How to Create a Distribution List in Outlook in 5 Steps

Having a contact group is a must-have for people working within large organizations where there may be hundreds of people to communicate with. Although setting them up can take a while, depending on how many contacts you have, once you do set it up, it can take away a lot of the monotony of sending the same email to multiple recipients.

Outlook’s contact group feature is far from perfect. It can be annoying to manage. But, this article will help you navigate it, explain what a distribution list is, the benefits, and how to create a distribution list in outlook. Read on to master this part of the Outlook suite.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Distribution Lists in Outlook

Here are a few advantages and disadvantages of using the Outlook contact group feature:

Advantages

  • They are easy to create, especially if you’re a tech-savvy person.
  • They can be created in a matter of a few minutes.
  • The feature is available for anyone to use.

Disadvantages

  • You can accidentally send the wrong email to the distribution list—it’s harder to recall emails in bulk
  • The lists require frequent updating.
  • Early versions allow only a limited number of email addresses.
  • Some email providers mark emails sent through distribution lists as “Spam.”

Difference Between Contact Groups, Distribution Groups, and Distribution Lists in Outlook

For the most part, you can use these terms interchangeably as they serve the same purpose. Distribution lists were used in older versions of Outlook but were later changed to contact groups as it’s easier to understand for most users.

Sometimes, distribution lists are managed by the higherups for the entire company, and they send the emails using a specific address. However, people tend to use contact groups with their individual email accounts, in most cases.

Next, we’ll dive into how to create a mailing list in Outlook.

How to Create a Distribution List in Outlook

Here are the steps you need to learn how to make a distribution list in Outlook:

A screenshot showing the people icon in Outlook

Step 1: On the main screen of your Outlook client, click on the People icon at the bottom-left part of the screen. This will open the Contacts tab, which allows you to manage your recipients.

A screenshot showing the new contact group menu item in Outlook

Step 2: In the top left corner of the screen, click on New Contact Group in the toolbar. This will open up a new window, allowing you to create your Outlook distribution list.

A screenshot showing how to add contacts to a group in Outlook

Step 3: In the window that pops up, select the name for your contact group. We suggest using a keyword that can help you recognize the group of people instantly. For example, write “Accounts Dept” for your contacts who work in the accounts department. Once you write the name for your distribution list, click on Add Members.

A screenshot showing the menu item to add a new email contact to a list in Outlook

Step 4: Once you click on Add Members, a dropdown menu will show up where you can choose from three options: From Outlook Contacts, From Address Book, and New E-mail Contact. Feel free to select the option that suits you. In this case, we will be adding a New Email Contact.

A screenshot showing the pop up menu for adding a new email to a distrubution list in Outlook

Step 5: A small window will show up, allowing you to add the recipient’s details. The Display name option will enable you to set a name to show instead of the email address. Enter the Email address, and you can then choose if you wish to add this recipient to your contacts. Click on OK to add the contact to the distribution list.

Your distribution list has been created. You should see the name of the contact group show up as a regular contact. Next time you wish to send an email, instead of typing in the email of every contact, just search the group name in the textbox, and you can send your email to the contact group.

A screenshot showing the menu items to click on to edit a contact group

To make edits to the distribution list, go to the Contacts section and click on the three dots under the list’s name. Click on Edit Outlook Contact, which will take you to the same window in step 3. From there, you can follow the same steps to edit the list.

How to Create Email Group in Outlook 365

Here are the steps you need to know if you want to know how to create an email group in Outlook 365:

A screenshot highlighting the people icon in Outlook 365

Step 1: On the main screen of your Outlook 365 web page, click on the People icon in the toolbar on the left side of the screen. This will take you to a new webpage with your contacts.

A screenshot shwoing where to click to create a new distribution list in Outlook 365

Step 2: In the People tab, click on All contact lists and click on Create a contact list. This will open a window allowing you to enter the details of your contact list.

