Create and assign color categories

Create and assign color categories

Color categories allow you to easily identify and group associated items in Microsoft Outlook. Assign a color category to a group of interrelated items—such as notes, contacts, appointments, and email messages—so that you can quickly track and organize them. You can also assign more than one color category to items.

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

You can choose from a set of default categories or create your own, and then assign the categories to your Outlook items. The category colors are prominently displayed in table views, such as your Inbox, and within the open items themselves. You can rename the categories to something more meaningful to you or choose different colors for the categories. This flexibility enables you to design a color category system that fits your personal work style.

  1. In any view, on the Home tab, in the Tags group, click Categorize, and then click All Categories.

    All Categories command in the Tags group

    Note: For calendar items, the Tags group appears on the Appointment or Meeting tab. For an open contact or task, the Tags group appears on the Contact or Task tab.

  2. In the Color Categories dialog box, click New.

  3. In the Add New Category dialog box, in the Name box, type a name for the new color category.

    Add New Category dialog box

  4. In the Color list, choose the color that you want and then choose OK.

    Note: (Optional) If you want to assign a keyboard shortcut, in the Shortcut Key list, click a shortcut, and then choose OK.

  5. In the Color Categories dialog box, click OK.

You can assign color categories to email messages to help organize your inbox. You can 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. You can also create additional color categories.

To assign a color category to a message:

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

    Note: You can't assign a color category to a message from the reading pane or from the message list if you're using Conversational View in Outlook 2016. For more information, see Learn more about Conversational view.

  • 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. You can also quickly assign multiple categories to an item.

Notes: 

  • 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.

  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.

A quick click category allows you to assign a category to a message with a single click. In order to use quick click categories, your inbox view must include the Category column. For information on modifying your view, see Create, change, or customize a view.

  • 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.

What would you like to do?

Color adds visibility to your Outlook items. If you create a category named Morris Project, for example, and assign items to it, you can keep track of all the meetings, contacts, and messages associated with the project.

color categories in the calendar
Color categories connect related Outlook items for easy identification. Here, with the color category displayed in the header of an open item and in the Calendar, you can see that both items pertain to the Morris Project.

Color categories are prominently displayed in table views, such as your Inbox, and within the open items themselves. The default set of six color categories is designed to be customized. You can rename the categories to something more meaningful to you or choose different colors for the categories. Beyond these six, you can create as many more color categories as you need, and you can assign multiple color categories to items as well. This flexibility enables you to design a color category system that fits your personal work style.

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

You can also choose a Quick Click category that allows you to click only once in your Inbox or other table view to assign a default color category to a Microsoft Outlook item. Find out more in Assign a Quick Click category below.

To make finding your categorized mail items easier, a 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. You can also create additional Category Search Folders for specific categories.

Although you can use and customize the six default color categories, you may need to create new ones while you continue to organize your items. The properties that you can apply to any category are color, name, and shortcut key.

  1. On the toolbar, click Categorize Button image .

  2. Click All Categories.

    color category menu

  3. Click New.

    The Add New Category dialog box opens.

    Add New Category dialog box

  4. In the Name box, type a name for the new color category.

  5. In the Color list, choose the color that you want, and then click OK.

    Notes: 

    • Choosing a shortcut key is optional.

    • If you want to create a color category without a color assigned to it, click None in the color palette. The category will apply a name (and a shortcut key if you choose) to items, and you can sort and group the items according to the category. The items also will be available in the appropriate Category Search Folder.

Assign a color category to an Outlook item

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.

Note: The first time that you assign a default color category to an item, you are prompted to rename the category. At that time, you can also change the color of the category, rename it, and choose a keyboard shortcut.

Assign a color category to an item in a table view

Assigning color categories to items in your Inbox or other table views is similar for all types of Outlook items.

Note: Assigning color categories in a card view in Contacts (such as Business Cards view) or Icons view in Notes is the same as assigning color categories in table view.

  • To assign a color category, do one of the following:

    • Select the item, click Categorize Button image on the toolbar, and then click a color category.

    • Right-click the item, point to Categorize Button image on the shortcut menu, and then click a color category.

      Only the 15 most recently used color categories appear on the Categorize menu. To see more categories or to create a new category, click All Categories. 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.

      Notes: 

      • In timeline views such as those offered in Tasks and Journal, the only way to assign a color category to the item is by using the shortcut menu method described above.

      • For Journal view, the Categorize button is not displayed on the toolbar by default. To add this button, on the Tools menu, click Customize. On the Commands tab, in the Categories list, click Actions. In the Commands list, click Categorize and drag it to the toolbar where you want it to appear.

The default color categories have generic names, such as Red Category and Blue Category. To easily identify and organize your categorized items, you can rename the color categories by using names that are meaningful to you.

Note: If you change a color category that is already assigned to items, all of the items that have that category assigned are updated to the new name.

  1. On the toolbar, click Categorize Button image .

  2. Click All Categories.

    color category menu

  3. In the Name list, click the name of a color category, and then click Rename.

  4. In the Name list, type the new name for the color category.

    • To automatically assign the color category that you are renaming to items that are selected in the main Microsoft Outlook window, select the check box next to the color category in the Name list, and then click OK.

    • The first time that you assign an existing color category to an item, you're prompted to rename the color 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 list, choose a color category.

Changing to a different Quick Click category does not change the color category already assigned to any item. However, if you change the name or color of any color category, all of the items that have that color category assigned are updated to reflect the new name or color.

You can also set your current Quick Click category from the Categorize menu in any open item.

You can assign a Quick Click category to most Outlook items when you view them in a table view, such as your Inbox, or in the To-Do Bar.

  • In your Inbox or other table view, click the Categories column next to a message. This adds the color associated with your Quick Click category to the column. If you open the item, the color and the name of the color category appear near the top of the item.

    Notes: 

    • You can remove the Quick Click category by simply clicking the Categories column again.

    • You can assign a Quick Click category to multiple items at the same time. Just select all of the items, and then click the Categories column next to one of the items.

By associating a keyboard shortcut key with a color category, you can quickly assign the color category to an item, such as an e-mail message, by selecting the item in your Inbox or another table view and then pressing the shortcut key. You can also use the shortcut key to assign a color category to multiple items at the same time.

  1. On the toolbar of the main Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 window, click Categorize Button image .

  2. At the bottom of the menu, click All Categories.

  3. In the Name list, select the check box for a color category.

  4. In the Shortcut Key list, choose a keyboard shortcut.

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