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Make Important Email Standout in Outlook with Color Coding

by on March 16, 2018
in Computers and Software, Software & Games, Productivity, Tips & How-Tos, Tech 101 :: 23 comments

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To make sure emails from important contacts stand out and do not go unnoticed, you can set up a rule that makes the email appear in a specific color or a specific size and type of font. For example, you can make emails from your boss appear in a larger font or have emails from family members all appear in red. To set up the way emails are displayed for Outlook 2016, Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2007:

For Outlook 2016:

  1. Go to the View tab
  2. Select View Settings
    Outlook View tab
  3. Choose Conditional Formatting
    Outlook 2016 Conditional Formatting
  4. Click Add
  5. Name your rule
  6. Click on Font
    Conditional Formatting
  7. Pick a color, style and size and click OK
    Outlook Font selection
  8. Click on Condition
    Outlook Condition
  9. Type in the email address of the sender or senders you want to highlight. For multiple people, separate the email addresses with a semicolon. And, if you all emails from a particular company with a unique domain name, you can use the "@" domainname.com. For example, Techlicious would be: @techlicious.com
    Outlook 2016 conditional formatting: from Techlicious

Here's how email will appear if you assign red to a contact.

Outlook Color Coding

For Outlook 2010:

  1. Go to the View tab
    Outlook View tab
  2. Select View Settings
    Outlook Conditional Formatting
  3. Choose Conditional Formatting
    Conditional Formatting
  4. Click Add
  5. Name your rule
  6. Click on Font and pick a color, style and size and click OK
    Outlook Font selection
  7. Click on Condition
    Outlook Condition
  8. Type in the email address of the sender or senders you want to highlight. For multiple people, separate the emaill addresses with a semicolon.

AnchorFor Outlook 2007:

  1. Go to the Tools menu outlook tools menu
  2. Select Organize, Using Colors
  3. Then choose specific colors for emails from specific people
  4. More advanced automatic settings for applying font type and size to emails can be added by selecting Automatic Formatting in the top right corner of the Using Colors screen
  5. Click “Add” to create more rules

When you're finished creating your rule, important email will stand out.

Updated on 3/16/2018

[Image credit: important email concept via BigStockPhoto]



Discussion loading

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Given that macs make up

From James Eliot on January 18, 2011 :: 12:15 pm

Given that macs make up the majority of computers for early adopters, and an even higher percentage for female early tech adopters, you might note that the color coding of email works easily in Mac Mail as well. 

Merely go to Mail > Preferences > Rules and add a rule that assigns a color to specific senders as you designate.
Keep up the good work.  By the way, I really liked the daily coverage of CES.

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Macs do not appear to have this feature under rules

From Paco V. on February 12, 2012 :: 3:12 am

Outlook from mac does not appear to have an option to modify colors, nor modify fonts under rule actions.

I have not been able to “merely” go to Mail > Preferences > Rules and add a rule that assigns a color to senders, recipients, etc…

Are there extra steps or commands that might be missing?

-PV

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Thanks!

From Cynthia Tews on September 30, 2014 :: 3:12 pm

Outlook is so unintuitive, I could not for the life of me figure out how to color code. Your article was the only thing that helped me!

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Awesome, thanks....

From Cynthia H on April 01, 2016 :: 12:38 pm

great instructions…made this task very easy! Thanks

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How do I send color coded email ?

From Jacob T on July 14, 2016 :: 11:28 pm

I occasionally get an email in Outlook that stands out by its red color, as opposed to all the emails in the list that are plain black.  How can I send an email that will show up on the receivers side in red color ?

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Color is controlled by the receiver, not the sender.

From Josh Kirschner on July 15, 2016 :: 9:44 am

The color coding in Outlook is controlled by the receiver of the messages (based on their Outlook settings), not the sender. If you are seeing messages in red, it may because they were sent as “high priority”. You can check your own Outlook settings to see which messages default to red on your end and, perhaps, your recipient will have it set up the same way. Also, this only applies to Outlook. If the person is reading those messages on a mobile device or via the web (e.g., Google Mail), settings will be different.

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Still not working :(

From Jill on January 31, 2017 :: 12:00 pm

I went through all these steps and even rebooted my system and the color code rule is not working. Any additional tips? Should I select Reset View to make the change occur?

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I just went through the

From Suzanne Kantra on February 23, 2017 :: 6:08 pm

I just went through the process again with Outlook 2016 and it works the same. Just make sure you click “ok” on all of the boxes.

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Mark emails without using a rule

From Yunus on October 30, 2017 :: 3:14 am

In Outlook2010 I want to select random emails to be different colours so I can go back to them later. How can I do that? And can I then filter based on colour?

