Software

Five tips for using Outlook 2016's AutoComplete list efficiently

Take control of Outlook's AutoComplete list so you can work the way you want to.

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Image: michaeljung, Getty Images/iStockphoto

Outlook remembers every address you type into its To Cc and Bcc fields. It's convenient, because when you start typing an address, the feature known as AutoComplete displays suggestions that match your keystrokes. You can choose an item from the AutoComplete list, and skip typing the entire address. In this article, I'll show you how to manage it efficiently or to disable it if you don't like it.

I'm using Outlook 2016 (desktop) on a Windows 10 64-bit system, but this feature has been around for a long time. Outlook 365's web version maintains a separate list so editing one doesn't impact the other. There's no need for a downloadable demonstration file.

1: Remove entries individually

Most of us occasionally make mistakes when typing an address, but Outlook has no way of knowing it isn't valid and adds that address to AutoComplete. The result is often two addresses for the same person in the AutoComplete list: the wrong one and the right one. If the wrong one sorts first, you might select it by mistake.

SEE: Windows 10 power tips: Secret shortcuts to your favorite settings (Tech Pro Research)

Fortunately, you're not stuck. You can remove addresses that you no longer need or that are incorrect as follows:

    1. Open a new message window.
    2. Start typing the address you want to delete.
    3. When it appears in the AutoComplete list, use the down arrow key to highlight it (Figure A) and Press Delete or click the X to the right.

    Figure A

    outlookautocompletetipsa.jpg
    Press Delete or click the X to delete an entry from Outlook's AutoComplete list.

    It's great for an occasional quick edit. You can use this same method to remove entries from Outlook 365's web version, but remember, it's a different list from the one your desktop version uses. As far as I know, you can't delete AutoComplete entries using a mobile device.

    2: Know your limits

    The AutoComplete list is limited to 1,000 entries for all versions except Outlook 2007; the limit went up briefly to 2,000 with Outlook 2007. Once you reach this limit, Outlook removes the entries you use the least to make room for new entries.

    To avoid losing control of your list, I recommend that you remove AutoComplete entries that you don't use before you reach the limit—nip Outlook's algorithm in the bud. Outlook does offer a way to increase the limit, by way of a registry setting, but it's unreliable, so I don't recommend it.

    If AutoComplete stops saving new entries altogether, the file might be corrupted. First, try removing entries that you no longer use. If that fails, clear the list, and start over (See No. 4). It's not a great solution, but it should get the list up and running again so you can rebuild it.

    SEE: Windows 10 power tips: Secret shortcuts to your favorite settings (Tech Pro Research)

    3: Enable or disable the feature

    You might not like the AutoComplete feature, or maybe the problem is just the opposite—the AutoComplete feature isn't working. In either case, you can:

    1. Click the File tab and choose Options in the left pane.
    2. Select Mail in the left pane.
    3. In the Send messages section, check or uncheck the Use Auto-Complete List to suggest names when typing in the To, Cc, and Bcc lines option, accordingly (Figure B).
    4. Click Close to return to Outlook.

    Figure B

    outlookautocompletetipsb.jpg
    Enable or disable AutoComplete.

    4: Clear the list

    Clearing the list is probably the AutoComplete's easiest task. Repeat the steps in No. 3 to access the Send messages section. Then, click the Empty Auto-Complete list (also shown in Figure B; it's to the right of the Use Auto-Complete List... option). Click Yes to confirm the request.

    You can clear the list without worry; clearing the list removes addresses only from AutoComplete.

    5: Quick population

    Most of us add addresses to AutoComplete as we use them, but you might want to add several addresses from an address book. Because you must send the message, your first, and most important step is to place Outlook in offline mode by clicking the Send/Receive tab and then clicking Work Offline in the Preferences group. Do not skip this step or you will send an unnecessary email to every contact you select in the address book.

    After placing Outlook in offline mode, click the Home tab and then click Address Book in the Find group. You can choose any Address Book you have access to. Now you're ready to select contacts as follows:

    1. Select the first contact. Hold down the Shift key and select the last contact to select them all. Or, hold down the Ctrl key and click non-contiguous contacts to select a subset of addresses.
    2. Click To to add the selected contacts. If you have more than one address book, choose another now and select more addresses to add to the To list. Keep in mind that AutoComplete has a limit of 1,000 entries.
    3. Click OK to close the dialog and return to the newly created message.
    4. Click Send, which will move the message to your Outbox because you're in offline mode.
    5. Using the Navigation pane, open the Outbox ,and delete the message.
    6. Return to online mode by toggling the Work Offline option in the Preferences group on the Send/Receive tab.

    Everyone you selected is now available in the AutoComplete list. The key to success without embarrassment is switching to offline mode—don't skip it and send a blank message to all of the selected contacts.

    Send me your question about Office

    I answer readers' questions when I can, but there's no guarantee. Don't send files unless requested; initial requests for help that arrive with attached files will be deleted unread. You can send screenshots of your data to help clarify your question. When contacting me, be as specific as possible. For example, "Please troubleshoot my workbook and fix what's wrong" probably won't get a response, but "Can you tell me why this formula isn't returning the expected results?" might. Please mention the app and version that you're using. I'm not reimbursed by TechRepublic for my time or expertise when helping readers, nor do I ask for a fee from readers I help. You can contact me at susansalesharkins@gmail.com.

    See also

    About Susan Harkins

    Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

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