Apply Categories Automatically With Rules in Outlook

Let your inbox automatically organize all your emails into categories

Organize your inbox and categorize your emails. Categories make emails easier to find. For example, set up categories for email that contains certain words in the Subject line or specified recipients in the Cc line. Then, automate categories by creating a rule so that Outlook.com applies the desired category when the message is delivered to your inbox.

Instructions in this article apply to Outlook 2019, 2016, 2013, 2010; Outlook for Office 365; and Outlook.com.

Apply Categories Automatically with Rules in Outlook.com

To set up a filter in Outlook.com to add categories automatically to incoming messages automatically:

  1. Go to Outlook.com and sign in to your account.

  2. Go to Settings and select View all Outlook settings.

    Screenshot of View all Outlook settings from Outlook menu
  3. In the Settings dialog box, select Mail > Rules.

  4. Select Add new rule.

    Screenshot of rules in Outlook settings
  5. In the Name your rule text box, enter a name for the rule.

  6. Select the Add a condition dropdown arrow and choose the condition you want to use to assign a category. For example, to categorize email marked as important, choose Importance and select the High option.

  7. Select the Add an action dropdown arrow, choose Categorize, then select the category you want to assign it to.

    Screenshot of the Rules menu in Outlook.com
  8. Select Save to save the rule.

  9. The new rule is added to the Rules settings dialog box and incoming emails that match the rule criteria are assigned to the category.

Remove an Existing Outlook.Com Rule

If you want to remove any of the category rules you've created, go to the Rules list (Settings > Mail > Rules) and select Delete rule (the trash can icon) to remove the rule from the list.

Screenshot of deleting a rule in Outlook.com

Apply Categories Automatically with Rules Using the Outlook Desktop App

You can also add categories automatically to incoming emails in the Outlook desktop app as well.

  1. Open the Outlook desktop app and go to the Home tab.

  2. Select Rules > Create Rule.

    Screenshot of creating a rule in desktop Outlook
  3. In the Create Rule dialog box, select Advanced Options.

    Screenshot of selecting Advanced Options in Outlook desktop
  4. In the Rules Wizard, choose the condition you want to use to automatically add a category to the incoming email, then select Next.

    Screenshot of selecting conditions in the Rules wizard
  5. Select the assign it to the category category check box.

  6. Select the blue category link.

  7. In the Color Categories dialog box, select the category you want to assign to the incoming email.

    Screenshot of assigning a category to email in Outlook desktop

    To customize a category, select Rename and enter a different name for the category.

  8. Select OK to close the Color Categories dialog box.

  9. In the Rules Wizard, select Finish to create the rule.

Remove Rules on Outlook Desktop

To see the list of rules you created, go to the Home tab and select Rules > Manage Rules & Alerts. Use the Rules & Alerts dialog box to manage the rules you created. To delete a rule, choose the rule and select Delete.

Screenshot of managing rules in Outlook desktop