How to Change the Way Unread Messages Are Highlighted in Outlook

Conditional formatting can change the way Outlook messages appear

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Microsoft Outlook, by default, shows unread messages in the same font style as read messages, except that they're highlighted with a blue bar. If you want unread messages to stand out more, set up a conditional format to change the font to a different size, color, or style.

Information in this article applies to Outlook 2019, 2016, 2013, 2010; Outlook for Office 365; and Outlook Online.

How to Use Conditional Formatting on Unread Outlook Messages

To apply conditional formatting to unread messages:

  1. Go to the View tab and select View Settings.

    Screenshot of View Settings in Outlook
  2. In the Advanced View Settings dialog box, select Conditional Formatting.

    Screenshot of Conditional Formatting in Advanced View Settings
  3. In the Conditional Formatting dialog box, select Add.

    Screenshot of Adding Conditional Format in Outlook
  4. In the Name text box, enter a descriptive name for the new conditional formatting rule such as Custom unread mail.

    Screenshot of naming new conditional format in Outlook
  5. Select Font to change the font settings.

  6. In the Font dialog box, change the Font, Font style, Size, or Color.

    Screenshot of selecting Font for unread items
  7. Select OK.

  8. In the Conditional Formatting dialog box, select Condition.

    Screenshot of selecting formatting condition in Outlook
  9. In the Filter dialog box, go to the More Choices tab.

  10. Select the Only items that are check box and choose Unread.

    Screenshot of setting up an unread filer in Outlook
  11. Select OK.

  12. In the Conditional Formatting dialog box, select OK.

  13. In the Advanced View Settings dialog box, select OK.

  14. Go to your Inbox.

    Screenshot of unread messages displayed with conditional formatting
  15. All unread messages follow your new conditional formatting rule.

Conditional Formatting on Unread Messages in Outlook 2007

To format unread messages in Outlook 2007:

  1. Select View > Current View > Customize Current View.
  2. Select Automatic Formatting.
  3. Select Unread Messages.
  4. Select Font and choose your desired font settings.
  5. Select OK to save the new settings.

Conditional Formatting on Unread Messages in Outlook Online

Outlook Online doesn't have a specific setting to define the format of unread messages. However, there is a workaround that applies different rules to make unread messages stand out.

  1. Open Outlook.com and select Settings (the gear icon in the upper-right corner of the screen).

    Screenshot of settings in Outlook online
  2. Select View all Outlook settings.

    Screenshot of View all Outlook settings in Outlook online
  3. In the Settings window, select Mail > Rules.

  4. Select Add new rule.

    Screenshot of adding a new rule in Outlook online
  5. Enter a descriptive name for your rule.

  6. Select the Add a condition dropdown arrow and choose Apply to all messages.

  7. Select the Add an action dropdown arrow and choose Categorize. Then select the category to apply to all new messages.

    Screenshot of applying rule to all unread messages.
  8. Select Save, then close the Settings window.

Applying a category to all new messages requires that you recategorize messages as you read them. If you prefer not to do this, other options for marking unread messages in Outlook online include:

  • Pin to the top of your inbox
  • Move to a unique folder
  • Mark as important