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Operating Systems

Shortcut and fix for Outlook's autocomplete feature

Enter frequently used addresses faster, and reset when your nickname file gets out of hand. One way to cut through Outlook's autocomplete clutter is to use the Ctrl-K keyboard shortcut.

A couple of weeks ago, I described how to disable the feature in Microsoft Outlook 2003 and 2007 that automatically completes addresses as you enter them in the To:, Cc:, or Bcc: fields.

As I stated then, I've come to depend on Outlook's address-autocomplete feature, though it's far from perfect. First, editing the list isn't easy. You can delete an entry you no longer need by pressing Delete after you scroll to the address in the drop-down list that appears as you type the name in one of the above fields. But there's no simple way to edit the list.

Sure, you can use the free NK2View utility from NirSoft to import and export address books, as described by the How-To Geek, but there's nothing quick or simple about the process.

What I really want is the ability to restrict the addresses that appear in the list as I enter them. For example, an Autocomplete Settings dialog box would let me limit the list to addresses I've entered at least twice (or three times, or five times, or any number I choose) to eliminate the one-offs (or three-offs, etc.)

An even simpler request to Microsoft's developers would be to let me restrict autocomplete suggestions to addresses that appear in my contacts. And while I have my wish list out, how about making it easier to sync contacts between Gmail and Outlook?

One way to cut through Outlook's autocomplete clutter is to use the Ctrl-K keyboard shortcut to access the program's Check Names feature. Simply type the first few letters of the address you want to enter, and press Ctrl-K.

If only one address in your contacts matches the letters, that address will be entered into the field automatically. If more than one address match the letters, the Check Names dialog box will open (see below). Scroll to an address, and press Enter to place it into the address field of your message.

Microsoft Outlook 2007's Check Names dialog box
Press Ctrl-K to open Outlook's Check Names dialog box to a specific initial letter. Microsoft

The clean-slate approach to Outlook's autocomplete feature
If your nickname file gets out of hand, you can start from scratch by renaming the file, which will cause Outlook to create a new one the next time the program opens. Start by finding the .nk2 file. In XP, the default location for this file is here:

C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook

In Vista, the file is placed in this folder by default:


If you don't find the file in either of these locations, make sure that your system is set to view hidden system files. To do so in Windows Explorer, click Tools > Folder Options > View and select "Show hidden files and folders" in the "Advanced settings" window. (If you don't see the Tools option in Vista's Explorer, press the Alt key.)

Now simply rename the file. You could delete it, but I recommend keeping the original file around so that you can revert to it, should something go awry. A Microsoft Knowledge Base article provides complete instructions for resetting this Outlook feature.