Assign a color category to an email message

Color categories are a great way to get organized. Color adds visibility to your Outlook items so you can sort and find what you need. Color categories can be assigned to email messages in Outlook, and you add contacts to color categories.

Note:  If you want to make certain messages stand out even more, you can use conditional formatting to automatically change incoming message colors and fonts based on sender, subject, or recipients. You can also switch the background color of Outlook to make it even easier to see certain items in your message list.

Assign a color category to a message

A color category must be in the color category list before you can assign it. If a color category isn’t listed, you can create a 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. Multiple color categories can be assigned to a message, and you can change the color associated with a category at any time.

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, and then click a color category.

  • For an open message    In the Tags group, click Categorize, and then click a color category.

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

To see more categories or to create a category, in the Tags group on the ribbon, click Categorize, and then click All Categories to open the Color Categories dialog box. To assign a color category, select the check box next to the color category. That’s also a quick way to assign multiple categories to an item.


  • Categories don’t work for messages in an IMAP account.

  • Only the 10 most recently used color categories appear on the Categorize menu. To see the rest, click All Categories on the Categorize menu.

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