A screenshot with the new contact list popup menu in Outlook 365

Step 3: In this window, enter the name for the list. Choose something that will help you instantly recognize the list. As before, let’s use “Accounts Dept” as an example. Add a description in the text box at the end, which will help you know who’s added to the list.

A screenshot showing where to click to add emails to the new contact list in Outlook 365

Step 4: Type in your contact’s email in the Add email addresses section in the window, and then click on Add to add the email to the list. If you wish to remove an email from the list, click on the cross icon on the right side of the address. Once you’re done making the changes, click on Create to save the contact list.

A screenshot showing where to click to edit a contact group in Outlook 365

Your contact list is ready. If you wish to update the contact list, follow the same steps by heading over to the All contact lists section in the People tab. There, you can follow step 4 to edit the contact list.

Alternatives to Creating a Distribution List in Outlook

Creating a distribution list in Outlook can be more of a hassle than it’s worth for some people. Luckily, you can use a few alternatives to create an email group.

External Tools

You can use several email marketing tools to send emails in bulk to your contact list. Some of these platforms include MailChimp, MailerLite, and Constant Contact, and they offer a lot of handy features like drag-and-drop, tracking, and metrics for engagement.

Note that these tools are made for marketing and may not be reliable for internal communication.

Microsoft 365 Groups

If you use Microsoft 365 services, you can look to upgrade your distribution lists to become Groups. This allows you to overcome many disadvantages of creating a contact group in Outlook.

Although the Groups feature can be useful in your particular scenario, note that it’s not the original intention of this feature. They were created to help with team collaboration allowing users to share files, notes, and essential documents.

Another thing to note is that you need an active Microsoft 365 subscription to use this feature in Outlook.

Create a Distribution List in Outlook FAQ

What Is an Outlook Distribution List?

Outlook’s distribution list allows you to group your email recipients and represent them as a single recipient. The feature goes by many names like distribution groups, contact groups, and email groups, but the purpose is essentially the same.

Once you learn how to set up a distribution list in outlook, it can be extremely handy if you have to send the same email to multiple people. This can become a big deal if you are in charge of managing communication for more than one department or office. This feature saves you from manually entering every recipient’s email address.

Once you set up a distribution list, it will show up in your contacts list, just like a regular contact. They also appear in your address book, making it a convenient, long-term feature.

How Do You Create a Distribution List in Outlook?

You can create a distribution list by:

  1. Going to the People section in Outlook and heading into the Contacts tab.
  2. There, click on New Contact Group in the toolbar, where you can name the contact group and add your contacts.

How Do I Create a Distribution List in Outlook 365?

  1. Click on the People icon and head into the Contacts menu.
  2. Click on All contact lists and then on Create a contact list.
  3. Enter the details of your contacts there and click on Create.

What Is the Difference Between a Distribution List and a Group in Outlook?

A distribution list is a free feature built-in Outlook that allows you to add your contacts to a list treating them as a single contact. You can simply select the distribution list when sending an email instead of individually selecting the contacts.

Groups in Microsoft 365 is a paid feature that allows collaboration between the users. This enables users to share files, notes, and important documents.

How Do I Add Members to a Distribution List in Office 365?

  1. Head over to the People section and click on All contact lists in the Contacts tab.
  2. Select the contact group you want to add members to and click on the Edit button in the top toolbar.
  3. In the window that shows, enter the recipient’s email in the Add email addresses text box and click on Add.

Wrapping Up Our Outlook Distribution List Guide

Outlook’s distribution list is a great feature that allows you to remove a lot of the monotony of sending emails to multiple people as you can add them all in a group and store it as a single contact.

We hope this article helped you better understand how to create a distribution list in Outlook and its purpose. Let us know in the comments if you have any questions or check out some of these other Outlook guides:

Jake Wright
Jake Wright
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Jake is a spreadsheet expert and content writer from New Zealand. He has a double Bachelor's Degree in Teaching and has been working in the education industry for over 11 years. His experience makes him adept at breaking down complex topics so that everyone is able to understand.