The Outlook Live Messenger Connection

Starting with Outlook 2003, Microsoft continued its efforts to expand the reach of Outlook beyond traditional email and contacts. The Outlook Live Messenger connection (Outlook to Windows Live Messenger) adds the instant messaging concept of "presence" to Outlook.

When you use an instant messaging program, you can see whether or not your contacts are online. That helps you know whether to communicate with them via instant message, or through some other means such as email.

Working in conjunction with Windows Live Messenger, Outlook can display this information for your contacts, and give you the option to communicate with them via instant message instead or email, whichever is most appropriate at the time.

Outlook displays this information through the use of small circles next to the names of the Outlook contacts that are also contacts in your Live Messenger account. The dots use the same color scheme as Windows Live Messenger does.

For example, a green dot means the person is online (logged into their Live Messenger account), while a red dot means the person is busy.

I've provided instructions here for configuring Outlook 2007 to work with Windows Live Messenger.

IMPORTANT: To make this work, you need to have Windows Live Messenger installed, configured, running, and be logged in to it.

Configure Outlook 2007 to Work with Windows Live Messenger

With Windows Live Messenger running and yourself logged in to it, follow these steps to configure Outlook:

  1. Click "Tools," then "Options" to open the Options dialog box.
  2. Click the "Other" tab to view the Other page.
  3. Click "Display Online Status Next To A Person Name" in the Person Names section of the page. Optionally, you can set the "Display Online Status In The To And Cc Fields Only When Mouse Pointer Rests On a Person Name." This option
If the "Display Online Status Next To A Person Name" option is grayed out, confirm that Windows Live Messenger is installed and running and you are logged into it. You must satisfy these conditions for Outlook to be able to set the Person Names options.

Using the Outlook Live Messenger Connection

Once you have this all set up, whenever both Outlook and Windows Live Messenger are logged in and running, you will see dots next to the names of Outlook contacts who are also Live Messenger contacts. If you right-click the dot for a person who is online, Outlook displays a shortcut menu that gives you an expanded list of options for communicating with that person.

I Still Can't Set Those Outlook Options

Some people are finding that even when they have Windows Live Messenger up and running and are logged in, the Person Names options in Outlook are still grayed out. The likely cause of this is Live Messenger privacy settings. This can be a sticky problem. Here's what is going on.

Live Messenger can be set to block anyone who isn't on your "Allow List" from seeing your online status. This includes your Outlook email address, if it is different than your Windows Live Messenger Instant Messaging Address. In this case, the only practical option I've seen so far is to add "All Others" to the Live Messenger Allow List. This still allows you to block specific people from seeing your Live Messenger status if you wish, but does allow anyone who isn't specifically blocked to see your status.

To set this up, follow these instructions:

  1. Click the "Show Menu" icon in Live Messenger if the menu isn't already visible.
  2. Click "Tools," then "Options" to open the Options dialog box.
  3. Click "Privacy" to display the Privacy page.
  4. Clear the "Only People On My Allow List Can See My Status And Send Me Messages" option.
  5. Click "Apply" then "Ok" to put the change into effect and return to the main Windows Live Messenger window.

And there you go. The Outlook Live Messenger connection is up and running.

From here you can: