Assign a color category to an email message

Color adds visibility to your Outlook items. Color categories can be assigned to email messages in Microsoft Outlook, which 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 in your Inbox.

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 is not listed, you can 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, and then click a color category.

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

To see more categories or to create a 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'll 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 on the ribbon, on the Tags tab.

  • Only the 15 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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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 Home tab, in the Tags group, click Categorize, 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 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, such as Contacts, Tasks, and Calendar appointments, in the same manner when they are viewed in table views or in the To-Do Bar.

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