How to Create a Distribution List in Outlook for Windows

Create a Distribution List in Outlook

Are you sending emails to the same group of people all the time? You don’t have to type the recipients‘ addresses all the time (or “Reply All”). Find out here how to create an email group (distribution list) in Outlook instead for the bunch—and use it repeatedly.

First, Assume Something Good and Something Bad

Let’s say you are the proud new owner of a young moka pot. You’ve had the chance to use it three times so far, and while the first brew was a delight, the next two turned out to be horrible.

Before you change anything—what are the chances the next cup will be a good one?

To calculate, assume one good outcome and one bad, add them both to your tally, then compute the percentage of the desired outcome:

1 + 1 3 + 2 = 2 5 = 0.4 .

So, you can assume a solid 40 percent—quite a bit more than the 1 out of 3 seen so far.

Now, Laplace’s Rule of Succession, which informs this simple and useful heuristic, has its footing in a number of assumptions, of course, chief among them binomial distributions.

Come to think of it, how about a polynomial distribution right in Outlook—with 174 delightful members, of course, out of 174?

How to Create a Distribution List (Email Group) in Outlook for Windows

On a Mac? How to Create (Edit) a Distribution List in Outlook for Mac

Time needed: 5 minutes

To create a new contact group (distribution list) in Outlook for Windows:

  1. Go to Contacts in in Outlook.

    Heres how: Click Contacts (or, oddly, People) in the Outlook navigation bar.
    Outlook keyboard shortcut: You can also press Ctrl 3 to go to Contacts.

  2. Pick the account and folder where you want to store the distribution list.

    Which to choose: If you are unsure, pick the default Contacts folder under My Contacts.

  3. Go to the Home tab in the ribbon.

  4. Click the arrowhead pointing downward next to New Contact.

  5. Choose Contact Group in the menu that has appeared.

    Create a new contact group in Outlook to set up a distribution list

  6. Type the title you want to use for the new contact group under Name.

    It needs a name to be useful: You can save a list that has no name but you can only send emails to members of the group using its name.

  7. Add recipients to your newly created distribution list.

    Here’s how: You can add new group members from existing contacts, from the address book and emails, for example, and create new contacts just for the group; see below.
    Add recipients to an Outlook contact group

Ready to send? How to send a group email in Outlook for Windows using your newly created distribution list.

“New” Outlook for Windows

To set up a distribution list in new Outlook for Windows:

  1. Go to People in new Outlook.
    Keyboard shortcut: In new Outlook, too, you can press Ctrl 3 to go to People.
  2. Go to the account for which you want to create the group.
  3. Click the downward arrowhead next to New contact on the ribbon’s Home tab.
  4. Select New contact list from the menu.
  5. Type the name you want to use for the new list under Contact list name.
  6. Optionally, add members right away.
    Here’s how: Type a name from your existing contacts or an email address under Add email addresses and click Add.
  7. Click Create.

How to Add Members to an Outlook Email Distribution List

From Your Contacts

To add people already in your Outlook Contacts to a distribution list you have crated:

  1. Double-click to open the contact group in its Outlook Contacts folder.
  2. Go to the Contact Group tab on the ribbon.
  3. Select Add Members from the ribbon.
  4. Choose From Outlook Contacts.
  5. Highlight all email addresses (or contacts) you want to add to the group.
    Highlighting more than one: Hold down Ctrl while you click to add or subtract from your selection; you can also hold Shift to select a range.
    Search: Use Search: All columns or Search: Name only to find people fast, of course.
  6. Click Members.
    Add individual addresses: You can also double-click any list entry to add them to the Members list at the bottom quickly.
    Remove a member: Highlight any address or name under Members and press Del or Backspace to remove them from the Contacts to be added to your distribution list.
  7. Click OK.
  8. Now click Save & Close in the contact group or, of course, continue adding members.

Recipients Not Yet in Your Outlook Contacts

Of course, you need not add recipients to your address book before you can add them to a list; you can do both at the same time.

To add people to an Outlook distribution list that are not yet in Outlook Contacts:

  1. Double-click the distribution list in your Outlook’s Contacts folder.
  2. Open the Contact Group tab in the distribution list window’s ribbon.
  3. Click Add Members.
  4. Select New E-mail Contact from the list that has appeared.
  5. Enter the new recipient’s email address under E-mail address:.
  6. Type the name—or, if you have no name, the email address—under Display name:
    Mandatory: A name is required for the distribution list member.
  7. Optional: Uncheck Add to Contacts to prevent Outlook from also creating a separate contact for the new email address and name.
  8. Click OK.
  9. Now click Save & Close in the ribbon.

An alternative (and shortcut) is to use the Members list:

  1. Click Add Members | From Outlook Contacts in the contact group.
  2. Type all addresses you want to add to the group in the Member field.
    Multiple addresses: Separate addresses with semicolons (;).
  3. Click OK.

“New” Outlook for Windows

To edit a lists’s members in new Outlook for Windows:

  1. Go to People in new Outlook.
  2. Select All contact lists for the desired account.
  3. Highlight the list whose members you want to change.
  4. Click Edit.
  5. Use Add email addresses to add new members.
    Removing: Use × next to an existing member to delete the email address from the group.
  6. Click Save.

How to Create an Email Group in Outlook for Windows: FAQ

Can I create an Outlook distribution list from an email’s recipients (in “Cc:”)?

Yes, in a somewhat crude and roundabout way you can.

To create a distribution list in Outlook from an email’s list of recipients:

  1. Open the message whose recipients you want to use for a contact group.
  2. Highlight all the recipients in the To or Cc field.
  3. Press Ctrl C to copy.
  4. Open an existing contact group or create a new one; see above.
  5. On the Contact Group ribbon, click Add Members | From Outlook Contacts.
  6. Click in the text field next to Members.
  7. Press Ctrl V to paste the list of addresses.
  8. Click OK.

(How to create an email group tested with Outlook for Windows Versions 2201–2306 and new Outlook 1.2024; first published February 2022, last updated February 2024)

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