Profiling your Outlook Contacts using the Outlook Forms Designer

Most of us know that Outlook has various folders like Contacts, Calendar, Tasks, etc. Opening an item in one of these folders brings up a form that enables us to fill in the relevant details about that item.

What not many people are aware of is the fact that one can customise these forms to contain additional information over and above the standard fields that Outlook provides.

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Most of us know that Outlook has various folders like Contacts, Calendar, Tasks, etc. Opening an item in one of these folders brings up a form that enables us to fill in the relevant details about that item.

What not many people are aware of is the fact that one can customise these forms to contain additional information over and above the standard fields that Outlook provides.

This month we’re going to start with the basics and look at how we can customise the Contacts form to contain additional data fields that one might need in order to profile certain types of contacts. For this example we’re going to add information about the customers that are buying from us.

 

The Task

By way of example we are going to use a company that sells baby bassinets, car sets, strollers and other related products as our “case study”. You can adapt this for the particular products and/or services that you deal with.

The task before us is to customise the standard Contacts form so that we can do the following 4 things:

1.         Record the total dollar (or other currency) value of purchases made by each contact.

2.         Categorise our contacts into different types, namely:

  • Customers,
  • Prospects,
  • Suppliers and
  • Others.

This is what is commonly referred to as a dropdown list.

3.         Add a multi-selection picklist to record one or more products that the customer has purchased from us (or that a prospect is interested in), namely:

  • Bassinet,
  • Car Seat,
  • Stroller
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The Steps

Opening the Form in Design Mode
  1. Open Outlook and select the Contacts folder.



  2. Select Tools, Forms, Design a Form from the Outlook Main Menu:



  3. Select Outlook Folders from the Look In dropdown, select Contact, and then click Open:



  4. You will then have the Contacts form open in Design Mode. This mode allows you to add new controls such as text boxes, combo boxes, labels, etc.



  5. Select P.2 (Page 2). We’re going to put the fields that we want onto a completely new page.



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Adding a text Box
  1. The first step is to add a field for the Purchases Value. This is what as known as a normal text box control. All controls are added via the Control Toolbox. Click the Control Toolbox icon:



  2. Then click on the label icon:



  3. Drag a label onto the form: and then right click on the label and select Properties:



  4. Then right click on the label and select Properties. Change the caption to Purchases (In a later topic we will cover recommendations on changing the Name but for the moment you can leave this as Label1):



  5. Then click on OK and you should now have the label Purchases:



  6. Now we want to add a text box for the actual value. So go back to the Control Toolbox and click on the text box icon:



  7. Drag and drop a Text Box onto the form, to the right of your label:



  8. Then right click on the text box and select Properties. We now want to add a field called PurchasesValue. To do this you click on New and add a Currency field with this name.



  9. Then click on OK, and OK again, and you should now have the 2 controls next to each other.



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Adding a Combo Box
  1. Now we are ready to another field for the type of Contact. But first we need a label called Contact Type. See if you can add that following the same steps as for the Purchases label.

  2. Now we need a dropdown list for types of Contact we deal with. For this we need what is known as a combo box. So look for this icon on the Control Toolbox:

  3. Add a combo box to the form by dragging it onto the page, underneath the Purchases text box:



  4. Right click on the combo box and select Properties. Create a new field called Contact Type



  5. Enter the values for your selection list into the Possible Values field, separated by commas:



  6. Click OK.
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Adding a Multi-Selection Pick-list

We are now ready to add a control for the products that a customer has purchased or is interested in purchasing. For this we need what is called a Multi-Selection Picklist, which allows you to select more than one item in that list.

  1. First we need a label. Add one with a caption Products.

  2. Now we need the List Box control. Select this from the Control Toolbox:



  3. Drag a List Box onto the form, and then widen it a bit, as well as increasing the height by stretching the bottom of the box downwards:



  4. Right click on the List Box and select Properties. Instead of creating a new field we are going to use an existing field called Categories. You select this field by clicking on Choose Field, selecting Frequently-used Fields, and then choosing the Categories field. This is a special type of field called a Keywords field. It allows one to store multiple values in the field, separated by commas. These values can be grouped in a View so that one can see the contact appearing for each keyword that is displayed in the list.



  5. Under Possible values, enter the list of products that are applicable, separated by commas:



  6. Click on OK to complete the exercise of adding the List Box.



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Renaming The Page

The last step is to rename the page from P2 to Profile.

  1. First, choose Form, Rename Page...



  2. Enter a name for your form.



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Publishing the Form

  1. When you're ready to publish your form, choose Tools, Forms, Publish Form As:



  2. Select where you want to publish the form, give it a name, and click Publish:

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Saving a Backup of the Form

It’s always a good idea to keep a backup copy of your form on your hard disk somewhere. That way you can always republish your form if anything happens inside Outlook.

To Do This:
  1. Select where you want to publish the form, give it a name, and click Publish:



  2. Save this form as Custom Contact.oft under My Documents.



  3. Close the Contact from but click No when prompted to Save Changes.

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Setting this new form as the default form for the Folder

Now that you’ve published your form, you still need to set this form as the default form for the Contacts folder, so that whenever you add a new contact this form will be used by the system.
  1. Right click on the Contacts folder and select Properties.



  2. In the When posting to this folder use field, select Custom Contact.



  3. Open a new item and check that your custom form is displayed

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Entering the Data

  1. Select the Contacts folder and click on the New (Contact) icon in the Standard Toolbar. You should see the following form (Notice the Profile Tab):



  2. Enter Tom Watson under Full Name. Then click on Profile. You should be able to fill in the value of his total purchases, select from the Contact Type dropdown, and check/tick the various products that he has purchased:



  3. Click on Save and Close. Note that the new contact appears with a Post icon instead of the normal contact icon, which indicates that a custom form has been used for this contact.



  4. Open the form again and check that all your data has saved correctly.

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Understanding Message Classes

This is a tricky issue. One would expect the existing contacts you have in your Contacts folder to open with the new form. The reason they do not is because the existing contacts have a Message Class of IPM.Contact. The new form you created has a Message class of IPM.Contact.Custom.Contact. Unfortunately there is no standard way of doing this in Outlook. In a later article in this series we will look at a utility that will enable you to do this.

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