How to Add or Edit Color Categories in Outlook

Use color categories to group related email, contacts, notes and appointments

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In Microsoft Outlook, you can use color categories to organize all kinds of items including email messages, contacts, and appointments. By assigning the same color to a group of related items such as notes, contacts and email messages, you can easily track them. If any of the items is related to more than one category, you can assign it more than one color. 

Outlook comes with a set of default color categories, but it's easy to add your own categories or change the color and name of an existing label.

You can even set keyboard shortcuts that apply categories to highlighted items.

Add a New Color Category

  1. Click Categorize in the Tags group on the Home tab.
  2. Select All Categories from the drop-down list that appears.
  3. In the Color Categories dialog box that opens, click New.
  4. Type a name for the new color category in the field next to Name.
  5. Use the drop-down menu of colors next to Color to select the color for the new category.
  6. If you want to assign a keyboard shortcut to the new category, select the shortcut from the drop-down menu next to Shortcut Key.
  7. Click OK to save the new color category.

Look for the Tags group on the Appointment or Meeting tabs for calendar items. For an open contact or task, the Tags group is on the Contact or Task tab.

Assign a Color Category to an Email

Assigning a color category to individual emails is useful for organizing your inbox. To assign a color category to a message in your inbox:

  1. Right-click on the message.
  2. Select Categorize.
  3. Click a color category to apply it to the email.
  4. You' are asked if you want to change the name of the category the first time you use it. If so, type it in.

If the email message is open, click Categorize in the Tags group and then select a color category. 

Note: Categories don't work for emails in an IMAP account.

Edit Color Categories in Outlook

To edit the list of color categories:

  1. Click the Categorize in the Tags group on the Home tab.
  2. Select All Categories from the menu.
  3. Highlight the desired category to select it.
  • To change the category title, click Rename and type the new name in the Name list.
  • To choose a different color, click the down arrow next to Color and click the desired color or choose None.
  • To assign the category a keyboard shortcut, click the Shortcut Key list and choose the desired keyboard combination.
  • To remove a category from the categories list – not from items it has been applied to previously – click Delete.
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