Color Code Your E-mails Advanced

If you ever used to color code your emails via the Organize feature in Outlook 2003 or previous, you were actually customizing you view by adding “Automatic Formatting” rules.

In Outlook 2010 and later, the Organize dialog has been removed completely and color coding is only possible via the View Settings dialog. The feature has also been renamed to “Conditional Formatting”.

Even though this feature might have a bit of a colored history (pun intended) and the “Conditional Formatting” looks complex at first, creating color coding rules via Conditional Formatting is actually fairly easy and much more powerful than the old Organize feature.

This guide will help you on your way to get yourself familiar with the Conditional Formatting options via some color coding examples which might be useful to you as well.


 

Conditional Formatting Basics

  • Opening the Conditional Formatting dialog:
    • Outlook 2003 and Outlook 2007
      View-> Arrange By-> Custom…-> Automatic Formatting…
    • Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2013
      tab View-> View Settings-> Conditional Formatting…
  • You can sort the rules by using the “Move Up” and “Move Down” buttons. The higher listed rules takes precedence over the lower ones. A lower listed rule can append the formatting of a higher listed rule if the formatting is not defined. For instance, when in a higher rule the font color is set to “Auto”.
  • Specifying names in a Conditional Formatting rules is a bit tricky. The name must exactly match the name as displayed in the From field the message. Better is to create the rule based on the e-mail address. If you are in an Exchange environment, you can simply add the names as listed in the Global Address Book of your company.
  • The Conditional Formatting rule only applies to the folders which use the same view. To apply your custom view to other folders see: Applying custom views to all folders at once.
  • If the rule doesn’t do what you expect it to do once created, you might want to try to remove or even isolate statements (by creating a separate rule for that statement) to find out where things go wrong.
  • Do not add too much color to your mailbox or the organizing effect gets lost but you’ll be left with a nice rainbow though.

Conditional Formatting Examples

I’ll explain the advanced color editing by the following examples/ideas. The examples are getting more advanced each time so when you’ve practiced them all you should be able to handle it as a pro because in contradiction with the basic coloring you are not limited to these examples;

Color code messages by words in the message

  1. Open the Conditional Formatting dialog.
  2. Press the Add… button
  3. Give the rule a name
  4. Press the Condition… button
  5. In the “Search for the word(s)” field add the words Automatic Formatting should respond on
  6. By the “In” dropdown list you can specify whether to look in Subject, Subject and Body or common mail fields (like From or Category)
  7. Press OK
  8. Press the Font… button to specify how the messages that correspond to the conditions you just set are displayed. Press OK when you are done.
  9. Press OK to leave Automatic Formatting. Your rule will apply immediately to al messages already received which correspond to the rule just created

Color code messages by Category

  1. Open the Conditional Formatting dialog.
  2. Press the Add… button
  3. Give the rule a name
  4. Press the Condition… button
  5. Press the More Choices tab
  6. Press the Categories… button
  7. Select the categories you want to Automatic Formatting to respond to. To instantly add a Category press the Master Category List… button type the name of the new category and press the Add button. When you are done selecting categories press OK.
  8. Press OK
  9. Press the Font… button to specify how the messages that correspond to the conditions you just set are displayed. Press OK when you are done.
  10. Press OK to leave Automatic Formatting. Your rule will apply immediately to al messages already received which correspond to the rule just created

Color code messages when the message is larger than 1MB and contains specific words

  1. Open the Conditional Formatting dialog.
  2. Press the Add… button
  3. Give the rule a name
  4. Press the Condition… button
  5. In the “Search for the word(s)” field add the words Automatic Formatting should respond on
  6. By the “In” dropdown list you can specify whether to look in Subject, Subject and Body or common mail fields (like From or Category)
  7. Press the More Choices tab
  8. At the bottom in the Size frame press the down arrow where now “Doesn’t matter” is displayed and set it to “Greater than”
  9. One text area will become active now. In this window type 1024 (1024 kilobytes is 1MB)
  10. Press OK
  11. Press the Font… button to specify how the messages that correspond to the conditions you just set are displayed. Press OK when you are done.
  12. Press OK to leave Automatic Formatting. Your rule will apply immediately to al messages already received which correspond to the rule just created

Color code messages received today addressed directly to me coming from specific persons

  1. Open the Conditional Formatting dialog.
  2. Press the Add… button
  3. Give the rule a name
  4. Press the Condition… button
  5. At the bottom next to Time press the down arrow where now “none” is displayed and set it to “received”
  6. The dropdown list next to “received” will now become active and is set to “anytime” by default. Set this to “today”
  7. In the Sent To… field type your e-mail address. If you’ve got more than one e-mail address configured in Outlook you can enter here more than one e-mailaddress. make sure you divide them with an ” ; “. Example; address1@domain1.com; address2@domain.com; address1@domain2.com. Please mind the rules about using the Sent To… button; read them here.
  8. In the From… field type the addresses of the people you want Automatic Formatting to respond to. Again; mind the rules about using the From… button
  9. Press OK
  10. Press the Font… button to specify how the messages that correspond to the conditions you just set are displayed. Press OK when you are done.
  11. Press OK to leave Automatic Formatting. Your rule will apply immediately to al messages already received which correspond to the rule just created

Color code messages that have a receipt request and is considered confidential

  1. Open the Conditional Formatting dialog.
  2. Press the Add… button
  3. Give the rule a name
  4. Press the Condition… button
  5. Press the tab Advanced
  6. Press the Field button
  7. Navigate to and select All Mail Fields-> Receipt Requested
  8. You’ll now see “Receipt Request” in the text box under Field and next to it (under Condition) you’ll see a dropdown list set to “equals to” and next to that (under Value) you’ll see a dropdown list set to “no”. Set this value to “yes”
  9. Press the “Add to List” button. The statement is now added to the “Find items that match these criteria:” window
  10. Again press the Field button
  11. Navigate to and select Frequently-used fields-> Sensitivity
  12. You’ll now see “Sensitivity” in the text box under Field and next to it (under Condition) you’ll see a dropdown list set to “equals to” and next to that (under Value) you’ll see a dropdown list set to “normal”. Set this value to “confidential”
  13. Press the “Add to List” button. The statement is now added to the “Find items that match these criteria:” window so you’ll now see both statements just created.
  14. Press OK
  15. Press the Font… button to specify how the messages that correspond to the conditions you just set are displayed. Press OK when you are done.
  16. Press OK to leave Automatic Formatting. Your rule will apply immediately to al messages already received which correspond to the rule just created

Color code a meeting request where you have not yet responded to

  1. Open the Conditional Formatting dialog.
  2. Press the Add… button
  3. Give the rule a name
  4. Press the Condition… button
  5. Press the tab Advanced
  6. Press the Field button
  7. Navigate to and select Appointment-> Meeting Status
  8. You’ll now see “Meeting Status” in the text box under Field and next to it (under Condition) you’ll see a dropdown list set to “equals to” and next to that (under Value) you’ll see a dropdown list set to “Meeting organizer”. Set this value to “not yet responded”
  9. Press the “Add to List” button. The statement is now added to the “Find items that match these criteria:” window
  10. Press OK
  11. Press the Font… button to specify how the messages that correspond to the conditions you just set are displayed. Press OK when you are done.
  12. Press OK to leave Automatic Formatting. Your rule will apply immediately to al messages already received which correspond to the rule just created

Well that should be it! You are now able to create rules with combined types of conditions. Again; If the rule doesn’t do what you expect it to do once created you might want to try to remove or even isolate statements (by creating a separate rule for that statement) to find out where things go wrong.