Office Q&A: How to share Outlook 365 contacts

Sharing information is one of Outlook's best selling points and sharing contacts is no exception.

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Image: Wavebreakmedia, Getty Images/iStockphoto

Most Microsoft Office users find their work easy because possibilities are intuitive and options are easy to find—until they're not. Frustration takes over when we can't find an option or feature where we think it should be. That's what happened to Candace. She wants to share contact lists with other people in her organization. She's using Office 365, which helps her case.

In this month's Office Q&A column, I'll show you how to share Outlook 365 contacts. It's important to note that while the article focuses on contacts, you can share most items in Outlook. However, it's a huge topic that can't be covered comprehensively in a single article.

I'm using Office 365's desktop version of Outlook on a Windows 10 64-bit system. There's no demonstration file; you won't need one.

SEE: 20 pro tips to make Windows 10 work the way you want (TechRepublic download)

I confess

Outlook's connectivity and sharing capabilities have improved over the last two years, but for a long time, they lagged behind the competition. To connect both ways on my phone required serious hoop-jumping, so I opted out; I stopped using Outlook for contacts and calendar data. I now use a free online service that syncs with Outlook one-way but easily syncs with my phone both ways, and that's what I need. Even with recent progress in this area, I've become so acclimated to the current configuration that I may never go back. But what works for me, won't work for most, especially those in organizations chained to Outlook. For these users, the best and brightest hope is their administrators, not me.

Outlook 365 desktop

Candace wants to share contact lists with others in her organization. She's using Office 365 on Exchange so the process is as easy as sending an invitation:

  1. In the People window, click the contact folder that you want to share. You should be able to share any contacts folder.
  2. On the Home tab, click Share Contacts in the Share group (Figure A). You can also right-click the contacts folder.
  3. In the resulting invitation, enter the address you want to share your contacts with in the To field. You can enter more than one recipient.
  4. While sharing your contacts, you can request permission to share the recipient's contacts by selecting the Request permission to view recipient's Contacts folder. Doing so only requests permission—the recipient must continue the process by granting permission. In addition, if you want recipients to be able to edit the contacts folder that you're sharing, click the Recipient can add, edit, and delete items in this contact folder option.
  5. Enter a message if you like, and then click Send. Click OK to confirm the process.

Figure A

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Use Share Contacts to share a list.

The recipients will receive an invitation message. They must click Open this Contacts folder in the Open group on the Share tab to complete the task. Outlook names the recipient's folder after the sender. Recipients can't open this invitation in Outlook's browser edition.

If you can't get past the Share Contacts option, check your folder permissions as follows:

  1. Click the folder you want to share.
  2. Click the Folder tab and then click Folder Permissions in the Properties group.
  3. Review the properties and change them appropriately, if necessary.

If you run into any snafu in the sharing process, you will probably need to contact your administrator. It's doubtful that you'll be able to change, or perhaps even access, permissions.

Sharing a contacts list with someone outside your organization is basically the same. However, those outside your organization can't edit your list, which makes sense. During the process, if you see an error message explaining that you can't share contacts with people outside your organization, you should contact your systems administrator.

Share a few

It's possible that you might want to share only a few contacts and not an entire list. In this case, you open the contacts list—viewing in list view will simplify this—and start selecting contacts. Use the familiar Ctrl and Shift keys to facilitate selection of multiple contacts.

Once you've selected all of the contacts you want to share, click Forward Contact in the Share group on the Home tab. The dropdown displays two options, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

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There are two forwarding options.

For this example, choose As an Outlook Contact. As you can see in Figure C, the contacts you selected appear as attachments to the message. In the resulting mail message, enter the recipients, a subject, and an appropriate message and signature, and send.

Figure C

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Outlook appends the contacts to a message.

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

By 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.