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You can

From jatinkg on April 12, 2017 :: 6:03 am

You can effectively do it using ‘Change View settings’ button from View menu. Bingo!

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Can you tell us these same steps if you're using Outlook 2016 for Mac?

From Liz on June 02, 2017 :: 8:44 am

Our company is mostly PCs so these instructions will work for them, but we have 6 Mac users and these directions don’t work for the Outlook 2016 for Mac.  Can you write up directions for that?  Thanks!

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Phone View

From J on June 29, 2017 :: 12:43 pm

I was wondering if there is any way to get the color coding to show up on the Iphone app view??

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I want a manual setting

From Patrick on July 05, 2017 :: 11:43 am

Is there a way that I can decide? If I get 15 emails from the same person and only 1 is important enough to be flagged, that’s the only one I want highlighted, bold, Arial, with a 16 pt font size, can I make a menu item to do so?

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filters

From Mary on July 25, 2017 :: 10:02 am

I tried to follow the directions.  On the advanced View Settings: Compact dialog box, I choose conditional formatting; I then identify a few people I want to receive in a different color, hit ok.  their names appear in the Filter section of the dialog box.  I want to add more names but will they all appear?  Your screen shot just says “advanced” in the filter section.

thanks

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add on to previous message

From Mary on July 25, 2017 :: 10:05 am

and I just had to clear everything I did in previous message as my inbox disappeared.  I guess what I did was to only have emails from certain people appear. 

so, I am missing something.

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Worked for me!

From KJS on August 02, 2017 :: 12:44 pm

THANK YOU!!!

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Issues with priority

From Victor on February 13, 2018 :: 11:59 pm

I’m having issues prioritizing rules that may overlap. For instance, I have the default “unread messages” rule set to have the font in red. However, I also have a rule for messages sent only to me (and CC: and BCC: being set to “empty”) to be green.

So, when I receive an email sent only to me but it’s unread, it defaults to green. I want unread messages to first prioritize to red (even if only sent to me). I can’t seem to select the “move up” or “move down” buttons (they are greyed out- is it possible these have been deliberately restricted?).

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There are a few rules

From Suzanne Kantra on March 13, 2018 :: 9:19 am

There are a few rules at the top of the list in the “Conditional Formatting” section that you can’t move. If you uncheck the default “Unread Messages” rule and then add your own new rules. You can reorder rules that you create. Here’s the order that worked for me:

1. Unread Messages from specific person 1 (make sure you go to the “more choices” tab and check off “Only items that are:” and make it “unread”)
2. Messages from specific person 1 (do not go to the “more choices” tab and select anything for “Only items that are:”)
3. Unread Messages (the new one I created)

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add the name of the person as well

From Karen CN on February 27, 2018 :: 10:07 pm

Hi, this is a real late response. I was struggling with mine as well and then I read that after the email, you must place semi colon and the first and last name…
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address); john doe
that did the trick for me!

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can only get one email address to work

From Tina Abbott on March 09, 2018 :: 6:06 am

When i add additional rules for another email and colour it does not do it.

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There are a few rules

From Suzanne Kantra on March 13, 2018 :: 9:43 am

Adding Rules for Multiple People:
There are a few rules at the top of the list in the “Conditional Formatting” section that you can’t move. If you uncheck the default “Unread Messages” rule and then add your own new rules. You can reorder rules that you create. Here’s the order that worked for me:

1. Unread Messages from specific person 1 (make sure you go to the “more choices” tab and check off “Only items that are:” and make it “unread”)
2. Messages from specific person 1 (do not go to the “more choices” tab and select anything for “Only items that are:”)
3. Unread Messages from specific person 2 (make sure you go to the “more choices” tab and check off “Only items that are:” and make it “unread”)
4. Messages from specific person 2 (do not go to the “more choices” tab and select anything for “Only items that are:”)

[add rules in pairs like the above, with the unread rule first and the general rule second.]

5. Only at the very end, add a rule that you create for Unread Messages.

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Color coding sent messages

From Catherine on March 15, 2018 :: 8:04 pm

Thanks for the info.
I am trying to colour code messages that I have sent to specific people but just can’t get it to work. I have successfully colour coded messages from specific people with various colours.
Is this what the Sent To field is for?
Also, how do I make it colour code emails to multiple people at the same domain address? I have done this successfully for emails from a domain.
Thanks for your help

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Color coding sent mail items

From Suzanne Kantra on March 16, 2018 :: 1:11 pm

To color code sent mail items, you should select your sent mail folder, then go to View > View Settings > Conditional formatting. And then you are correct in that you should put the email address or domain in the “Sent to” field.

To color code for everyone at a specific domain, use the “@” before the domain. So for Techlicious, it would look like this:

@techlicious.com

otherwise, include the full email and separate recipients by a comma.

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