1. Understanding the Contacts Interface


Learn about the contacts interface and how it differs from the mailbox interface.

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Lesson Goal

Explore the contacts interface.

What are contacts?

A contact stores contact information for a person. At its most basic, a concept will include a name and email address. But they can also include telephone and fax numbers, the company the person works for, their job title, their address and lots more.

How is the interface different?

By and large the UI for Contacts is structurally the same as it is for the email view. We still have a Ribbon, Folder pane, Reading pane and the main pane.

The difference is in the detail. The Ribbon has new groups, groups with different commands and some groups are gone.

The Folder pane is still similar, but contacts are explicitly separated by data file in the same way that emails are. Contacts can be reorganized into groups and folders from different accounts can be placed into the same folder group.

The Reading pane is mostly similar in that it gives us a more detailed preview into the selected contact than what can be gleaned from the preview.

Current view

In the Current View group in the Ribbon, we can change the layout of our contacts. Business card displays our contacts as thumbnails that resemble business cards. They include basic contact info and a photo if we added one to our contact.

The card view also uses a thumbnail style layout. It’s less flashy and doesn’t include space for a photo, but it does provide more information in the preview.

In the phone and list view we can see a typical list layout with our contact information organized in columns which we can use to sort and group. This is the most similar to the mailbox pane in the email view.


In this course, we'll be examining how to use Outlook to organize our contacts, schedule events in our calendar, and track our productivity with tasks. In this first lesson, we'll explore the contacts interface.

Contacts are simply stored information about particular people who we regularly communicate with.

A contact will typically include a person's name and their email address, but it can also include a lot more information. We can add their phone, company, job title, address and more. Storing this information in contacts is useful for reference and it enables us to more quickly address our emails.

Unlike other Office applications such as Word and Excel, the layout of Outlook's interface can change drastically as we switch between different functionality. By default, we see the interface used for managing emails.

This includes the mailbox pane, reading pane and so on.

If we go to the navigation bar and select contacts, we can see that these panes stay but their roles are changed.

Instead of email folders, the folder pane shows our contacts folders.

These are also known as address box.

The mailbox pane is replaced entirely by the contacts pane.

The reading pane now provides a preview of the information stored in our contacts.

The ribbon also changes quite a bit.

If we toggle between the mail view and the contacts view, we can more clearly see how different the ribbon is.

The layout and names of the tabs are the same, but the groups within each tab differ to varying degrees.

Some groups stay the same, some groups contain different items and some groups are unique to specific views.

In addition, the contacts view has a few options for changing the interface even further.

If we look at the current view group, we can see a few options for changing the view.

We're currently looking at the people view which is the default.

This shows a full list of our contacts in the contacts pane in alphabetical order.

This pane doesn't have a preview so if we want to see the details, we need to select a contact and view the reading pane.

If we select business card, the view changes significantly.

The reading pane has disappeared and now the contacts all appear in a business card format.

These cards show a summary of each contact's name, company, title, email address and phone numbers.

They also show a picture of the contact if available.

Note that it doesn't include the fax number or street address.

Selecting the card view reveals a similar layout.

This view is a little compacted by default so we'll have to expand the cards to reveal the information within.

If we select the phone view, we can see a more compact list which displays contact information for each record across columns.

Selecting the list view reveals a similar interface to the phone view, but with some additional columns such as job title, company and department.

If we click an empty space inside the contacts pane and select add columns, we can choose which columns to add and remove from this view.

On the left, we can see that contacts can include much more detail than can be seen here. On the right, we can see all the columns applied to the current view.

I want to declutter this view so I'll remove icon, attachment, file as, and flag status.

I don't need to add any of the available columns so I'll click OK.

I also want to apply grouping to this view.

I'll right click an empty space again, select view settings, click group by, ensure the box at the top is checked, and click OK.

I can now select a column to sort and group by that column.

For example, if I click company, the contacts are grouped according to the company they work for.

At this stage, we have a pretty good idea of how to organize our existing contacts so we'll stop the lesson here. In the next lesson, we'll learn how to create new contacts.

Outlook Essentials
Managing Contacts, Calendars, and Tasks


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