How to Create an Outlook Distribution List From an Excel Spreadsheet

By Filonia LeChat

You may already be well-versed in putting the Microsoft Office Suite to work for your company, such as maintaining corporate payroll with Excel spreadsheets and letting employees know about meetings via emails. The separate puzzle pieces in the Suite can work together to make you even more productive. Generate a contacts list from data you have stored in Excel, and then use that list in Outlook to target specific clientele. Save yourself and your staff from having to retype email addresses, which can leave room for data entry error, and push data from Excel to Outlook.

Launch Excel and open the spreadsheet with the email addresses to place into an Outlook distribution list.

Click the column or row header with the address list, which highlights the entire row or column. You may also press and hold the left mouse button and click and drag to highlight the individual cells, instead of highlighting the entire row or column.

Right-click the highlighted area, and choose “Copy.” Close Excel or leave the program open if you choose. Click “No” if Excel prompts you to save upon exiting.

Open Outlook. Click the “Contacts” option followed by “New Contact Group” on the ribbon, which opens the “Untitled – Contact Group” window.

Click the “Add Members” button on the ribbon. Choose “From Outlook Contacts,” even though you’ll be adding copied addresses from Excel. The “Select Members” window opens.

Right-click into the “Members” field at the bottom of the small window. Choose “Paste.” Your Excel group data pastes in. Note that if you copied an entire column or row, your header, such as “Emails,” will also paste in. Scroll through the text in the “Members” field and erase any headers, which will cause an error when Outlook actually tries to email the distribution list.

Click “OK” to close the “Select Members” window and return to the “Contact Group” window.

Click into the “Name” field. Type a name for the people from the Excel list, such as “Hot Customer Prospects to Call.”

Click “Save & Close” to close the “Contact Group” window and return to Outlook.

Click the “New E-mail” button on the ribbon. Click the “To” button, scroll to the Excel group name -- in this case, “Hot Customer Prospects to Call” -- and double-click it. You may also just start typing the group name into the “To” field, and Outlook will auto-populate it for you. Add a subject line and message, and then send the message to your group.


This is the most direct way to make a distribution list out of data you have in Excel because you’re able to specifically target only the data you want included when you highlight it. If your Excel spreadsheet contains solely contact information, and not additional details such as finances, you may also take advantage of Outlook’s import feature. Click the “File” option and then choose “Open.” Click the “Import” option on the main page, choose “Import from another program or file,” click “Next,” choose “Excel,” browse to the file and import your contacts.


These instructions apply to the 2013 and 2010 versions of Outlook and Excel. Earlier or later versions of the software may have several differences.