How to Organize Messages With Categories in Outlook

Color code your Outlook inbox and find messages easily

Guide to Organizing Outlook Messages

If you receive a lot of email messages and need a way to organize them, group your email messages into categories in Outlook. Outlook provides a starting list of categories. Rename these categories to fit your needs and add more categories if you want. Then, when you want to find messages in a category, filter your message list to show categorized emails.

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

Guide to Organizing Outlook Messages

There are multiple ways to clean up and streamline your Outlook inbox:

  • Set up a folder for each topic.
  • Create categories as you need them and add more folders.
  • For email that falls under multiple categories, give each message a categorization in the message list.
  • Outlook applies categories automatically with certain intelligence to mark newsletters, social updates, shipment notices, and advertisements.

Organize Messages with Categories in Outlook

Assign color categories to related items so you can track and sort them easily.

  1. Open the message in the Reading Pane or in a separate window. To assign a category to multiple messages, select all the emails in the message list.

  2. Go to the Home tab, in the Tags group and select Categorize. If the message is open in a separate window, go to the Message tab and select Categorize.

    Selecting the Categories option in Outlook.
  3. Choose the category you want to use.

    Screenshot of Categories

    You can assign more than one color category to items.

  4. The first time you assign a category to a message, the Rename Category dialog box opens. In the Name text box, enter a descriptive name for the category.

  5. Select Yes.

Add a New Category

You can create or rename categories in Outlook.

  1. Go to the Home tab and select Categorize.

    Screenshot of Categorize list
  2. Choose All Categories.

    Screenshot of All Categories
  3. In the Color Categories dialog box, select New to use a new color.

    Screenshot of Color Categories
  4. In the Add New Category dialog box, choose a color and enter a name for the category.

    Screenshot of Add New Category
  5. Select OK.

  6. To rename an existing category, select an existing color and choose Rename.

    Screenshot of Rename Category
  7. Type a new name for the category and press Enter.

  8. Select OK.