How to Create a Contact Group (Distribution List) in Outlook

Send a single email message to several people and save time

Outlook uses contact groups to store the members of a distribution list. After you create a contact group and add contacts, create one email message and address it to the contact group. That way, everyone in the distribution list receives the same message and you save time.

Instructions in this article apply to Outlook 2019, Outlook 2016, Outlook 2013, Outlook 2010, and Outlook for Microsoft 365.

How to Set Up a Distribution List in Outlook

To create a contact group in Outlook, create the list and choose where to store it. Here's how:

  1. Open Outlook.

  2. Go to the Home tab and select New Items.

    Screenshot of New Items
  3. Select More Items > Contact Group. Or press Ctrl+Shift+L.

    Screenshot of Contact Group
  4. In the Contact Group window, place the cursor in the Name text box and type a name for the distribution list.

    To send an email to the distribution list, enter the list name in the To text box of a new message window.

  5. Leave the Contact Group window open.

Add Members to an Outlook Contact Group

After the group is created and saved, add contacts to the distribution list.

To add contacts to a contact group:

  1. In the Contact Group window, go to the Contact Group tab.

  2. Select Add Members From Outlook Contacts.

    Screenshot of Add Members
  3. In the Select Members: Contacts dialog box, choose a contact and select Members to add that contact to the distribution list.

    If a contact isn't listed, search for the contact by name or email address. If you still can't find the contact, select the Address Book dropdown arrow and choose a different list.

  4. Repeat step 3 for each of the contacts that you want to add to the distribution list.

  5. Select OK.

  6. In the Contact Group window, select Save & Close.

Create a New Contact in a Distribution List

To add recipients who aren't in your Outlook address book to a contact group:

  1. Go to Outlook People and double-click the distribution list.

  2. In the Contact Group window, go to the Contact Group tab and select Add Members > New E-mail Contact.

  3. In the Display name text box, type a name for the contact.

    Screenshot of Add New Member

    If you don’t know the contact’s name, enter their email address or type an alias.

  4. In the E-mail address text box, enter the email address of the new contact.

  5. If you don't want to add the new member to the address book, clear the Add to Contacts check box.

  6. Select OK.

  7. In the Contact Group window, select Save & Close to save the changes to the distribution list.

How to Share a Contact Group in Outlook

Are there other people who would benefit if they had your distribution list? Instead of making them set up the same contact group from scratch, share the contact group with them. It's as easy as sending an email attachment.

To share a contact group:

  1. Go to Outlook People.

  2. Double-click the distribution group you want to share.

  3. In the Contact Group window, go to the Contact Group tab and select Forward Group > As an Outlook Contact.

    Screenshot of Forward Group

    Choose In Internet Format (vCard) to attach a text file containing the group members' names and addresses.

  4. Address the message to the person you want to receive the distribution list.

  5. Select Send.

Import an Outlook Contact Group That Has Been Shared With You by Email 

If someone created a distribution list in Outlook and emailed it to you as an Outlook contact file, import the list into your address book and to use as your own.

  1. Open the message that contains the attached Outlook contact file for the group.

  2. Select the attachment dropdown arrow.

    Screenshot of Attachment drop-down list
  3. Select Open.

  4. In the Contact Group window, go to File > Info.

  5. Select Move to Folder > Copy to Folder.

    Screenshot of Move to Folder
  6. In the Copy Item to dialog box, select the Contacts folder.

    Screenshot of Copy Item to dialog
  7. Select OK.

  8. With your distribution list in place and ready, you can start sending messages to its members.

If you want more control over your distribution lists, use contact categories to form elegant mailing lists.

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