Difference Between Contacts & the Address Book in Outlook

By Cynthia Gomez

While most people familiar with Microsoft Outlook may use it primarily to send and receive e-mails, Outlook is a powerful application with many handy tools, including a calendar, task manage and note-taking feature. Another key element of Outlook is its ability to help you organize your contacts’ personal information, whether they are colleagues or people outside of your company. You do this with the Contacts and Address Book tools.


Both the Contacts feature of Outlook and the Global Address Book are a lot like an electronic Rolodex, where you can access contact information for people you likely deal with on a regular basis. However, the Contacts feature is usually a list of external contacts, while the Address Book contains information for people who work in your company. This is a common setup in the business world because the Address Books are stored on an Exchange Server and can be shared with everyone in the company.


The Contacts feature is designed to help you quickly access information for people whom you’ve been in contact before but do not necessarily work for your company. The Global Address List is designed to quickly put you in touch with colleagues, or company-defined address lists.

Ability to Edit

While both the Contacts and Address Book tools contain contact information, only the Contacts can be edited by users because they are stored on your computer. You can add new contacts, edit information on existing contact and delete contacts. The Address Book, on the other hand, can usually only be edited by a system administrator. For home users, the lists are both editable.


The Address Book typically contains a listing of every employee and department within a company, including an email address, telephone extension or phone number, title and location. Clicking on an individual entry will give you additional contact details, such as a second business number and postal mailing address. A Contact listing includes a name, display name and email address. Clicking on an individual contact will open up a form with fields for more information to be entered, including company, mailing address, job title, phone numbers and a photo.

Searching Ability

Both Contacts and the Address Book will help you quickly locate contact information on people so that you don’t have to waste time digging around for business cards or leafing through company directories. At the top of the program's interface you likely have a small icon that looks like an open book. When you click on it, a search box pops up. You can enter a name in that search box and choose whether to look in the Address Book or the Contacts list.