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How to share an Outlook contact group

This article is for members of staff and researchers who have their email hosted on the Exchange system.

A contact group acts like a mailing list, but remains internal to Outlook and Exchange, and is private to you unless shared with others.

If you have a contact group containing a number of addresses of a group of people you email repeatedly, it is possible to make the contact group available to other named Exchange users so that they can also use it to email the same people.  However, the contact group can only be made available to others by making its containing contacts folder a shared folder.  For this reason it is best to keep contact groups in folders of their own, so that no other contacts information is made accessible to others.

Note also that the contact group and its containing folder will only be available to other Outlook users on the Exchange system.  It will not be available to those using other email applications.

The basic steps involved are:

  1. Create a new contacts folder to contain only the contact group.
  2. Create the contact group within the new folder.
  3. Make the new folder accessible to selected persons.

Each step is described in detail below (these instructions assume the use of Outlook 2010):

Create a contacts folder for the contact group

  1. Click on Contacts at the lower left of the Outlook window so as to see your contacts folders:

    Outlook Contacts button

  2. Right-click on any of the existing folders, and select New Folder...:

    Outlook: Create new contact folder

  3. Enter the name of the new folder in the Name: box (in our example, we've chosen the name project-members):

    Outlook: new contacts folder name entry

  4. You can choose where the new folder is to be created, but if you don't, the folder will be created alongside the existing folders (this is recommended).
  5. Click OK.   The new folder should appear in the list of folders:

    Outlook: new contacts folder

Create the contact group

The procedure for creating a contact group and adding members to it is described separately in FAQ 2314 (start from step 2).  The instructions are separate because contact groups might want to be set up for personal use only.

If your contact group has already been set up in another contacts folder, you can move it to your new folder by means of drag-and-drop.

Share access to the new contact folder with other people

  1. Right-click the new contact folder you created in the first section (project-members in our example), point to Share in the drop-down menu, then click on Share Contacts:

    Outlook share contacts

  2. This opens a window almost identical to one for composing an email, but will have a prepared Subject line and shows the contacts folder to be shared.  Click on the To: button to select names from the global address list (NOTE - DO NOT enter names or addresses by hand into the To: box because that method doesn't work):

    Outlook share contacts

  3. Use the Search: box to find names in the global address list, and click on the name required in the list:

    Outlook share contacts name selection

  4. Click the To-> button to add the selected name to the list.  Repeat steps 3 and 4 if you want to select several names.
  5. Click OK when you've finished selecting the names.  This returns you to the invitation message window.
  6. If you want to add some expanatory words to your share invitation, type them in the message box just like in an ordinary email.
  7. Click Send to send the invitation:

    Outlook share contacts send

  8. An alert window should appear, asking you to confirm your sharing invitation for this contacts folder.  Click on Yes to confirm.

The invited persons will receive an email with the Subject line "Sharing invitation:" and giving the name of the sharer and the name of the contacts folder being shared. At the top of the message there will be a button to "Open this Contacts folder".  Clicking the button confirms the invitee's acceptance, and the shared folder should then become visible in their Contacts list, under a heading labelled Shared Contacts.  The invitee can then open the folder and access the contact group within.

Note how the icon for a contact folder changes from unshared folder to shared contacts folder once it has been made shareable.

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This is question number 2504, which appears in the following categories:

Created by Andy Clews on 15 August 2012 and last updated by Richard Byrom-Colburn on 21 October 2016