In this article you will learn how to merge duplicate contacts in Outlook 2010 and 2013 without using any third-party tools, and how to keep your contact list clean in the future.
Microsoft Outlook provides loads of handy tools that we use and love and even more features that we are unaware of. But regrettably, an option to dedupe the address book and combine multiple duplicate contacts into one is not on board.
Luckily, we are not limited to use only those tools that Outlook provides explicitly. With just a little creativity you can figure out a way to solve any, or nearly any, task you are faced with. Further on in this article you will find how you can check your Outlook contacts for duplicates and merge them without using any third-party software.
The most common reason that leads to duplication is dragging a message to the Contacts folder in the Navigation pane in order to have a contact created automatically. Of course, this is the fastest way to add a new contact in Outlook and there's nothing wrong about it. However, if you also create contacts manually once in a while, you may end up having multiple contacts for the same person, e.g. if you misspell the contact's name or enter it in a different way.
Another scenario that leads to contact duplication is when a person emails you from different accounts, e.g. using his or her corporate email address and a personal Gmail address. In this case, no matter how you create a new contact, by dragging a message to the Contacts folder or by clicking the "New Contact" button on the ribbon, an additional contact for the same person will be created anyway.
Synchronization with a laptop or mobile device as well as with social platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, may also produce duplicate contacts. For example, if the same person is listed under different names in different address books, say Robert Smith, Bob Smith and Robert B. Smith, nothing prevents multiple contacts from being created in your Outlook.
If you work in a corporate environment, duplicate contacts may emerge in case your company maintains several address books on its Exchange servers.
I think there's no need to explain what problems you might have when important details are scattered across several duplicated contacts in your Outlook. If you are reading this article, then most likely you are looking for a solution to sort it out. And below you will find a number of solutions to choose from.
In most cases Outlook is smart enough to prevent duplication when you are trying to create a contact that already exists. However, if you already have a number of duplicate contacts in your address book, you need to apply a special technique to clean up the mess. Okay, let's get started!
- Create a new Contacts folder. In Outlook Contacts, right click on your current Contacts folder and select New Folder... from the context menu.
Give a name to this folder, let's call it Merge dupes for this example.
- Move all your Outlook contacts to the newly created folder. Switch to your current contacts folder and press CTRL+A to select all the contacts, then hit CTRL+SHIFT+V to move them to the newly created folder (Merge dupes folder).
Tip: If you are not very comfortable with shortcuts, you can simply right-click the selected contacts and choose Move from the context menu.
- Export the contacts to a .csv file using "Import and Export" wizard.
In Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2013, go to File > Open > Import.
In Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2003, you will find this wizard under File > Import and Export...
The wizard will walk you through the export process, and you choose the following options:
Tip: If you have multiple contact cards for the same person, personal details may be scattered across all those duplicate contacts, e.g. one contact contains business phone number, another contact includes a private phone number and so on. In this case, the Combine Rows Wizard may come in very handy. This Excel add-in will quickly merge unique data from multiple duplicate rows in your .csv file. To better understand what I'm talking about, see how the data in the original .csv file looks like:
- Step 1. "Export to a File".
- Step 2. "Comma Separated Values (Windows)".
- Step 3. Select the Merge dupes folder you created earlier.
- Step 4. Choose the destination folder to save the .csv file.
- Step 5. Click Finish to complete the export process.
And here is what we have after using the Combine Rows Wizard.
If you are interested to try the Combine Rows Wizard on your own data, you can download a fully-functional trial version here.
- Import contacts from the CSV file to your default Contacts folder.
Start the Import wizard again as described in step 3 and select the following options:
- Step 1. "Import from another program or file".
- Step 2. "Comma Separated Values (Windows)".
- Step 3. Browse to the exported .csv file.
- Step 4. Be sure to select "Do not import duplicate items". This is the key option that makes the trick!
- Step 5. Select your main Contacts folder, which is currently empty, as the destination folder to import the contacts to.
- Step 6. Click Finish to complete the import process.
- Merge the deduped contacts with the original ones.
Now you need to merge the deduped contacts that are currently in your main Contacts folder with the original contacts that reside in the Merge dupes folder, so that no contact details will get lost.
Open the Merge dupes folder and press CTRL+A to select all the contacts. Then press CTRL+SHIFT+V and choose to move the contacts to your main Contacts folder.
