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The desktop configurator needs to be installed to get the full functionality out of the desktop applications. Some updates are included in this, plus the Microsoft Online Services Sign-in Assistant which installs a plug-in to your browsers to by-pass the need to use the Lync Web App.
The process only takes a few minutes on a fast broadband or corporate Internet connection.
Once you sign in to Lync for the first time, you have no access to your Global Address List, unfortunately. However, it's important to remember that the service is still in beta and is yet to be finalised. Nevertheless, you can still add your corporate contacts by typing in their email address and adding them manually.