Office 2013's color scheme

Last reviewed on December 15, 2013

I mentioned this issue in another article but because it is a big problem for many people, it generates a lot of questions *and* almost all comments are negative, it bears repeating.

The most frequently asked question to date is how to change the interface color. Outlook (and all of the Office apps) are so… white. Blindingly white. Hurts your eyes white.

Unfortunately, in the Preview, white is all you get. As bad as the blue, silver, black, or green color schemes were in older versions of Outlook, for many users they would be better than all white.

Following all of the complaints with the Preview, Microsoft added 3 color options to the final version. You can have any color you like, as long as it's gray... choosing between white, light gray, or dark gray.

You can also add a little gray scale decoration to the upper right corner of the application. It's cute eye candy, nothing more, and in the RTM build there are currently 14 designs to choose from.

Turning down the screen brightness will help, a lot. I've always kept the brightness set low and the white in Outlook 2013 RTM was livable. I didn't realize how bright the default settings were until I got a new tablet. Whoa! The default settings are really bright, even on the system that adjusts the brightness to match the room's ambient light.

Add lines to break up the message list

This tip is from James:

Go to View -> View Settings -> Other Settings and add some dots between the messages.

This is the same View Settings dialog found at the bottom of the menu when you right-click on "All Unread", or the sort order labels.

Advanced view settings for Grid lines

In the RTM screenshots below, I use a solid line to separate the messages - dots worked fine in older versions of Outlook but dots are all but invisible on my screens in Outlook 2013.

White Color scheme Outlook 2013 RTM

Outlook 2013 RTM - white color scheme

Light Gray color scheme


Dark Gray scheme

Outlook 2013 Dark gray scheme

Very White scheme Outlook 2013 Preview

Outlook 2013 Preview

Change the color or background design

To change the color scheme or the background design in the final version (not Preview), go to File, Account in any Office application (in Outlook, go to File, Office Account).

Change the color and background in File, Office Account

Written by

Diane Poremsky
A Microsoft Outlook Most Valuable Professional (MVP) since 1999, Diane is the author of several books, including Outlook 2013 Absolute Beginners Book. She also created video training CDs and online training classes for Microsoft Outlook. You can find her helping people online in Outlook Forums as well as in the Microsoft Answers and TechNet forums.

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