Email Address Autocompletion -- Strange Behavior

Posted on 2005-05-12
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2008-03-17
Hello --- I have noticed a wierd behavior in OUTLOOK 2003 with regards to auto-completion of Exchange users in my organization and am wondering if anyone could tell me why this occurs.

Some background info:  1 Exchange 2003 server (SP1) on a Windows 2003 AD Network.
                user workstations:  Win XP (SP2) and Windows 2000 (SP4),
                   all using OUTLOOK 2003  

Let me state first that I understand how the auto-completion feature works in terms of the existence of the .NK2 file, deleting unwanted entries as they appear, resetting the file, etc.  I have tried tinkering with these elements to resolve my issue with no success; it appears to me to be UNRELATED to the "nuts and bolts" of the feature itself in OUTLOOK.  

You see, when a user begins to type in the name of an individual from the Global Address List, activating the auto-completion process, the result for some individuals is that the Display Name appears along with a bracketed alphanumeric code, i.e.,

 Jane Smith <B758237B>

while for others the display name appears along with "an alias" in brackets, i.e.,

 John Doe <JOHND>

I say "an alias" here because what is displayed is often NOT the correct alias for the user account, i.e.

 John Doe <JOHND>

--where John Doe's correct alias is actually "JDOE".

This is causing confusion among my users, as the bracketed alias that displays might well be the correct one for some other user whom they wish to contact!!  There does not appear to be any discernable pattern to what comes up for each user.

Has anyone seen this occur in their email systems?  Is Active Directory doing this?  My users want to use the auto-completion feature, but they don't want to deal with the confusing results!!  Please advise.  
Question by:nmorris510
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LVL 104

Expert Comment

ID: 13991736
That information will be coming out of AD.
There is a field that contains that information that you will have to change using ADSIEDIT. Be very careful with ADSIEDIT as one slip will kill your domain.

However be aware that there are consequences of changing the field.

The biggest is that no one will be able to reply to any old email that the user who has that field changed has sent. The messages will bounce back. When replying the sender will need to reselect the address from the GAL. Doesn't affect external email addresses, but it does affect internal ones.

I would also reset the autocomplete files for all users so that the new address is used.

LVL 22

Expert Comment

ID: 13995299
Have you tried clearing the autocomplete cache in outlook?



Author Comment

ID: 13999863
Thanks for the prompt responses, folks.  

Kristina:  The answer is yes, I did clear it; the same behavior continues to happen, which leads me to conclude the cache file itself is not the cause of the problem.

Sembee:  Thanks for the information; YIKES!!!  It sounds like the best move would be NOT to make one to protect existing functionality, though I doubt I'll be allowed that option by my supervisors or that my users will put up with the status quo indefinitely -- RATS!!!

However, I need to determine WHY this occurs before I dare do anything to my AD accounts.  I suspect that this bracketed field is affected by changes to the accounts themselves; i.e., I have a user who had me alter their display name (but NOT their alias)  whose name originally was auto-completing with the " bracketed alphanumeric code" but has who has now joined the ranks of those displaying an alias in the brackets (the CORRECT one, to boot!!).  I'll have to do more poking around to be sure.  In the meantime, if you or anyone else can shed any further light on this, I'd be most appreciative.  Thanks.
LVL 104

Accepted Solution

Sembee earned 1500 total points
ID: 14000254
One of the most common causes of this problem is people copying accounts. Take an existing account and copy it to create a new one. The same affect is caused by renaming accounts - a person leaves and their account is renamed for the new person.

These can be avoided with good practise on the management of accounts. I never copy or rename an account except for someone getting married. New starters get new accounts.


Author Comment

ID: 14322094
Sorry for not getting back to close this out sooner.

I did some poking around in my AD environment using ADSIEDIT and found that the following AD setting was the source of the alphanumeric code:  


which contains a value similar to below for my system:


As you can see, the alphanumeric code comes from the last portion of this data sequence.  With the assistance of MS Tech Support, I was able to determine that I COULD successfully change the alpha code to the desired alias for the given user WITHOUT breaking my AD environment or cutting the affected user off from sending/receiving email.  The result of the change provides the desired effect -- the autocomplete name in OUTLOOK 2003 includes the correct alias.

I also discovered that changing this item did NOT in fact prevent another user from replying to this person's prior emails, at least not in my environment.   However, as Sembee points out, any messages to this user by someone else using the existing reference for such user featuring the alpha code from their autocomplete or nickname file will find their email bounces.  

The only other caveat is that the OUTLOOK 2003 profie the user has on their desktop will need to be replaced with a new one, as changing the alphanumeric code in the legacyExchangeDn field "breaks" their existing profile.

Many thanks, KristinaW and Sembee, for your help.



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