How to: Connect an External List to Outlook

Applies to: SharePoint Server 2010

You can connect an external list in Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 to Microsoft Outlook 2010 to surface external data in Microsoft Outlook 2010. Then users can work on external data inside Outlook just like any other native Outlook item type such as a Contact or Task item. Any changes or additions to external data made inside Outlook are propagated to the external system, without compromising data integrity in the external system.


You can also take an external list offline in Microsoft SharePoint Workspace.

In this topic, we take the NWCustomers external list created in the topic How to: Create External Lists in SharePoint offline to Outlook. The Customer external content type was mapped to a Contact Item in Outlook and Offline Sync is enabled.


  • Microsoft SQL Server 2005 or later is installed on the server running SharePoint Server.

  • The Northwind SQL Server 2000 database is installed on the server running SharePoint Server.

  • An external List based on the Customers table in the Northwind sample database is created as per How to: Create External Lists in SharePoint.

  • The client computer has Microsoft Office 2010, including Microsoft SharePoint Designer 2010 and Microsoft Outlook 2010 installed.

Show External Data in Outlook by Taking an External List Offline

  1. From the client computer, navigate to the NWCustomers external list.

  2. To take the list to Outlook, click the Connect to Outlook button on the SharePoint ribbon in the List tab as shown below. This creates a Visual Studio Tools for Office ClickOnce deployment package and deploys it on the client. Click the OK and Install buttons when prompted to install the package to Outlook.

    Connect to Outlook

    If Outlook is not open, taking an external list offline to Outlook will deploy the solution and start Outlook automatically without user intervention. However, if Outlook is already open, then the new solution will appear in Outlook without the user having to close Outlook. In Outlook, you should see a new folder containing the external list items as shown below. Notice that Outlook automatically maps the fields you mapped to the default Outlook properties when creating the Customer external content type and displays them in the default Contact view.

    Customers appear as native contact items

    To view all the other fields of a customer that were selected when creating the external content type, you can open an item and click the Customer Details button on the ribbon. This will display all the fields of the customer in a separate Outlook form as shown below. Or you can create a custom view, as described in the topic, How to: View All the Fields in an External List in Outlook Explorer.

    Customer details displayed in separate form


    Note that if the external content type contains less than or equal to five fields, it simply displays the unmapped fields in the adjoining region. If there are more than five fields, then it displays them in a separate form as shown above.

    You can create, update, and delete contacts directly from Outlook just as you would create and update native Outlook contacts. Data will be updated in the external system. See Business Connectivity Services Client Cache and How to: Improve Business Connectivity Services Solution Performance When Using the Cache to understand the role of the client cache and for ways to optimize Outlook solution performance.