How to create and manage distribution lists in Outlook

Distribution lists and contact groups in Outlook allow you to send the same message to different people without having to add each recipient individually. In this step-by-step guide, we’ll show you how to create distribution lists and contact groups from the Outlook Desktop or Web App.

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Outlook Desktop App

Distribution lists are called contact groups in the current versions of the Outlook Desktop App. The steps for creating contact groups differ depending on which version of Outlook you’re using.

Creating distribution lists in Outlook 2013 and 2016

Follow these steps to create email groups in Outlook 2013 or 2016.

Step 1: Go to contact management in your Outlook application by clicking the “People” button in the navigation bar.

If you’re using the compact navigation bar, you’ll see an icon for the “People” section.

Step 2: Under “My Contacts” in the sidebar on the right, select the folder where you want to save the new contact group. The default folder is the “Contacts” folder, which Outlook automatically creates when the program is installed.

If necessary, create a new contact folder.

Step 3: Click “New Contact Group.” This button is in the “New” section on the “Home” tab.

The “Contact Group” window opens.

Step 4: Name your new contact group.

Step 5: Click “Add Members” and then choose from one of three options:

  • From Outlook Contacts
  • From Address Book
  • New E-Mail Contact

If you select “From Outlook Contacts” or “From Address Book,” Outlook opens the “Select Members” window. Alternatively, if you choose “New E-Mail Contact,” the “Add new member” window opens.

Step 6: From your address book, select the people you want to add to your contact group. To do this, select a contact in the dialog box and click the “Members ->” button.

If necessary, add people to your contact group who are not already in your address book by creating these contacts.


Want to add contact information from other applications to your Outlook address book? For a clear step-by-step guide, see our how-to article Importing Outlook contacts.

Use the “Remove Members” button to delete a contact from the distribution list.

Step 7: Click “Save & Close” once you’ve finished adding contacts to your new contact group.

The new contact group appears in the previously selected contact folder in the left sidebar of the Outlook window.

If you want to make changes to an existing contact group, select it and click the “Edit” button in the contact description.

You edit the contact group the same way as you created new contact groups in the “Contact Group” window.


Alternatively, you can use the “Edit Contact Group” option in the context menu. You open this menu by right-clicking a contact group.

Setting up and editing distribution lists in Outlook 2010

If you’re using Outlook 2010, follow these steps to create a new distribution list in Outlook.

Step 1: Select the “Contacts” section in Outlook and click “New Contact Group” on the “Home” tab. You can find this button in the “New” group.

A new window opens.

Step 2: Enter a name for your new contact group in the “Name” field.

Step 3: Select the “Contact Group” tab and click the “Add Members” button in the “Members” group. Choose one of three options:

  • From Outlook Contacts
  • From Address Book
  • New E-Mail Contact

If you choose to add people from your address book or “Contacts” folder to your contact group, the “Add Members” window opens.

Select a contact in the dialog box and click the “Members ->” button. Use the search function, if necessary. Repeat the process for each person you want to add to your Outlook distribution list.

If you want to add people to the contact group who are not already in your address book, use the “New E-mail contact” option and enter the contact information in the “Add New Member” dialog box.

Step 4: Once you’ve finished adding people to your contact group, click “OK” to save your entries. The new distribution list appears under the name you selected in the “Contacts” folder.

Outlook Web App

Setting up distribution lists in the Outlook Web App

The web application for the popular e-mail program in Office 365 allows you to define distribution groups with a single e-mail address. Messages sent to the address of a distribution group are automatically sent to all members of the group without you having to add each person to the address line.

Step 1: Open your web browser and log in to Office 365 with your user credentials.

Step 2: Select the Outlook Web App.

Step 3: Click the gear icon in the menu bar and click “Mail” under “Your app settings.”

Step 4: In the left sidebar, go to the “General” section and choose “Distribution groups.”

Step 5: Click the plus sign under “Distribution Groups I Own” to create a new distribution list in Outlook.

Your Outlook Web App opens the “New distribution group” window.

Step 6: Configure your distribution group: Enter a user-friendly display name and alias and specify the e-mail address that you want to use for sending messages to the distribution list. You can enter a description for the distribution list and its function in the “Notes” field. Select the “Make this group a security group” checkbox if you want to create a closed group.

You are automatically entered as the group owner.


Security groups are managed by owners of the group. Only owners can add new contacts or remove members.

Step 7: Define other group owners who will have the same group rights as you. Click the plus sign to add people from your address book as owners.

Step 8: Add group members to your distribution group. To do this, click the plus sign and select the people you want to add from your address book.

Step 9: Specify the approval criteria for people to join and leave your distribution group.

If you are creating a default group, you can choose from the following options:


  • Open: Any Office 365 user can join your group without approval.
  • Closed: Only group owners can add members. All requests to join will be rejected automatically.
  • Owner approval: Only group owners can add members and approve requests to join the group.


  • Open: Members of your distribution group can leave it at any time without approval.
  • Closed: Only group owners can remove members from the group.

Security groups cannot be created as open groups.

Step 10: Complete the configuration process by clicking “Save.”

Your new distribution group appears under “Distribution groups I own.” If you yourself are a member of the group as the group owner, you will also appear under “Distribution groups I belong to.”

Editing distribution lists in the Outlook Web App

You can also edit distribution groups using the Edit menu option in the Outlook settings.

Step 1: Select the distribution group you want to edit.

Step 2: Click the pencil icon to modify a distribution group. If you want to delete the selected distribution group instead, click the recycle bin icon.

The Outlook Web App opens a new browser window where you can make changes to your distribution group.

Step 3: Finish editing your Outlook distribution list by clicking “Save.”

All changes are applied immediately.

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