Address messages

Users new to Windows Live Mail are often used to addressing messages by selecting addressees from a list of contacts. While this method also works in Windows Live Mail, it is not so efficient as in, say, Outlook Express, where the contacts list can be split into manageable chunks (‘groups’ or ‘folders’). Windows Live Mail provides a more efficient way of addressing messages, by giving the address box an incremental search[1] function.

When you open a new message window (by pressing Ctrl-N for a New message, Ctrl-R to Reply or Ctrl‑F to Forward, for example), focus is already in the To… box, so there is no need to click before you start typing. As you do, Windows Live Mail will present a list – a picker list[2] – of matching entries from your contacts. You can start typing a contact’s Nickname, First name, Last name, Company, e-mail address or any word you’ve put in the Notes field for that contact. So, if you type bil, for example, the list that appears will include

  • contacts whose Nickname starts with Bil, e.g. Billyboy
  • contacts whose First name starts with Bil, e.g. Bilbo Baggins
  • contacts whose Last name starts with Bil, e.g. Jim Bilko
  • contacts whose Company name includes a word starting with Bil, e.g. Billingsgate Market
  • contacts whose e-mail address starts with bil or has bil straight after
    a period or the ‘@’ symbol, e.g. or or
  • contacts who have a (non-trivial) word in the Notes field starting with bil, e.g. Malaria and bilharzia expert
  • categories whose name includes a word starting with bil

That could be a long list, but you might be lucky and spot the one you want straight away. If you don’t, type the next letter – bilb would remove Billyboy, Jim Bilko, Billingsgate Market and the bilharzia expert from the list, leaving only Bilbo Baggins and (there will probably only be one entry, if these two are the same contact).

With practice, this is much quicker than scrolling through a list of names.


  1. Incremental search, also known as a ‘word-wheel’, is a mechanism that finds matches for what you type as you type. It is not case-sensitive. The more characters you type, the closer the match and the shorter the list of possible matches. It starts searching at the beginning of the indexed terms, so it won’t find matches within indexed terms. For example, to locate Billyboy, you must type b i l . Typing b o y  will not find it.
  2. A contact picker list is the one that appears when you click the To… button in a new message window or start typing in the To… box. It may look different from the list you see in the contacts window.
    • It will show matching contacts’ Name and email address(es), in alphabetical order of Name.
    • Only contacts with an email address will be shown.

    Name is the value shown and transmitted in the To: line of a sent message. It is constructed by Windows Live Mail from contact data fields and consists of the first match found when scanning data fields in the following order:

    1. Nickname
    2. First name + Last name (in the order specified at Sort by in the Contacts window)
    3. First name or Last name
    4. Company
    5. E-mail address

    NB: Nicknames should thus be assigned with circumspection. If you normally refer to the headmistress as ‘the old dragon’ and think this would be a good term to remember her by, assigning Dragon as her nickname would mean that she would see To: Dragon in any email you sent to her.