Tuesday, April 1, 2003

Finding Contacts by the letter


By Diane Poremsky

The Find a Contact command on the Standard toolbar is available from all Outlook

folders. Most people who use this command just type in part of the first or last

name and pick the contact they want out of the Choose a Contact list that is

returned. However, when you have a large number of contacts, you might get

hundreds of records returned. You can fine tune the search and limit the number

of records returned as long as you know some of the letters in the contact's

first or last name. When it's a foreign name with a spelling you are unsure of,

as long as you know some of the letters in the first and last names, you can

find the contact easily.

When you know part of the contact's name but aren't sure of the spelling, search

using initials or letters contained in their name. For example, when you enter

"j p" or "j por", you will return the contacts for Jessie Poremsky, Jim Porter,

and Reja Aportee.

When you use a space in the search, Outlook searches differently depending on

where the first letter is found. Outlook uses pattern matching, and if it finds

the first letter at the beginning of the word, it looks for the second letter at

the beginning of the next word, and so on.

If the first letter is found in the middle of the first word, Outlook looks in

the middle of the second word. Since j is in the middle of Reja, Outlook looks

in the middle of Aportee for a match with por. You won't find Mark J LaPorte

using "j por" as the search string, while AJ LaPorte and Jim Porter are found.

This search format fails when a contact is entered in a format such as "Richard

& Jessica Porter", with an ampersand or even "and" separating the husband and

wife names. Jessica Porter is not seen when Outlook searches for "j por". When

you remove the ampersand, so that the contact name reads "Richard Jessica

Porter", searching for "j por" works.

When you need to look up all the Jeff's in your contacts, how do you do it? Some

are entered as Jeff, some as Jeffery, and you know one spells his name Geoff.

You could search for each one, one at a time. Or you could just type "ff" in the

Find a Contact field. You'll also find all you contacts with the last name

Jefferson with this search.

With the ampersand exception aside, the logic Outlook uses for these searches is

pretty neat, and it's not limited to the Find a Contact command. Outlook uses

similar logic when you search using the Find pane.

Diane Poremsky is the president of CDOLive LLC and a Microsoft Outlook MVP. She's coauthor of Word 2002: The Complete Reference (Osborne, 2001) and Beginning Visual Basic 6 Application Development (for Wrox Press). For questions or suggestions for future columns, write her at outlook@cdolive.com.