Profiling your Outlook Contacts using the Outlook Forms Designer

This article is the second in a series of articles aimed at taking you through the functionality in Outlook that allows us to profile our contacts by adding custom fields, and then view and take actions on a selected group of contacts.

In the 2005/01 OutlookWise newsletter we looked at the basics of the Outlook Forms Designer.

If you missed the first article in the series, you may want to review this first by clicking on the link below, before continuing:

Profiling Contacts using the Outlook Forms Designer - 01

Download the Article in PDF Format

This article shows you how to create views to enable you to query your data, say for the purposes of sending a direct mailing or e-mail to selected contacts in your list.

In this Article:

  1. The Task at Hand
  2. Importing the Sample Data
  3. Identifying the Filter Conditions
  4. Creating the View
    1. Adding the View
    2. Setting the Fields for the View
    3. Setting the Group by Fields
    4. Sorting your View
    5. Defining the Filter for the View
    6. Modifying the other Settings
    7. Formatting the View
    8. Activating your View
    9. Switching Views
  5. Summary
  6. Mx-Contact: Managing Contact Lists inside Outlook Exchange
The Task at Hand

Suppose I have the following list of contacts in my Outlook Personal Contacts folder that represent the customers and prospects I’m currently dealing with. (For details on how to import this set of data, if you’d like to try the exercises described, please refer to Importing the Sample Data).

I want to get a listing of just those contacts that are owners or managers on the West Coast (of the United States), grouped by area and then sorted by Last Name/First Name, say for the purposes of sending them a newsletter or direct mailing.

In order to do this, I need to create a View in Outlook. A view is a sub-set of my data in a particular folder that is grouped, sorted, and filtered according to specified criteria.

So the task before us is to create a view that will:

1.         display the fields Last Name, First Name, Company, Job Title, Phone Number in the view.

2.         group these contacts by State.

3.         sort the contacts by Last Name, then by First Name.

4.         show only contacts that are Owners or Managers of companies located on the west coast of the United States.

5.         prevent In-Cell Editing so we can quickly skip to the contacts in a particular state by typing in the first letter(s) of the state.

6.         highlight Owners in green, so that they can be easily identified.

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Importing the Sample Data

The exercises in this article are based on a small set of Outlook sample contacts. If you wish to actually test the principles discussed using this live data, you may import the sample CSV file, a link to which is given below. There are only 14 contacts in this database so they can easily be deleted again once you are done.

Sample CSV File - Outlook_Contacts.csv

A CSV (Comma-Separated-Variable) file is a data file where the fields are separated by a comma. By default if you open a CSV file and you have Microsoft Excel installed, the file should open in Excel, as shown below:

For details on importing this file, refer to the following document:

OutlookWise Tutorial – Importing Outlook Data

Once you have imported the file, you should have the following contacts showing in your Contacts folder. Alternatively, you may want to create a new sub-folder below your Contacts folder and import these contacts into this sub-folder, so that this data does not interfere with your “working” contacts list.

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Identifying the Filter Condtions

The task defined for us is to get a listing of just those contacts that who are owners or managers on the West Coast (of the United States).

My first challenge is to identify the fields in my Outlook Contacts folder that equate to these individual criteria.

So in this example how would I identify “owners or managers”? Well this might be anybody that has the word “Owner” or “Manager” in their Job Title.

In this case the criteria would be as follows:

Job Title contains “Owner”.

Job Title contains “Manager”.

Notive we use the “Contains” operator so that we include those contacts with Manager anywhere in the Job Title, such as Sales Manager, Marketing Manager, Manager – Northwest, etc. The next condition is contacts “located on the West Coast” (of the United States). So here I would use the State field to “home in” on the required contacts. So the conditions would be:

State = “WA”

State = “OR”

State = “CA”

Having identified my criteria, I’m now ready to create my view.

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Creating the View

Now that I have identified the fields that equate to the criteria I have defined, I am ready to create a View called “Owners and Managers on the West Coast”.

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Adding the View
  1. Click View -> Current View -> Define Views (for Outlook 2000 and 2002/XP), or View -> Arrange by -> Current View -> Define Views (for Outlook 2003).



  2. The Define Views/Current View Organizer screen will be displayed:



  3. Click New to create a new View, and enter the View Name (Leave the Type of view as Table):



  4. Click OK. You will then get the View Summary/Customize View dialog:



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Setting the Fields for the View
  1. In this example I’m working with a few fields that do not ordinarily appear in the default Views, namely Last Name, First Name, and Job Title. So it would be useful to see these fields in the View. To do this click on the Fields button on the View Summary/Customize View dialog:



  2. From the Available fields list (with Frequently-used fields selected in the drop down) select Last Name, First Name and Job Title in turn and click Add-> to move the fields to the right hand window showing the fields that will appear in the View.

  3. Use the Move Up and Move Down buttons to reposition these fields so that they will display where you’d like them to. Also click Remove to remove any fields that are not needed (like Full Name):



  4. Click OK to return to the View Summary/Customize View dialog.

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Setting the Group by Fields

In this example I want to group the view by State.