When a duplicate is detected, Outlook will throw a pop-up message suggesting that you update information of the existing contact and display a preview of data that will be added or updated, as shown in the screenshot below.Note: If you've used the Combine Rows Wizard to merge duplicated rows in the CSV file, this step is not actually needed, because all contact details were merged in a CSV file and are already in your main Contacts folder.
- Choose Update if these are duplicate contacts and you want to merge them.
- Choose Add new contact if they are, in fact, two different contacts.
- If you want to expedite the process, click Update All and all changes will be accepted automatically in all duplicate contacts.
- If you want to review a particular contact later, click Skip. In this case the original contact item will remain in the Merge dupes folder.
When Outlook detects a duplicate contact with a different email address and you choose to update a contact, the current email address of the contact will be moved to the "E-mail 2" field, as shown in the screenshot above.Note: If your Outlook does not show this dialog when you are adding duplicate contacts, then most likely the duplicate contact detector is off. See how to enable Check for Duplicate Contacts feature.
If you have a Gmail email account (I guess most people do these days), you can use it to merge duplicate Outlook contacts. In a nutshell, the procedure is as follows. Export your Outlook contacts to a .csv file, import that file to your Gmail account, use "Find and merge duplicates" function available in Gmail, and finally import the deduped contacts back to Outlook.
If you want more detailed instruction, here you go:
- Export your Outlook contacts to a CSV file, as described in step 3 above (File tab > Open > Import > Export to a file > Comma Separated File (Windows)).
- Log into your Gmail account, navigate to Contacts, and then click Import Contacts...
- Click the Choose File button and browse to the CSV file you created in step 1.
Gmail creates a new contact group for each imported file so that you can easily access and review it later.
- After importing is complete, click the Find & merge duplicates link.
- A list of found duplicate contacts is displayed and you can click the expand link to review and verify the contacts to be merged.
If everything is Okay, click Merge.
A word of caution: Regrettably, Gmail is not as smart as Outlook (or maybe just overcautious) to detect duplicate contacts with slight differences in a contact's names. For example, it failed to identify our fake contact Elina Anderson and Elina K. Anderson and one and the same person. That is why, don't be disappointed if you spot a couple of duplicates after importing the merged contacts back to Outlook. It's not your fault, you did everything right! And there's still room for improvement for Gmail : )
- In Gmail, click More > Export... to transfer the merged contacts back to Outlook.
- In the Export contacts dialog window, specify 2 things:
- Under "Which contacts do you want to export", choose whether to export all the contacts or a particular group only. If you want to export only those contacts that you imported from Outlook, it stands to reason to select the corresponding Imported group.
- Under "Which export format", select Outlook CSV format.
Then click the Export button to finish the export process.
- Finally, import the merged contacts back into Outlook, as described in step 4 of the previous method. Remember to select "Do not import duplicate items"!
Tip: Before importing the merge contacts from Gmail, you can move all contacts from your main Outlook folder to a backup folder to avoid creating more duplicates.
If you are using Outlook 2013, you can quickly combine several contacts related to the same person using the Link Contacts option.
- Open your contacts list by clicking People at the bottom of the Navigation pane.
- Click on the contact you want to merge to select it.
- Then click the small dots button next to Edit to open the drop-down menu, and choose Link Contacts from the list.
- Under the Link Another Contacts section, start typing a name of the person you want to link in the search field, and as you type Outlook will display all contacts that match your search.
- Choose the needed contact(s) from the result list and click on it. The selected contacts will be merged straight away and you will see their names under the Linked Contacts heading. All you need to do is click OK to save the changes.
Of course, the Link Contacts feature is not the best choice to clean up a large contacts list cluttered with duplicates, but it will definitely help you quickly merge a few identical contacts into a single one.
Now that you've cleaned up the mess in Outlook contacts, it makes sense to invest a few more minutes and lean how to keep your contact list clean in the future. This can be easily achieved by enabling the automatic Outlook duplicate contact detector. See how to do this in Microsoft Outlook 2010 and 2013:
- Go to the File tab > Options > Contacts.
- Under "Names and filing", select Check for Duplicate Contacts When Saving New Contacts and click OK.
Yep, it's as easy as that! From now on, Outlook will suggest merging a new contact you're adding with the existing one, if they both have a similar name or identical email address.
Hopefully, now you have a clean and neat contacts list in your Outlook and know how to maintain the order. Thank you for reading!