Organize Your Microsoft Outlook Inbox Using Color

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A few years ago I stumbled across a feature of Microsoft Outlook which helps prevent me from missing important emails. Here’s how to use this color trick.

Like everyone these days, I get a lot of emails. A few years ago, I stumbled across a feature of Microsoft Outlook which helps prevent me from missing important emails, namely from my boss or an important customer. If nothing else, it’s a straightforward way to triage your Inbox using color codes.

Organize Your Outlook Inbox Using Colors

The feature I’m talking about is the Outlook Organize. I’m honestly not sure what it’s called, but we’re going with that.

First, let’s Color Code all new emails from the Important Person Red and then Color all new emails sent Only to me Blue. This setup will be handy since emails sent only to me typically means waiting for a response.

1.   Open Outlook and click on an email from your Manager (or someone else important).

2.   Click Using Colors Tab and verify the remaining settings (To or From, Name and Color); click Apply Color when ready.

2a.   From the same menu above, click Turn On to color all emails sent “Only to Me” as Blue (or pick your color).

3.   Click the X on the far right to exit the Organize Options.

The changes are instantaneous, and the variations using Colors are limitless.

A great tip when I found it, and I hope you enjoy it. I would love to hear any comments. If anyone has any tips, please let us know here or in our forum.



  1. JohnT

    I honestly had no idea that was there. Just enabled both the settings and lovin it!

  2. MrGroove

    @JohnT – Yup. I used outlook for a long time before I noticed the feature. Will try to find and write about more of these for the groovy community!

    • Santi

      Hi MrGroove,

      How about for Microsoft Outlook 2010. Does this option available? I’m already tried hard to find it, but no way it can organize colour for the contact addresses.

  3. Tara

    I really enjoyed this article. I enabled it yesterday at work for my boss. Thank you!

  4. Angie

    YES! I accidentally stumbled across this feature back in 2006 and forgot how to find it and use it when I started with my new job this year. Thanks!

  5. will

    hi all, i have a problem when i set this Orgnaize like this “from zhang, leo in red “, after apply color, the mail from “zhang, leo” turns red but also the mail form “Yuan, Leo” turns red too . i only want to set the mail form “zhang, leo” turns red. so ,how to make it , thks u all for reply

  6. Craig Sanders

    Will, the way to keep Outlook from coloring messages from everybody who shares the same first or last name is to enclose the name you want in quotation marks. Follow the usual steps to color all messages from Zhang, Leo, but before you click Apply, put quotes around his name: “Zhang, Leo”. This will keep Outlook from coloring everyone else named Leo too.

    • MrGroove

      @Craig Sanders,
      Thanks for answering that for Will Craig! Great Tip!

    • David Bigelow

      Thank you so much. I’ve struggled with that for years.

  7. Johnno

    Ok, here is a unique problem I have with this feature.
    I have set this up but we have two people in the office with the same last name and I only want 1 of them to show up as “Red”.

    I.e. I want “Smith, Jane” to be “red” but when I assign “Smith, Jane” do that messages from “Smith, John” are also highlighted “red”

    Has anyone else experienced this problem before, or does anyone know how I can solve this minor (annoying) dilemma?

    • MrGroove

      @Johnno – The solution should actually be fairly easy to fix. All you need to do is CLick on the Advanced Formatting Button on the top right of the screen as shown in the image on Step #3.

      From there you need to Click Add, give it a name, Click Font to configure the color and font, then Click Condition to setup the rule.

      The rule is easy after clicking Condition. Just Click the From button and fill out the person you want to configure (color) then Click OK. Again, you can make it as complicated as you want in condition which is cool because there are so many options.

      Play around with it and let us know if you figure it out!

  8. Valerie

    When I move my color coded e-mail from my inbox to a different folder, it maintains the color coding. When my coworker moves hers, it changes to black. Is there a setting that she needs to change so that her color coding will stay when she moves the messages to different folders?

  9. Robbie

    When I changed the colors for my boss, all the font sizes changed as well and aren’t as large as he had them before; I helped another co-worker change her colors, but the font size in her inbox did not shrink (I don’t think); how can I enlarge the font size in my boss’s inbox?

    • MrGroove

      So you followed the tutorial on your Boss’s computer or just emails FROM your Boss to YOU?

      • Robbie

        I changed the colors on both his computer and mine. Problem is, I don’t have large fonts so it’s no problem for me. He does have larger fonts and for every color he selected, the font decreased to 8pt. Is there a way to change the color in Outlook 2003 without it reducing the font size to 8pt?

  10. Paul

    This is a very good tip, and have been using it in the past. How do you do the same in Oultook 2010? I have hunted high and low to no avail


  11. Jane R.

    When I set the color green for email From Simth, the Outlook apply the same color to an email From Brown if Smith is among its multiple receivers. Could you help to fix it? Truly appreciated! Jane

  12. Victor

    There are also a few other options available. Now, for e.g., there is available in Outlook Priority Inbox. It does not come from Google, however you can still download it for free from : htp:// because the add-in is still in beta. Of course, you can contribute by sending feedback.

  13. chf

    When I colse Outlook and re-open my categorie colors are not on the e-mails. Can you help?

  14. Gavin Mack

    This has been bugging me for a long time but how to you color mail sent to you when there are other people in the TO box

    in the advanced settings there is option “on the to line with other people” but if i select it doesnt change anything!

    • Steve Krause

      What version of outlook are you using @6da3e05cf670819d6733bc0c8105d36e:disqus ?

  15. Andrew Cormie

    Stumbled across your site and this information when looking for a way to change the colours of Outlook Folders, for instance to change all of the Archive folders to another colour. Have not found any way to do this. Do you know any way?
    Regarding the colouring of the email texts – this is very useful – thanks a lot for advising of it.

  16. Paul

    I work with differnt companies and each of these companies have folders with similar names thus it would be very helpful for organizing and searching if I could apply color (by company) to the “folders”. I am certainly not a programer but this seams like it would be a smple enhancement thus I am worndering if it has been done and if there is away to do this. Does anyone know if it can be done?

  17. Tammy

    I’ve used this for years, but my color reverts back to black sometimes. I reboot my computer, and it’s all still showing in black. I’ve looked on line and can’t find a reason for this. I set a lot of colors up, so it’s a pain to have to set them up every 6 months or so.

  18. Kathir

    Hi, is there any option to change folder colors in outlook 2010?

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