Sync CiviCRM Groups in Outlook as Distribution lists

23 March 2017

Good news for all organisations who would like to maintain groups in CiviCRM to logically categorise mailing lists or access levels in CiviCRM and create these groups in Outlook on the go.

Many thanks to Brian Shaughnessy and GAMA, who generously funded this functionality and helped us make this happen.

We’ve now introduced a new feature in Outlook plugin that allows you to sync CiviCRM both static and smart groups to Outlook as distlists. This means that you will now be able to sync CiviCRM groups in Outlook and maintain the same in Outlook as well.

To enable this functionality you will need to do the following;

  • In your CiviCRM, go to your group settings and tick the box “Sync to Outlook”. This lets the Outlook plugin know that this group needs to be synced to Outlook when the sync is run from Outlook plugin.



  • And voila you’re all set. Now you just need to open your Outlook and click on “Sync from CiviCRM groups” button.



  • It will ask you to confirm whether you want to start syncing with CiviCRM groups. Clicking on “ok” will start the sync.

  • You can see the synced groups under “People” tab in the bottom.



  • If you include “CustomerID” column in the list view, from under “Miscellaneous” fields, you’d be able to see CiviCRM contact IDs in CustomerID column(Outlook).




  1. How does it deal with the contacts that are already there in Outlook?

It just links the existing contact to the Outlook distlist.


  1. Can’t find a contact in Outlook distlist but it’s there in the Civi group?

By default Outlook doesn’t allow a contact to be added in the distlist if doesn’t have an email address. So please do make sure that in your Civi group contact have email address.


  1. If I remove a contact from Civi group which is set to sync with Outlook, would it also remove the contact from Outlook distlist?

Yes, it would remove the contact from corresponding Outlook distlist as well. However it doesn’t immediately do it. It will remove it when you run the sync next time.


  1. If I delete a contact from CiviCRM and so from the Civi group, would it also delete the contact from Outlook distlist?

We just unlink the contact from Outlook distlist but it remains in Outlook as a contact.


  1. Would deleting a contact in Outlook also delete the same in CiviCRM group?

In this scenario, when you run the sync again, the contact would be re-created in Outlook distlist because the sync matches with the list of contacts in Civi group. So if you do want a contact to be removed from Outlook distlist, it’s best to delete it from CiviCRM group and that would also remove it from Outlook distlist.


  1. How many groups and contacts can I sync in a go?

At the moment, there isn’t any hard limit on the number of group(s) or group contacts that could be synced to Outlook distlist but syncing a very big group could cause Outlook to hang.


Other fixes in this version:

  1. We’ve tightened up checking if the contact and activity both exist and the activity belongs to the contact, only then attach and send any files(attachments) to CiviCRM.

  2. Check if a contact is a legitimate one, when getting the saved duplicate contact and just before creating activity against it.

  3. Cleanup  job - If a contact is deleted in CiviCRM also remove them from Outlook duplicate preferences table.

  4. Automatic group sync is triggered only when an email is sent to one/many distribution list(s).

  5. Fixed account disconnected message that used to pop up even when the Civi account has been disconnected


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