How to Change the Way Unread Messages Are Highlighted in Outlook

Conditional formatting can change the way messages appear

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Microsoft Outlook, by default, shows unread messages in almost the same font style as read messages except that they're highlighted blue. You can drastically change this to make the font of unread messages larger, a different color, underlined or bold.

You do this by setting up a conditional format so that the condition—unread messages—affects how the program formats the text. This might sound confusing but the steps are clearly defined.

How to Use Conditional Formatting on Unread Outlook Messages

The steps are for newer versions of Outlook:

  1. Open the View ribbon menu in MS Outlook.
  2. Click View Settings to the left.
  3. Select Conditional Formatting.
  4. Click the Add button.
  5. Name your new conditional formatting rule (Custom unread mail, for example).
  6. Click Font to change the font settings. You can select anything there, including multiple options, such as a larger font size, a different effect, and a unique color.
  7. Click OK on the Font screen to return to the Conditional Formatting window.
  8. Click Condition at the bottom of that window.
  9. In the More Choices tab, select Only items that are: and then choose Unread from that drop-down menu. If you want, you can define some other criteria there, but unread is all you need to apply the formatting changes to all unread messages.
  10. Click OK.
  11. Click OK once more to exit the Conditional Formatting window.
  12. Click OK one last time to save the rule and return to your mail, where the new rule should automatically apply.

    Microsoft Outlook 2007 and 2003

    The steps are for Outlook 2003 and 2007:

    1. In Outlook 2007, navigate to the View > Current View > Customize Current View... menu.
    2. If you're using Outlook 2003, choose View > Arrange By > Current View > Customize Current View.
    3. Click Automatic Formatting.
    4. Select Unread Messages.
    1. Click Font.
    2. Choose your desired font settings.
    3. Click OK.
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