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Whether you have just a few contacts, several hundred, or more than a thousand, there are times you'll want to search for a contact rather than scroll through a long list of contacts. There are several ways you can search for people and contacts in Outlook.

There are several different ways you can search for a contact. You can use the Search People box on the ribbon in any Outlook folder, search while composing a new message or meeting, or search in Outlook's People pane (formerly known as the Contacts folder).

Search for a contact using the Search People box on the ribbon

This is the quickest and easiest way to find a contact. Position your cursor in the Search People box, then start typing the first few letters of the person's first name or email address. As you type, Outlook will continually refine the search. For example, if you type the letter t, Outlook will return matches such as Tony, Teresa, and Tanya. If you type ta, Outlook will further refine that list to Tanya.

Search for a contact while composing a new message

When you select the To, Cc, or Bcc buttons in a new message, Outlook will display your default address book. If you have an Exchange or Microsoft 365 account, that's your organization's Global Address List. If you're using a POP or IMAP account, you'll see your Contacts folder.

If you have multiple contacts folders or address books, you can use the drop-down under Address Book to choose among them. When you do, you'll see an alphabetized list of contacts, sorted by name.

Note: In January 2024, Microsoft made a change in the Microsoft 365 service to limit browsing in any online address list to a maximum 500 objects. The change does not affect browsing Offline Address Books. For more specifics about this change please see the section "View Address Lists in Outlook and Outlook on the web" on

To search, type part of the contact's name in the Search box and then select Go. You can select the More columns radio button to search by other fields, including department, phone, and location. Once Outlook returns a list of contacts, double-click the one you want to add the contact to the To box, or select the contact and then click To, Cc, or Bcc to add the contact to the respective boxes.

Search for a contact in the People pane

  1. Choose People at the bottom of the screen.

    Click People

  2. Above your contacts list, place your cursor in the Search Contacts box.

    Click Search Contacts on the People tab

    Note: The Search Contacts box at the top of your list of contacts is different than the Search People box, which is in the top-right corner of the Outlook ribbon. The Search People box only searches on names and email addresses. The Search Contacts box searches phone numbers, addresses, company names, and more.

    Search People box compared to the Search Contacts box

  3. Type the person’s name or other information—like a phone number or company name—you want to search for.

    Tip: You can search for complete or partial information. If you're searching for someone named Chris Preston, for example, you can type the full name or “pre,” which represents the first three characters of the last name.

  4. Outlook displays your search results in card form, showing the contact photo, email address, business or home address, and phone numbers. Choose the person you want from the search results.

    Note: As you type, Outlook refines its search. For example, if you type the letter J, Outlook will return results that contain John, James, Jack, Julian, and Julie. If you type Jul, Outlook will return results that include Julian and Julie in any field, including company name, email address, and physical address.

Narrow your search

Getting too many results when you search for complete or partial information? Consider further refining your search. When you choose the Search People box on the People tab, the Search Tools tab appears.

Tip: You can also press Ctrl+E to open the Search Tools tab.

Search tools tab

There are many options available, including the following groups of options on the Search Tools tab, to help narrow your search.

  • Scope    Change the folders you want to search in.

  • Refine    Search for people who have phone numbers or other specific types of information in their contact information.

  • Options    Use previous searches or change advanced search options.

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