Assign a color category to an e-mail message

Color categories can be assigned to messages, contacts, appointments, tasks, and so on, across Microsoft Outlook. Assigning color categories to messages enables you to quickly identify them and associate them with related items. You can assign more than one color category to messages or use a Quick Click category to click once and assign a color category to a message right in your Inbox.

Color adds visibility to your Outlook items. After you associate a color with a color category and then assign the color category to different yet related items, such as notes, contacts, meetings, and messages, the items are easier to identify and organize. The colors are displayed prominently, if you choose, in your Inbox as well as in your other Outlook views.

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Assign a color category to a message

Assign a Quick Click category to a message

view color categories in your inbox
Color categories enable you to quickly scan and locate related items.

Assign a color category to a message

A color category must be listed in the color category list before you can assign it. If the color category is not listed, you can simultaneously create a new color category and assign it to an item for the first time. You can also choose from several default color categories and rename them to be more meaningful to you.

To assign a color category, do the following:

  • For a message in your Inbox or any message list    Right-click the message, point to Categorize Button image , and then click a color category.

  • For an open message    On the Message tab, in the Options group, click Categorize Button image , and then click a color category.

To see more categories or to create a new category, click All Categories to open the Color Categories dialog box. To assign a color category from the Color Categories dialog box, you must select the check box next to the color category. The Color Categories dialog box is also a quick way to assign multiple categories to an item.

The first time that you assign a default color category to an item, you will be prompted to rename the category. At this time, you can also change the color of the category and choose a keyboard shortcut.


  • You can change the color associated with a category at any time.

  • Another way to open the Categorize menu and Color Categories dialog box is by clicking Categorize Button image on the toolbar.

  • Only the 15 most recently used color categories appear on the Categorize menu. To see the rest, click All Categories on the Categorize menu.

  • A new Categorized Mail search folder has been added to Search Folders in the Navigation Pane and provides a view of all your categorized mail items. Within this folder, you can sort and group the categorized items.

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Assign a Quick Click category to a message

With a single click, you can assign a color category to an item in your Inbox or any message list by setting a default Quick Click category. This can be especially helpful if you focus on one main project or frequently categorize items as Important, Review Immediately, and so on.

Set a Quick Click category

  1. On the toolbar, click Categorize Button image , and then click Set Quick Click.

  2. In the Set Quick Click dialog box, in the drop-down list, select a color category.

    Tip: From an open message, you can click Set Quick Click on the Categorize menu to set the default color category for all future messages, not just the message that is currently selected.

Note: If you change the Quick Click category, it does not change the color category assigned to previously marked messages.

Assign a Quick Click category

  • In your Inbox, click the Categories column next to a message. This adds the color set for your Quick Click category to the column. If you open the message, the color and the name of the color category appear in the header.

Tip: A Quick Click category can be assigned to other Outlook items in the same manner when they are viewed in table views or in the To-Do Bar. Try this procedure with Contacts, Tasks, and Calendar appointments too.

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