How can I change the display name of an email in Outlook 2003 inbox? So, for
example, if “firstname.lastname@example.org” sends me an email, my inbox may display, in the
“from” column, “Joe Smith”. But, with the same email address, it might display
just “Joe”. Same issue with non-AOL emails. One of my main clients has both an
AOL and non-AOL address he uses, and his two email addresses show up as five
different people in my inbox, in various forms (“joe”, “joe smith”,
I’d like to change the display names of the two email addresses so they are
the same (e.g., “Joe Smith”), and thus would sort and group together when I
choose to sort by “from”.
The short answer is that as the recipient of an email you can’t.
The longer answer is that the name (formally, the “display name”) that gets
displayed along with or instead of an email address is controlled by the
sender’s email program. You can control how your name appears on outgoing
email, and even how other people’s names appear on outgoing email, but
on email you receive, editing the name isn’t really an option.
I’ll show you one example of exactly where the sender configures that, and
then also explain why even if your sender uses the exact same name everywhere,
your email program may still not sort as you describe.
First, I need to review one concept with you.
While we normally think of email addresses as a single thing, in fact many email programs, and in fact the email protocol, split them into two parts:
The email address: email@example.com for example. This is, of course, required as it defines the exact recipient of the email.
The recipient’s name: Leo Notenboom for example. This is just used for display purposes, hence it’s called the “Display Name”. It’s optional, but when present is simply meant as a more readable and often more meaningful description that corresponds to the email address.
In fact, you’ll often see email address in email headers looking something like this:
From: Leo Notenboom <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Santa Clause <email@example.com>
Thus both the optional display name and actual email address are included.
You decide what your email program will use when you set up your email account in that program.
Here’s a typical account creation dialog – this one from Outlook 2007 – that is used when you set up a new email account in your email program:
There’s something important to note about this: “Your Name” in this example is the Display Name, and can be anything you want.
That’s important when you realize spammers and scammers do it all the time:
From: Paypal Customer Service <firstname.lastname@example.org>
They do this because email programs don’t all agree on what to display. In the list of emails in an inbox they can choose to display:
- the display name
- the email name
Displaying only the display name is quite common, and thus in my made up scammer example above you’d see only “Paypal Customer Service” when in fact the email address associated with the message isn’t related to Paypal at all. The scammers are hoping you don’t pay close attention when you look at the full message where both are typically displayed.
And that leads us to the sorting problem.
Just like there’s no agreement on what to display, there’s even more confusion on how to sort.
An email program might decide to:
Display the display name, and sort the list by that Display Name. (Most programs operate this way, and it’s what you’ve assumed in your question.
Display the email address, and sort the list by email address.
Display the display name and sort by email address. Or other odd combinations thereof.
Most of the time you’d be fine – Outlook for example uses and sorts by the Display Name. Other email programs will vary.
And while you can control how your email address and display name look in the inboxes of others, you typically can’t control how theirs appears in yours.