Create a company Shared Contacts folder in Office 365

Many businesses require a shared contact list that is accessible by all users, for example a list of client email addresses and phone numbers.

In this article we will create a Shared Contact list in an Office 365 tenant that will be accessible by all staff members with an Office 365 mailbox.

This will be done using a public folder, which means it can be access from the Outlook application. Unfortunately public folders are not yet accessible from Mobile Devices or Outlook Web Access (OWA).

Creating a Public Folder Mailbox

You will need to create a Public Folder mailbox if you do not already have one. This is done in the Exchange Admin Center.

Exchange Admin Center

Exchange Admin Center

If you are using a Small Business Office 365 subscription, you can access the Exchange Admin Center using this workaround.

Now navigate to the Public Folders section on the left hand side to create your public folder mailbox.

Create Public Folder Mailbox

Create Public Folder Mailbox

Click the Plus button and create a new mailbox as shown.

New Public Folder Mailbox

New Public Folder Mailbox

Creating the Root Public Folder

Now that you have a Public Folder Mailbox it’s time to create the root public folder. This is also done in the Exchange Admin Center.

Click Public Folders at the top of the screen and click the plus button to create a new folder. We recommend you give the root folder a very generic name as shown below.

Create Public Folder

Create Public Folder

You now have to assign appropriate permissions to this root folder. We recommend that you allow Administrators to be an Owner of this folder and keep the rest as default. This will mean that normal users cannot create new public folders, it will have to be done by an administrator.

Firstly, click Manage under Folder Permissions.

Manage Public Folder Permissions

Manage Public Folder Permissions

Then add all your administrators in and give them Owner permissions.

Assign yourself Owner Permissions

Assign yourself Owner Permissions

Public Folder Permissions

Public Folder Permissions

Creating the Shared Contacts Public Folder

Now your public folder environment is correctly configured and you can start creating the Contacts folder using Microsoft Outlook.

Open up Outlook and navigate to the folders list.

View Folders in Outlook

View Folders in Outlook

You should see the Public Folders section. If you do not see the public folders section check that you have assigned the correct permissions above. If you have only just created the public folder mailbox and root public folder it may take a few hours for the public folders to appear here.

Expand out your Public Folders and All Public Folders until you see the root public folder you create earlier.

View All Folders in Outlook

View All Folders in Outlook

Right Click on this root public folder and click New Folder to create a Shared Contact folder as pictured.

Create Shared Calendar Public Folder in Outlook

Create Shared Calendar Public Folder in Outlook

Right Click on the newly created folder and click Properties. You can now set permissions as to who will have access to view and modify the contacts.

Anonymous refers to users outside your company. We recommend setting these permissions to None.
Default refers to authenticated users within your company. We recommend setting these permissions to Author, which will allow them to create new contacts and edit their own.

The different permissions are as follows:

WITH THIS PERMISSION LEVEL (OR ROLE) YOU CAN
Owner Create, read, modify, and delete all items and files, and create subfolders. As the folder owner, you can change the permission levels others have for the folder. (Does not apply to delegates.)
Publishing Editor Create, read, modify, and delete all items and files, and create subfolders. (Does not apply to delegates.)
Editor Create, read, modify, and delete all items and files.
Publishing Author Create and read items and files, create subfolders, and modify and delete items and files you create. (Does not apply to delegates.)
Author Create and read items and files, and modify and delete items and files you create.
Contributor Create items and files only. The contents of the folder do not appear. (Does not apply to delegates.)
Reviewer Read items and files only.
Custom Perform activities defined by the folder owner. (Does not apply to delegates.)
None You have no permission. You can’t open the folder.
Set Default Contacts Permissions

Set Default Contacts Permissions

Adding the Contacts folder to Outlook

Each user will now need to add this contacts folder to their Outlook favorites which will allow them to see the contacts list in Outlook.

To add the folder to their favorites each user will need to do the following.

Open up Outlook and navigate to the folders list.

View Folders in Outlook

View Folders in Outlook

If they do not see the public folders section check that you have assigned the correct permissions above. If you have only just created the public folder mailbox and root public folder it may take a few hours for the public folders to appear here.

Expand out your Public Folders and All Public Folders until you see the contacts public folder you create earlier.

Right click the contacts folder and click Add to Favorites.

Add folder to Favorites in Outlook

Add folder to Favorites in Outlook

Now that the folder is in your Favorites, expand the Favorites Public Folder, and right click the Contacts folder you just added and click Properties.

Now click on the Outlook Address Book tab and tick the Show this folder as an email Address Book box and click OK.

Add folder to Address Book

Add folder to Address Book

This will allow the user to view the Shared Contacts in their address book list when they create a new email messages.

Select Shared Contacts

Select Shared Contacts

View Shared Contacts in Address Book

View Shared Contacts in Address Book

They will also be able to autocomplete email addresses found in the Shared Contact list.

Auto Complete Contacts

Auto Complete Contacts

Related Posts

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25 Responses to Create a company Shared Contacts folder in Office 365

  1. Daniel says:

    This is almost always the first thing i’m asked to setup….right after implementing O365.

  2. Mike Ulloa says:

    We recently did a computer repair where the contact data was lost because the client kept the contacts locally. When they switched to Office 365 we were told that there was not way to do the shared contacts, ever since we have been looking for a way to have shared contacts and this looks like it is exactly what we need. Thanks!

  3. Richard frigault says:

    How can we view this now public share contact list on the Iphone?

  4. Gabi says:

    The interesting thing is that there is still no one way of getting this to work properly.

    If you use the GAL method, you need employees to be admin members, to ideally add the contacts as external contacts via the Office365 Exchange admin.

    If you create what I think is the better method (yours) then you aren’t able to access those contacts on OWA.

    If you want to be able to access both via OWA and fat client, what do you think is the best method, without giving people the exchange admin role.

    Thanks,

    G.

  5. Pingback: Share Contacts from Hosted Exchange in your address book « Technogizmo - Small Biz IT

  6. Alan Guggenheim says:

    Thanks for this clear document. Unfortunately, the last step does not work for us. We have Office 365 E3 and Outlook 2013.
    The shared contact folder is created, appears on the list of folders, but does not appear in the address book.
    Under Properties, the Show this folder as an email address book box is grey, with no tick mark and no way to select it. Adding the folder to favorites did not make it appear in the address book.
    Thanks

  7. Hi,
    We have the same setup as Alan and the same problem. And yes, contacts folder shows up in Favourites section under Contacts in Outlook.

  8. aasim says:

    I’ve setup the public folder only for a shared calendar but on mobile devices the shared calendar is not visible… previously on the server they were using an app call Add2Exchange to sync Public folder calendar to local calendar, thats how they were able to view the calendar on their iPhones.

    But after moving them to Office 365 I am unable to set this up now & I cannot find any solution for it.Any Help in this matter?

  9. Alan Byrne says:

    Hi Guys,
    It seems I missed a step in the instructions above (They’re now fixed)
    Once you’ve added the folder to your Favorites, expand the Favorites Public Folder and right click the Contacts folder you just added and click Properties.
    Now click on the Outlook Address Book tab and tick the Show this folder as an email Address Book box and click OK.
    Sorry for the inconvenience,
    Alan

  10. Is only this would work with OWA. The contact list type folder does not work with OWA :(

  11. Ted says:

    Hi Guys,
    Is there a way to recover deleted contact or contact group from public folder? I found that email and post can be recovered from “Recover Deleted Items”.

    • Alan Byrne says:

      Hi Ted,

      The Contacts should be able to be recovered in the exact same way as messages.

      Regards,

      Alan

      • Ted says:

        Hi Alan,

        Thanks for your reply. That’s what I thought as well but deleted contacts don’t end up in “Recover Deleted items” and Exchange e-Discovery cannot be used with public folder. :(

        • Alan Byrne says:

          Hi Ted,

          Are you right clicking on the Public Folder in Outlook and then selecting Recover Deleted Items? You need to check there rather than right clicking on the Deleted Items folder.

          I’ve just tested it on my Office 365 Shared Contacts public folder and it works for me.

          Hope this helps.

          Alan

  12. Jason says:

    I stumbled upon this thread looking for a way to make the contacts show up in Outlook when you choose People(2013)/Contacts(2010) the same way a users shared contacts would show up. Am I missing something basic here?

  13. Jason says:

    Please Cancel — I just worked it out. Thanks anyway.

  14. Andymackk says:

    Thanks for this well written tutorial.
    Helped me – and works a treat. Great to see an up-to-date version of O365 help

    Cheers

    Andy

  15. Renato says:

    Any idea when this addressbook will be avaiable in OWA ?
    I just installed the update pack number 1 for exchange 2013 server, now i can add a public folder in the owa but the public folder i will add can be onlya mail folder (no addressfolder)

    Thank you

  16. Simon says:

    Hi Alan,
    Thanks for the info here. I wish there was an easy solution to this – maybe MS will figure it out one day!
    I tried your solution however I can’t set the favourits folder to an Outlook Address book, I don’t get this tab when I view the properties on the new folder. Does this solution work with Outlook 2010 (I can see the new public folder no problem)?
    Thanks & Cheers,
    Simon

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