Outlook People is a cloud-based contact list that you can find within your suite of Microsoft Services.
Instead of using a traditional non-cloud contact list that you keep moving from device to device, Outlook People can serve as your personal cloud-based contact list.
Your list of contacts can be viewed via outlook.com (previously known as Hotmail or Live), but it is common to access and manage contacts through Outlook desktop software on Windows and Macs, or through its mobile apps.
The apps on desktop and mobile are intended to be used as an office suite for email, calendar and task management.
Contacts are natively integrated in Windows phones. You can also sync your Outlook contact list your smartphone’s standard address book.
Setting up Outlook People
You can setup an account for free at outlook.com, or you can use a paid Microsoft Office 365 business account.
In short, you should go for Outlook 365 subscription if you want your software to up to date with the latest Microsoft software releases.
Exchange is generally for corporate or enterprises who would like stability and control over the software, e.g. your business environment cannot cope with the sudden UX changes as Microsoft pushes through its updates.
Whatever the backbone of your Outlook is, it will contain you list of curated contacts that needs to be managed efficiently in Microsoft’s software; and also on your phone, tablet, desktop, and across your business apps.
This guide will focus on the contacts within the Office 365 subscriptions.
Hints and tips
1. Google vs. Outlook: What's the difference?
Outlook People and Google Contacts are both used for the same purpose: to store your contacts in the cloud so they can be used across multiple platforms (mail, phone, calendar, etc).
If you are already using Microsoft apps it makes sense to use Outlook People. If you are using Google apps it makes sense to stick with Google Contacts.
If you’re active in both app environments, you should set up a sync between Google and Outlook to ensure that your contacts are continuously up to date. Google provides a free sync solution and also includes a calendar sync.
This free sync is very basic and is only able to sync everything to everything, without filters or segmentations. If you want a more nuanced sync (for instance only syncing some folders, or a segment of contacts) you can rely on a solution like PieSync.
One major difference between the two is that Outlook uses contact folders and categories, allowing for more structure.
Administrators working in a Microsoft environment have control over how contacts can be shared and organized across teams.
2. Organize your contacts using folders
The default folder is “Contacts”. However it is useful to set up separate folders alongside this contact folder.
For performance reasons, it’s best to break down your contacts into subgroup folders of no more than 10k contacts each.
One great thing about folders is that they come with sharing permissions. This means you can share contacts within your team.
It’s important to note that when you access your contacts via a mobile device, or via the web, you cannot move a contact into a different folder.
When you’re on an iPhone, you can choose to toggle visibility of different folders by going into groups.
You have more flexibility if you’re accessing your contacts via your desktop, for example you can (bulk) move contacts from one root folder into another one.
You can also choose to consolidate various folders into one single view, by leaving them “checked” in the sidebar.
A contact folder looks like this in the Outlook web app:
Contact lists in Outlook are distribution lists. You can send emails to a contact list if you want to reach multiple people at the same time.
3. Structuring your contacts with categories
You can use color categories to group associated items within Outlook including emails, notes, contacts, and meetings. You can also apply more than one colour category. Essentially colour categories are similar to tags.
Outlook comes with a set of default categories, however you can rename these categories to fit your business needs.
To assign a cooler category to an email, right click the email from the message list, select “Categorize” and then select the colour category.
To assign a color category from the reading pane or an open message, select Categorize from the Tags group on the ribbon and then select a category from the list.
If you don't see Categorize on the Ribbon, select the drop-down under Tags.
Your categories are only visible within Outlook on your desktop. If you want to see your mobile device, you’re not alone. There’s an open request pending on Microsoft’s feedback forum with several thousand upvotes.
4. Sharing your contacts
Within corporate environments, the Exchange Administrator is able to configure contacts settings so that contacts can be shared among colleagues.
You can also sync Outlook 365 accounts between different organizations using PieSync.
If you don’t have an Exchange Administrator you can share contacts doing the following:
• From the Contacts tab, right-click on your Contacts and choose Share, then Folder Permissions.
• On the Permissions tab, you may add or remove users whom you have delegated access to your calendar.
• To add a new delegate, select Add... and search for the desired user by Last Name. You can search the Global Address List, or your personal contacts list by selecting the appropriate drop down under Address Book. Under the Permissions heading choose the level of detail you would like to provide the user.
• To remove a delegate, select the user and choose Remove.
• Click Apply, then OK.
You’re also able to share your Color Categories with other colleagues. The Color Categories are stored within the main Calendar folder of your mailbox. So you have to first share your Calendar Folder.
Select the person you want to share your Color Categories with then click on “Full Details” under the “Read” section.
5. Auto complete magic
Thanks to Auto Complete, you’ll never have to type a full email address again. Just type in the first few letters and let auto complete do its job.
1. Parse new contacts from email signatures
Evercontact is a great tool for freeing you from the tedious copying and pasting that often comes with having an up-to-date address book.
Their service automatically analyzes email signatures and saves this new and updated contact information directly into your Outlook People.
This means Evercontact can fetch the address, phone number out of the signature and add it to the contact in Outlook.
If you combine this with PieSync to sync Outlook People with your CRM or marketing app, you will always have complete and updated contact information, across all your business apps.
Evercontact has a flashback feature which allows you to recover allcontacts from up to 5 years ago.
And, with the Chrome plugin, you can grab contacts from any web page and save them immediately to your address book in a single click.
2. Parse new contacts from business cards
I’m sure you have a business card or two(hundred) laying around your desk somewhere. Let’s face it: who wants to spend their time manually inputting the info into their address book?Thankfully, you don’t need to. There’s an app for that.
The Business Card Scanner from Contacts+ lets you scan business cards and add them into a contacts list that you can connect to your Outlook account. It even fixes messy contact records, scans for duplicates, adds social profiles to your contacts and lets you add business cards from your computer with one drag and drop.
You can also automatically sync your business card contacts from Contacts+ into Outlook using PieSync.
You can download the Contacts+ business card scanner on the Apple and Google Play Stores.
You can scan 5 cards for free, and then purchase only what you need. You can check the packages and their pricing here.
Goodbye, manual data entry!
Outlook People on your smartphone
The Outlook People app on Android is a handy way to keep your contacts, appointments, emails and notes close to hand.
Your smartphone already comes with integrated apps for Calendars and Contacts. You are able to sync your Outlook data to these native apps. The following steps tell you how to do this:
Check that Calendar is enabled for your account:
Go to the Calendar in the Outlook app and tap the three lines in the upper lefthand corner.
Under your email accounts, make sure "Calendar" is selected.
If your email address is not displayed in the list, it's not set up using Exchange ActiveSync. You'll have to delete and re-add your account and make sure not to use IMAP.
Check that access to Contacts is allowed for Outlook:
Steps may vary between devices and between operating systems. If you don't own an iOS or Samsung Android device, use these directions as a guideline:
For iOS: Open the Settings app > scroll down and tap Outlook > Contacts and Background App Refresh should be on.
For Android: Open phone Settings > Applications > Outlook > Make sure Contacts is enabled.
Then open the Outlook app and go to Settings > tap on your account > tap Sync Contacts.
All your contacts will stay in sync, even if you make changes on your phone, from another device or from any web browser.
If you delete a Outlook contact from your device, it will also be deleted from Outlook People, which will also remove it from other places, such as Outlook on your desktop, or any other devices that you connected.
Keep your data clean: get rid of duplicate entries
Within the Outlook Web interface, you’re able to search for and delete duplicates, using their “Clean up contacts” feature.
Go to outlook.com > People > Manage >Clean up Contacts
You can also use Contacts+ to automatically scan for duplicates. Here's how.