Changing the Display Order in the Exchange 2000 Address List

by Mark Fugatt [Published on 31 May 2003 / Last Updated on 31 May 2003]

In this article we will look at how we can modify the DisplayName field in Active Directory to use the LastName, FirstName format, this will then ensure that the Address Lists used by your users will be sorted by LastName.

Changing the Display Order in the Exchange 2000 Address List.

For some unknown reason Microsoft decided that it would be a good idea if the Global Address Lists where formatted to sort the objects by the Display Name field in Active Directory, this on its own is not a bad idea, however, the Display Name field in Active Directory takes the format of FirstName LastName and therefore when your users open the Address List in their mail client the recipients are sorted by First Name, it is the opinion of many people that this is wrong, and lets think about it, how is the telephone directory that your telephone company provide you with sorted?, , that’s right its sorted by Last Name, so what we are going to look at is how we can change the format so that our Address Lists will appear in the LastName FirstName format.

The first step is to get Active Directory to format the Display Name as LastName FirstName, this is a pretty simple process.

To configure Active Directory to format the Display Name as LastName FirstName we are going to need to use a utility called ADSIEDIT, it is VERY important that you use extreme care when using ADSIEDIT as you could modify something that will cause you some major problems, so what I am trying to say is a) follow the instructors b) don’t mess around with things if your not sure what they do.

The first step is to get ADSIEDIT installed, the simplest way to do this is to install the Microsoft Support Tools that are located on your Windows 2000 Server CD, simply insert the Windows 2000 Server CD and navigate to the Support directory, double-click on SUPPORT.EXE and follow the prompts, once you have installed the Support Tools you will see the Windows 2000 Support Tools menu option on your Program menu.

Now that we have the Windows 2000 Support Tools installed lets take a look at modifiying the way that Active Directory formats the Display Name:

1. From your Windows 2000 Support Tools menu option, select Tools > ADSI Edit

2. Expand the Configuration Container > Configuration > DisplaySpecifiers and click on CN=409, as shown below:

3. In the right-hand pane, open the properties for “CN=user-Display”.

4. In the “Select a property to view” dropdown list, select createDialog.

5. In the “Edit Attribute” field, enter %,  %, as shown in the dialogue box below, ensure you type the string in exactly as shown, if you would like to include a users Initials in the string you can also use the %<initials> attribute. IMPORTANT: when you have entered the format you wish to use, make sure you click on the “Set” button.

6. Click Apply and now exit out of ADSIEDIT.

We have now configured Active Directory to format new users Display Names in the LastName FirstName format.

We now have another problem, and that is, the change we made above will only effect new accounts you create it does not alter the format of existing account, so we need to alter the accounts that already exist.

To modify the accounts that already exist we could do it manually for each user via Active Directory Users and Computers, we could right a script to perform the change or my preferred option is to use a utility called ADModify.

ADModify is available for download from

Once you have downloaded ADModify extract the contents of the zip file to a directory and run ADModify.

We will now take a look at how to use ADModify to change your existing accounts, I will cover more about ADModify in an upcoming article.

  1. Launch ADModify and select Modify Existing User Attributes from the main wizard screen.
  2. We now have to select that type of objects we would like to modify and what the exact objects are, for my example I will alter Users and Contacts from an Organization Unit called “Test Users”, you can select multiple OU, and you could even select at the Organization level (DC=exchangetrainer in my screenshot).

3. Once you have select the OU that contains the objects that you would like to modify, click on the “Add To List” button, the objects that meet your select criteria will then be displayed in the right-hand pane.


  1. We now need to select the objects in the right hand pane that we would like to modify, this can be done individually by clicking on them whilst holding down the Shift key or the CTRL key, if every object in the list should be modified simply click on the “Select All” button, once you have made your select click “Next”.
  2. The “Modify Active Directory Users” dialogue box will now be displayed.


  1. On the General tab you will see the checkbox “Change Display name to Last Name, First Name”, check this box, if you also want to include the users middle initial you can also check the “Include Middle Initial” checkbox.
  2. Click on “Change”, ADModify will now go through your objects and make the modification for you.

We have now modified the way that the Display Name field will be created for new users and we have also modified our existing user account, so when we go into our mail client and look at the Address Book it will be displayed in the LastName, FirstName format as shown in the screenshot below:

I hope this article saves you some time and make life a little easier for your users as well.


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