  1. From the View Summary page, click Group By…:



  2. Select State from the Group items by drop down (of Frequently-used fields):



  3. Click OK to return to the View Summary screen.

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Sorting your View

In this example I want to sort the view by Last Name, then by First Name.

  1. From the View Summary page, click Sort…:



  2. Select Last Name from the Sort Items by dropdown and First Name from the Then by dropdown (of Frequently-used fields):



  3. Click OK to return to the View Summary/Customize View window.
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Defining the Filter for the View

The “Filter” defines the conditions that any contact must meet in order to be displayed in the view.

  1. Notice that on the View Summary screen the Filter… is set to Off, meaning this View by default would show all Contacts in the list:



  2. Click on Filter, and go to the Advanced Tab:



  3. Now we want to enter our first 2 conditions, namely Job Title contains “Owner” and Job Title contains “Manager”. We select Job Title either from Frequently-used fields or All Contact fields in the list dropped down by the Field button and enter “Owner” into the Value field, after selecting Contains from the Condition dropdown. Click Add to add the condition to the list.



  4. Do the same for Job Title contains “Manager”.

  5. We then do the same for our next set of conditions, beginning with State = “WA”. We select State again either from Frequently-used fields or All Contact fields in the list dropped down by the Field button and enter “WA” into the Value field, after selecting is exactly from the Condition dropdown. Click Add to add the condition to the list.



  6. We do the same for State = OR and State = CA.

  7. Click OK to return to the View Summary/Customize View screen.

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Modifying the Other Settings

The next task in creating the view is to disable In-Cell Editing. The advantage of having In-Cell Editing turned off is that it allows you to search for an item by typing in the first few letters of the first “Sort” field of that view. So if your view is grouped or sorted by State, keying in “w” will take you to the first contact whose state is “WA”.

  1. Your View Summary page should look like this:



  2. Click Other Settings, and check off Show “new item” row and Allow in-cell editing:



  3. Click OK to close the Other Settings window and return to the View Summary/Customize View window.
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Formatting the View

The last requirement for the view is to display all Owners in green. This makes them easier to identify. This kind of formatting is especially useful for say customers who might be bad payers or are “on-hold”, in which case they might be displayed in red.

  1. From the View Summary page, click on Automatic Formatting…. Click on Add and enter the name Owners.



  2. Click on Font, and set the font colour to green:



  3. Click OK to close the Font window and return to the Automatic Formatting window. Then click on Condition, and switch to the Advanced tab. Setting the condition for displaying contacts in a certain font is similar to the way you set up a filter earlier in the exercise.



  4. Select Job Title by clicking on the Field button and selecting Job Title from the Frequently-used fields list. Enter “Owner” in the Value field, and click Add to List.

  5. Click OK to close the Automatic Formatting window and return to the View Summary/Customize View screen.

  6. Click OK again to return to the Define Views/Custom View Organiser window.

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Activating you View

The last step is to activate the view:

  1. At this point you should have the Define Views/Custom View Organizer displayed:



  2. Click Apply View to save and activate the view:



  3. You should now have a list of 6 contacts, grouped by State, and sorted by Last Name then First Name. From the Job Title and State fields displayed in the view you can see that they all match the specified criteria. Notice that the Owners are displayed in green. Also, because in-cell editing is disabled, pressing “w” will take us to the contacts in WAshington.
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Switching Views

Notice that by activating the Advanced Toolbar I can use the Current View dropdown to easily switch views.

  1. Right click in the empty grey area of the toolbars and click the Advanced toolbar on.



  2. You can now select from the views in the Current View dropdown to switch between any of the standard Outlook contact views and the views you create.



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Summary

Outlook Views are indispensable in terms of filtering, sorting and grouping your data according to defined criteria.

However, the standard functionality as described here can be fairly limiting when more advanced query conditions and filters are needed. For these situations it is likely that you will need to use the SQL tab or the Query Builder tab. For more details on these please refer to the following articles.

Outlook Views – Enabling the Query Builder Page

Outlook Views – Using the SQL Tab

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Mx-Contact: Managing Contact Lists inside Outlook Exchange

If you’re looking for an application to assist you with managing a contact list of some kind, whether it be customers, prospects, members, suppliers or any other group of contacts, check out MX-Contact. MX-Contact is a CRM, Contact Management and Sales Automation package that runs inside Microsoft Outlook 2000, 2002 or 2003. The system utilises all the standard functionality of Outlook but provides many additional features that transform Outlook into a powerful contact manager or CRM system.

MX-Contact comprises a Base System, with optional Sales, Marketing and Support modules that can be added at any time. So you can use MX-Contact just for managing the contacts and/or companies you deal with, and the interactions (phone calls, e-mails, appointments, etc.) you have with them, plus use it to manage your sales opportunities, events and/or customer support incidents, by adding any of the available modules.

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www.mxcontact.com