Saturday, November 1, 2003

Understanding how Outlook displays names and email addresses


By Diane Poremsky

A question was asked by one of our readers: "Is there a way to always show only the display names in the "To or Cc fields in an email message (not the full email addresses)?"

Beginning with Outlook 2002, Microsoft changed how Outlook displays some email addresses and this often leads to confusion among users. When you enter a name in the To field you might see the names and addresses formatted in any of the following ways:

Diane Poremsky
Sally Lessard <sally\>
Mary Reaser (mary\

As you are probably aware, the underline indicates that Outlook resolved the address to a contact or that it is a properly constructed email address. If Outlook can't resolve the name to a contact or it's not a properly formatted email address containing the @ sign and a period, Outlook underlines it with a red line to indicate that the address needs resolved or a green dotted line to indicate that more than one match occurs and Outlook is matching it to your last selection. In either case, right click on the name and choose other addresses or contacts.

How Outlook decides what to display as you enter the address confuses a lot of people. In my examples, the display name only format (i.e., &quot;Diane Poremsky&quot;) is used when Outlook matches the entry to a contact. You can enter a name in the To field or all or part of the email address and if Outlook finds a match in your contacts, it uses the email display name from Contacts.

By default, Outlook 2002/2003 uses a format of contact display name and email address in parenthesis as the email display name (for example, &quot;Mary Reaser (mary\;). The reasoning behind including both the name and address is so that you can more easily choose the correct address when a contact has more than one, especially compared to older versions' Mary Reaser (Email2) format. You can change the display name if you choose, but do so after entering both the Full Name and email address, as Outlook replaces the display name when you change the Full Name field.

The format which includes the address in angle brackets (i.e., &quot;Sally Lessard &lt;sally\;&quot;) means the name is &quot;one-off&quot; -- or in layman's terms, not in your address book. You'll also see this format when you reply to a message, even when you have contact for the person since Outlook doesn't resolve the address to address book entries on replies. These addresses are stored in your autocomplete cache (Outlook 2002/2003) and the format is used on new messages you send to that person.

The final format uses just the email address only and results from typing in the email address that doesn't resolve to a contact or replying to a message that doesn't include a display name.

As you can see, the only address you have control over is the Contact's copy. Next question, please.