Color Code Emails in Outlook

Color Code Emails in Outlook

You can Color Code Emails in Outlook as an easy way to use visual elements to highlight messages in your Inbox.

This is especially useful to help to quickly identify specific messages that meet specific criteria.

This feature is called "Automatic Formatting" in Microsoft Outlook, but may be called "Color Formatting" or "Conditional Formatting" in other Email systems. Although the examples I am giving below are to Color Code Emails in Outlook, many Email systems have similar functionality and the ability to adjust how messages are displayed in the inbox.

Typical items that can be changed with Inbox Conditional color Formatting include:

  • The color of the entire line in the inbox.
  • The font size or font style of the entire line in the inbox.

By default, Microsoft Outlook already has several default formats for messages in the Inbox:

  • Unread – Messages that are unread appear in bold
  • Not Sent – Messages that were never sent appear in italics
  • Expired – Messages past a defined "expiration date" appear in strikethrough
  • Overdue – Messages that are past a defined "due date" appear in red

You can also create your own inbox automatic color formatting rules for messages that meet specific conditions, such as:

  • Messages from specific people (e.g.: your manager, project team member, important customer)
  • Messages that contain specific subject lines or containing specific words

Here is an example of the steps to Color Code Emails in Outlook from a specific person to always appear as RED and BOLD in your inbox:

  • Select "View", "Current View", and "Customize Current View".
  • Select "Automatic Formatting".
  • Select "Add".
  • Create a name for the formatting rule, such as "Manager Rule".
  • Select the "Font" button.
  • Select "Bold" and "Red" and then "OK".
  • Select the "Condition" button.
  • In the "From" field, add any name(s) of individuals that you want to trigger this rule.

Now, any e-mails that are "from" any of these individuals will automatically display in your Inbox in Red Bold.

(Note: The above steps are for Outlook 2007, and may vary slightly for other versions of Outlook).

As with other inbox features, such as categories and flags, it is best to use inbox conditional color formatting selectively and not overuse them, or you start to dilute their use.

In addition, I do not suggest you use different size fonts, as this makes the inbox very difficult to view. I would recommend you only alter the color and perhaps the font style (i.e.: Bold, Italics, Underline, etc.).

I also encourage people to experiment with inbox conditional color formatting and determine how they fit best within your own inbox processing and triage routines.

Please feel free to share your experiences (good and bad) in utilizing color code emails in outlook.

How do you work color coding it into your inbox processing routines?