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Connect an external list to Outlook

You can connect an external list that contains customers, tasks, appointments, or posts with Microsoft Outlook 2013. Once connected, you can view, edit, and print the data using the familiar Outlook user interface as if it was native Outlook information.

If the data you're updating is contact information, such as related to your customers, you can call them, send them e-mail messages, and make meeting requests. The synchronization of the data is two-way or bi-directional. Changes made in Outlook 2013 are automatically synchronized with the external data source. Changes made to the external data source are synchronized with the items in Outlook 2013, although a refresh operation may be needed.

For more information, see Find content about external data.

What do you want to do?

Before you begin

Working with external data requires several pre-requisite tasks to enable secure access to the data. The following information can help you plan your next steps. Also, if you experience problems trying to work with external data, this information can help you identify the issue. To access external data, you or an administrator must do the following:

Common prerequisite tasks

Prepare the external data source    An administrator may need to create an account and provide permissions to the data source to ensure that the right people have access to the data and that the data does not end up in the wrong hands. In an external database, the administrator may also want to create specific tables, views, queries, and so on to limit the results to just what is needed and to help improve performance.

Configure SharePoint services and accounts    An administrator must activate Business Data Connectivity Services and Secure Store Services.

Configure Secure Store Services    An administrator must do the following: determine the best access mode for the external data source, create a target application, and set the credentials for the target application.

Configure Business Data Connectivity Services    An administrator must ensure that the user who creates the external content type has permission to the Business Data Connectivity metadata store and that appropriate users have access to the external content type that the external list is based on.

Create an external content type    A user must define an external content type which contains information about connections, access, methods of operation, columns, filters, and other metadata used to retrieve the data from the external data source.

Create an external list    A user must create an external list based on the external content type and one or more views of the external list as needed.

Make sure Office products are ready for use    To synchronize external data with Office products, you must have Windows 7 or later and the following free software products, SQL Server Compact 4.0, .NET Framework 4, and WCF Data Services 5.0 for OData V3 on each client computer (If necessary, you are automatically prompted to download the software). Also, make sure the Office installation option, Business Connectivity Services is enabled (This is the default). This option installs the Business Connectivity Services Client Runtime which does the following: caches and synchronizes with external data, maps business data to external content types, displays the external item picker in Office products, and runs custom solutions inside Office products.

Outlook-specific prerequisite tasks

Activate the Offline Synchronization for External Lists feature    The farm and site feature, Offline Synchronization for External Lists, must also be active. This feature is active by default at the farm level, but not active by default at the site level.

Create an Outlook-supported external content type     When you create an external content type, a user must enable the Offline Sync support option and set the Office Item Type field to one of the following: Contact, Appointment, Task, or Post.

Map corresponding fields    A user must map one or more of the external content type fields to their respective Outlook fields.

When you map an external content type, such as a Customer, to an Outlook Item Type, such as a Contact, you must explicitly map the individual fields in the external content type, such as Customer First Name, Customer Last Name, Customer Address, and Customer Phone, to their respective Outlook Item Type fields, such as a contact’s FirstName, LastName, BusinessAddress, and BusinessPhone.

You do not need to map all the corresponding fields, but the following fields must be mapped.

Outlook Item Type

Outlook Item Field






Start, End, and Subject



Unmapped fields, depending on the number, are displayed as extended properties as follows:

  • Adjoining    Appended to the form region at the bottom of an Outlook form's default page (2 to 5 fields).

  • Separate    Added as a new page to an Outlook form (6 or more fields).

If the external content type does not map directly to any Outlook Item Type, you can map the fields to a Post Outlook Item Type, which is the most generic type of item.

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Connect an external list to Outlook 2013

  1. Navigate to the SharePoint site that contains the external list.

  2. Click List > Connect to Outlook.

  3. If necessary, Outlook 2013 opens and creates a new Outlook Data File (BCSStorage.pst), called SharePoint External Lists in the Navigation Pane, and then creates a folder with the name <Site> - <External List>.

Tip: By default, the data automatically refreshes every six hours, but this value can be changed. To make sure you are seeing current data from the external data source, right-click the folder and then click Sync Now.

Note: By default, Outlook 2013 only displays fields that were explicitly mapped to respective Outlook fields by the author of the external content type. Alternatively, to view all the fields from the external list whether mapped or unmapped, you can do the following:

  • Open a single item in a form (On the Contact tab, in the Show group, click <name> Details.)

  • Create a custom Outlook view and include all the fields from the external list.

Find more information about displaying fields and creating custom views in the Outlook Help system.

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