Wednesday, March 1, 2006

How to hide fax numbers in Outlook


By David Gewirtz

John Montel asks:

OutlookPower Gods,
How do you set up your email contact lists when selecting contacts to only show email addresses and not FAX's as well as depicted below? The column can't be sorted. Is this a registry setting?

John's referencing the Select Names dialog, shown in Figure A.


How can you show only email in this list? (click for larger image)

Since John addressed his letter to the "OutlookPower Gods", this wasn't a question any ordinary mortal could answer. We turned to Outlook God Mike Sperry, of Sperry Software, who knows more about this topic than virtually any other man alive. In the following section, we reprint Mike's answer.

Mike Sperry answers

It's a pretty frustrating problem for people that don't use faxes via email.

The only solution that I'm aware of is to "fake" Outlook into thinking that the fax entry is not a valid number -- usually people just put a "F" or "Fax:" right in the phone number field. This causes Outlook to skip that entry and still makes it visible to you when you view that contact.

There are two problems with this approach. The first is that if you have many contacts, it may take you a long time to perform this step not just for each contact, but for each fax number in that contact (there are three: Business Fax, Home Fax, and Other Fax). The second is that if you do need to send out faxes with a third party tool, you will need to put them all back (at least temporarily while the fax software runs).

Hide Fax Numbers, one of our 32 add-ins, helps overcome these two problems by simply automating the process for you. It "hides" the FAX entries by adding "Fax:" to all the fax numbers and does all your Contact folders at the same time. For the second problem above, it has an undo process for those that need to work with their fax numbers in the normal state.

Now for the "monkey wrench". The technique described above does not work if you have Business Contact Manager installed. Business Contact Manager is not fooled by the letters in front of the fax number, and so a different technique must be employed.

The technique to use in this case is to move the fax number to a field that is infrequently used, like Department or Government ID. Once the number has been moved, Outlook will not display the fax numbers from the Business Contact Manager contacts. Note that some very infrequently used fields can be found by opening a Contact, then clicking on "All Fields", then choosing "Miscellaneous Fields" in the dropdown.

The add-in mentioned above handles this case as well (you can choose which technique to employ when you first start).