MacMost Now 229: Address Book Groups

Learn how to use groups in Address Book to easily send email to the same group of friends. Also learn some tricks and about smart groups.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: MacMost Now 229: Address Book Groups.

Hi this is Gary with MacMost Now. On today's episode, let's take a look at groups in the Address Book.
So, Address Book is one of the applications that you never really have to touch in Mac OS X. You can just basically let it gather new email addresses as you use Mail and then you'll be able to access those addresses by sending email and typing the first few letters of the person's name or email address.
But, it works a lot better if you go into Address Book and actually maintain it: add phone numbers, correct names, make sure you have preferred email addresses for everybody, things like that. You can also go ahead and add groups to make it really easy to send email to the same group of people time and time again.
So here we are in Address Book. Now, you should see three columns: Group, Name and
then the card that is selected in Name. If you don't, go to the View menu. Make sure you select Card and Columns. Now, if you want to add a new group, all you need to do is press the "+" button at the very bottom of the group column and you can create the new group. For instance, we'll call this one, "Family".
Now, group is kind of like a playlist in iTunes or an album in iPhoto. You can add names to it, but it doesn't remove them from the list of all of your names. So, for instance, we can go into "All" here and see all of our names. And we can go in and drag and drop family members into our Family group. And after we've done that, we click on Family and we can see that those four addresses have been added into that group. They're still available in All, but they're also in the Family group.
Now, here we are in mail. So suppose we want to send a message to the entire family.
We click on New Message. In the "To" field, instead of typing everyone's email address, we can go ahead and type, "Family". We'll actually get the completion right there, and I'll hit return and instantly it will fill in all four email addresses that are under Family. Now I can go and fill in the subject, and write the body and send it to all of my family members.
Much easier than remembering to add all four email addresses every time you compose a new email.
Back in Address Book, we find we can also do it from here. If you control-click or right-click with the Mighty Mouse, on Family, you can see that among the options are Send Email to "Family". When I click on that, it will instantly go ahead, open Mail, and start an email sent to all of the members of that group.
Now, what happens if a person has more than one email address? Which email address will be used when sending to the group? Well, if you click on Family and right-click on it, or control-click on it, you will get the Edit Distribution List option. That will bring up this little window here. In there you can see that one of these members of your group has multiple email addresses. Simply click on the one that you want to use when sending to that group.
So this is great because it will actually allow you to have the same person in multiple groups but using different email addresses. In other words, if your best friend is also somebody at work, you can make sure that your Work group sends to his work email address but your Buddies group sends to his home email address.
Another thing I like is the fact that it adds the actual people to the email, not just the name of the group. So you can modify the names in that email after you add the groups.
So for instance, if you've got twelve family members, but you want to send only eleven of them an email because it's about a surprise party for the twelfth, you can add the entire Family group then remove that one name.
You can also then add more email addresses to that particular email. You can even add multiple groups and it will keep adding the email addresses to those groups. So you can send it to your buddies and your family.
Here's another trick: when you're viewing all and you've got a name selected, if you hold down the Option key, you can see that it will highlight the groups that person belongs to in yellow. So, if they are part of say Family group and Work group, they will be highlighted in yellow in both groups.
Another cool thing you can do is you can create smart groups. So, under File, you can choose New Smart Group, and this is kind of like a Spotlight smart folder or a smart playlist in iTunes. You can go ahead and create a smart group for everybody where a certain criteria is met. So, for instance, if everybody has the same URL for the website for your company, you can put them in a company one, if they've got the same phone number but with an extension, you can put them in a company one as well, same last name, put them in Family, etc.
The great thing about smart groups, of course, is they'll automatically update.
So, for instance, if everybody at work has an email address that has your company name, and you create a smart group to reflect that, every time you add somebody new to your address book with that domain name, they'll automatically be added to that smart group.
So that's a quick look at all the different little tricks you can do with the Address Book groups. Hope you liked it. Until next time this is Gary Rosenzweig with MacMost Now.

Comments: 7 Responses to “MacMost Now 229: Address Book Groups”

    Bill Tobler
    10 years ago

    Hey Gary, nice take on using Address Book Groups. I use the group function on my iPhone a little different sometimes. Instead of email addresses, I use phone numbers. For instance, if I’m looking for a bait shop on my way to a fishing trip, I made up a group called Bait Shops with all their phone numbers. (Most bait shops don’t have email addresses anyway) Sometimes live shrimp is hard to find, and you have to call around to find bait. I also did the same with the members of my Homebrew club. If I should be brewing one day and are short an ingredient or need some help, by hitting the group button, I get a list of people who could help without fumbling through my whole contact list.

    I noticed that there is no way to make a group on the iPhone, which would be a nice addition some day. It should be easy to do, just put a plus sign on the top of the group page and scroll through the contacts and pick out the members of the group. Anyway, thanks for a great web site for us Mac users.


    Thanks for the MacMost Web site. I learn more about my Mac every day.


    9 years ago

    thanks for the helpful videos! i have yet to find how to set up a right click option that gives you the drop down box to add contact/address straight to a “group”. that way you don’t have to go back in and drag and drop via all contacts. is there a way to do that? if so can you do that with several address instead of just one at time? example: sunday school newsletter w/ everyone’s address – want to put all addresses in a group w/o having to add to contacts, then having to go back and drag and drop to sunday school group. this is one thing i miss w/ pc.- i could right click on any address or shift/hold hightlight and it would add one or muliiple even a word program. i would love to figure this out on mac os x. thanks for such a helpful site!!

    Pam Lauman
    8 years ago

    I am not able to use the group address function on my iPad or iPhone. Do you know of a way to make this work?

      8 years ago

      I don’t think this works on the iPhone… yet. Maybe iOS will fix it.

    Barb Ellison
    7 years ago

    Hi Gary, No one has hints and great tutorials even close to yours–they’ve gotten me out of a lot of spots. Now I’m in this spot–I made a party invitation through iPhoto. I have a Group of invitees in my address book called “Open House”. When but I can’t seem to access that group via iPhoto email. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

      7 years ago

      Perhaps iPhoto just doesn’t have access to Groups? Have you tried just using the Group name?
      Otherwise, you could probably just drag and drop the contacts from that group into the iPhoto email form. Or, send it just to yourself and then forward it to that group in Mail.

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