Using the Contacts App in macOS

Last modified
Wednesday, February 24, 2021
Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

I have recently used the Contacts app a lot in macOS and have come to discover how it works, which is not the way I expected it to. I thought I would share my hard-won knowledge in the hope that someone else will benefit.

Adding a Contact

When you are in Contacts, hit cmd-n to create a new contact. It is important to note that you are not opening a new window when you do this; rather, you simply add a new row to the contacts table and are placed in the scroll area where information about the contact is stored. When you are done entering your information, therefore, simply stop interacting twice and you will be back to the main level of the Contacts window.

There is no save or cancel button as there is in most apps; if you want to erase the contact you are entering, navigate to the contacts table, find your newly created contact, and press delete.

As you move through the fields in the new contact area, you will find a lot of popup buttons. These are used to change the label associated with the following field. For instance, the first phone field defaults to "mobile", but activating the popup menu lets you choose a different label for the phone number, or add your own by selecting the custom item. Note also that, until you enter information into one field, subsequent fields of that same type do not appear. For example, it is only after entering one phone number that a second phone number field will appear, so don't panic if you are moving around before entering information and see only one phone field and one email field.

Working with Groups

Groups are a way of assigning contacts to certain subsets. For instance, if you are in charge of a weekly meeting of people, you might keep all those peoples' information in a group so you can quickly email them all or export just their information for use somewhere else. Note that, in group view (cmd-1), you can view all contacts in your database by selecting the "all contacts" item from the groups table.

Creating a Group and Populating It

To create a group, press cmd-shift-n and enter the group name. As with new contacts, you are still in the main contacts window; stop interacting a couple times and you will be back at the top level. Note that there is now a groups table to the left of the search field, and remember that the tab key skips over it. You must vo-arrow to it, or use the vo-cmd-t or vo-cmd-shift-t commands to get to it. To add contacts to the new group:

  • For new contacts, simply select your group in the groups table and hit cmd-n to make a new contact. The contact will automatically be assigned to the selected group, and the selection will stay the same if you make multiple contacts (I selected a group and created about twenty new contacts, and they all ended up in my selected group).
  • To add existing contacts, select the "all contacts" group, find your contact, and hit cmd-c to copy or cmd-x to cut. Go back to the groups table, move to the destination group, and hit cmd-v to paste.
  • To remove a contact from a group, either cut it (cmd-x) and paste it to another group, or move to the contact and press delete. You can then select whether to delete the contact entirely, or just remove it from the current group.

Here are a few important things to remember that can really throw you off. They have been stated already, but I want to reiterate them.

  • You almost never open new windows in this app. New contacts, new groups... it all happens in the main window. To get out of somewhere, cmd-w will not work; you must stop interacting instead.
  • The groups table will not be seen when you use tab or shift-tab to move around. You must use vo commands to get to this table.
  • There are no "save", "done", "cancel", or similar buttons. You can only undo operations by deleting text you enter or trying cmd-z, though I have no experience with how well, if at all, that keystroke works.


The article on this page has generously been submitted by a member of the AppleVis community. As AppleVis is a community-powered website, we make no guarantee, either express or implied, of the accuracy or completeness of the information.



Submitted by Cathy on Wednesday, February 13, 2013

this was a fabulous post! great instructions! I am a new Mac user and these are the kinds of things I have been wishing to learn; the basic aps that come with Mountain Lion. so thanks much.