How to Create Folders to Organize Mail in Outlook

Stay organized with Outlook folders, subfolders, and categories

An illustration of a laptop computer with file folders coming through the screen.

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Anyone who receives a large amount of email can benefit from creating folders in Outlook.com and Outlook 2016. Whether you choose to label them "Clients," "Family," "Bills," or any number of other choices, they simplify your Inbox and help you organize your mail. If you want to add subfolders—say one for each member of your family—inside a folder, you can do that too. Outlook also provides categories you can assign to individual emails. Use custom email folders, subfolders and categories to organize your Outlook Mail account.

Moving Messages in Outlook Out of the Inbox

If you want to store mail in a place other than the main Inbox, you need to learn how to create folders in Outlook. Adding folders is easy; you can name them as you choose and organize the folders in hierarchies using subfolders. To organize messages, you can also use categories.

How to Create a New Folder in Outlook.com

To add a new top-level folder to Outlook.com, log in to your account on the web and then:

  1. Click the New folder link at the bottom of the folders list in the left navigation pane.
  2. The link changes to a text box. Type the desired name for the folder. 
  3. Press the Enter key on your keyboard.

Alternatively:

  1. Right-click the folder to which you want to add a folder. Be careful to choose items from the Folders list and not the Favorites list. If you right click on an item from the Favorites list, you won't be able to create a new folder.
  2. Select Create new subfolder.
  3. A text box appears beneath the folder you right-clicked on. Type the name you want to give the new folder.
  4. Press the Enter key.

How to Create a Subfolder in Outlook.com 

To create a new folder as a subfolder of an existing Outlook.com folder:

  1. Right-click (or Control-click) on the folder under which you want to create the new subfolder.
  2. Select Create new subfolder from the context menu that appears.
  3. Type the new folder's desired name in the field provided.
  4. Click Enter to save the subfolder.
    1. Note: The same steps work for creating deeper subfolders under any new subfolders. Simply repeat steps 1-4 for each subfolder you want to create.

You can also click and drag a folder in the list and drop it on top of a different folder to make it a subfolder.

After you've created several new folders, you can click on an email and use the Move to option at the top of the Mail screen to move the message to one of the new folders.

How to Add a New Folder in Outlook 2016

Adding a new folder to the folder pane in Outlook 2016 is similar to the web process: 

  1. In the left navigation pane of Outlook Mail, right-click the folder in which you want to add a new subfolder.
  2. Click Create new subfolder.
  3. Enter a name for the folder.
  4. Press Enter.

Click and drag individual messages from your Inbox (or any other folder) to the new folders you make to organize your email.

You can also set up rules in Outlook to filter emails from specific senders to a folder so you don't have to do it manually.

Use Categories to Color Code Your Messages

You can use the default color codes or personalize them by setting up your category preferences. To do this in Outlook.com, you go to the Settings Gear > View Full Settings > General > Categories. There, you can select the colors and categories and indicate whether you want them to appear at the bottom of the folder pane, where you click to apply them to individual emails. You can also access the available categories from the More icon.

To apply a category color to an email using the More icon:

  1. Open the email in the message list.
  2. Select the Categories drop-down menu at the top of the message.
  3. Choose the category you want to apply to the email. A color indicator appears next to the email in the message list and the header of the opened email.

Alternatively:

  1. In your message list, right-click the email you want to categorize.
  2. Select Categorize in the menu that appears.
  3. Choose the category you want to apply to the email. A color indicator appears next to the mail in the message list and the header of the opened email.

The process is similar in Outlook. Locate the Categories icon in the ribbon and place a check in the box next to colors you want to use or rename. Then, click individual emails and apply the color code. You can apply more than one color code to each email if you are a particularly organized individual.