail 2 or E-mail 3 to enter a second or third address). In the Display As text box, Outlook shows you what the To line of e-mail messages will look like when you send e-mail to a contact. By default, the To line shows the contact's name followed by his or her e-mail address in parentheses. However, you can enter whatever you wish in the Display As text box, and if entering something different helps you distinguish between e-mail addresses, enter something different. For example, enter Lydia – Personal so that you can tell when you send e-mail to Lydia's personal address as opposed to her business address.
  • Photos: To put a digital photo on a Contact form, click the Add Contact Photo button and, in the Add Contact Picture dialog box, select a picture and click the OK button.

Be sure to write a few words on the General tab to describe how and where you met the contact. When the time comes to weed out contacts in the Contacts folder list, reading the descriptions can help you decide who gets weeded and who doesn't.

When you're done entering information, click the Save and Close button. If you're in a hurry to enter contact information, click the Save and New button. Doing so opens an empty form so that you can record information about another contact.

Here's a fast way to enter contact information for someone who has sent you an e-mail message: Open the message, right-click the sender's name on the To line, and choose Add to Outlook Contacts on the shortcut menu. You see the Contact form. Enter more information about the sender if you can and click the Save and Close button.

Importing e-mail and addresses from another program

Suppose that you've been using Outlook Express, Eudora, or Lotus Organizer to handle your e-mail and contact addresses, but now you've become a convert to Outlook. What do you do with the e-mail messages and names and addresses in the other program? You can't let them just sit there. You can import them into Outlook and pick up where you left off.

To import e-mail and contact addresses from another program, start by choosing File --> Import and Export. You see the Import and Export Wizard. What you do next depends on where you now do your e-mailing and address tracking:

  • Outlook Express: Select Import Internet Mail and Addresses, and click the Next button. In the Outlook Import Tool dialog box, select Outlook Express, select check boxes to decide what to export (Mail, Addresses, and/or Rules), and click the Next button again. In the next dialog box, choose options to decide what to do about duplicate entries; then click the Finish button.
  • Eudora: Select Import Internet Mail and Addresses, and click the Next button. In the Outlook Import Tool dialog box, select Eudora, choose options to decide what to do about duplicate entries, and click the Next button again. In the Browser for Folder dialog box, select the file where the Eudora data is kept and click the OK button.
  • Lotus Organizer: Select Import from Another Program or File, click the Next button, select a Lotus Organizer version (4.x or 5.x), and click the Next button again. Clicking the Next button as you go along, you're asked how to handle duplicate items, to locate the Lotus Organizer data file, and to select an Outlook folder to put the data in.

Some Import and Export filters are not installed automatically by Outlook. Outlook may ask you to insert the Office CD so it can install a filter.

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