Outlook Categories and Color Categories

Last reviewed on November 11, 2014   —  221 comments

Applies to Microsoft Outlook 2010, Outlook 2007, Outlook 2003 and older

Outlook has always supported categories, in Outlook 97 through Outlook 2003, they were simply Categories. Outlook 2007 introduced Color Categories by merging the short-lived colored flags with categories. This page sums up a few things I’ve learned about Outlook categories and color categories, with suggestions for using and managing categories along with troubleshooting tips.

You can assign one or more categories to any Microsoft Outlook item and consistent use of categories makes it easier to locate specific items.

Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2010 do not use the registry for a master category list; they are stored in the default message store (mailbox or pst). If you are setting up a new system and using your old pst the color categories will be available on the new system. You may need to right click on the root folder (Outlook Today), choose Properties and click the button to Upgrade to color categories. This will assign random colors to the categories.

You can use Group policy to push Categories out to users, merging new categories with their existing categories. In the Group Policy Editor (with the Outlook 2007 or 2010 ADM files installed), look under Miscellaneous.

To print a list of the category names and their colors, we have a macro and instructions Print a list of Categories and their Colors.

How to Upgrade to Color Categories in Outlook 2007/2010 (video tutorial)

Unlike with older versions, you cannot paste a comma separated list of categories into the master category dialog and add them all to the Outlook 2007/2010 master list. With the exception of the All Fields page of an Outlook contact, the only way to add categories to items is using the Category picker menu or dialog. You can use the All fields page to bulk add categories to Outlook 2007 or Outlook 2010.

Outlook 2003, 2007, 2010 | Managing Categories | FAQ: Color Categories
Master Category List | Keeping Categories Consistent | How To | Category-based Mail Merge
More Fun with Categories | Things You Can’t Do with Categories | Color Names
Tools | More Information

Color Categories and IMAP Accounts

Color categories are not available in IMAP accounts by default, since they are not supported on all IMAP servers. However, there is a way to add color categories to IMAP messages. See Outlook Categories, Flags, and IMAP Accounts for more information and the workaround.

Outlook 2003, 2007, 2010

Assigning Categories to Sent Email | Categories in Shared Folders
Bulk Add Categories in Outlook 2007/2010

Outlook 2003, 2007 and 2010 disable the ability to assign a category to mail before sending it. This change was made to prevent user data from “leaking”. For example, if you use a category named “PITA Customer” you would not want it included on email sent to customers. (Yes, this type of scenario really happened, more than once.)

Assigning Categories to Sent Email

Color categories are removed from Outlook 2003/2007/2010 items sent by email. If you need to include the category on a one time basis, drag the item to the hard drive, zip it and email the zip file. The recipient will drag the item to a folder in their Outlook and if using Outlook 2007, can add the categories to their master list by using the Upgrade to color categories option in the root folder properties.

If you need to include the categories all the time, use the SendPersonalCategories registry entry.

This key works with Outlook 2003 and 2007 as well as 2010, you’ll need to use the correct path in the registry for your version. This can also be set using Group Policy – look for it in the Office adm files, under Outlook > Miscellaneous.

Create the key or path if it does not exist.

DWORD: SendPersonalCategories
Value Data: 1 to keep categories on sent mail, 0 to not include categories

If you don’t want to edit the registry yourself, download and run the registry file for your version of Outlook:

Outlook 2003 regOutlook 2007 regOutlook 2010 reg

Note that the categories will be included on the sent message and the recipient will be able to see the category (unless the recipient uses a rule to remove categories from messages they receive).

Categories in Shared Folders

Only categories are visible on items when you share folders on Exchange server – colors are per user. Other users will see your categories in a white color (unless its already in their color category list).

Not in master listTo add a category that is not in your master list, to your master list, select it (so its highlighted) and click the New button. Outlook will assign the next unused color – change the color and set a shortcut key, if desired, then click Save.

Managing Categories

To add, remove, rename, or assign shortcuts to categories, expand the category selector and choose All Categories from the end of the menu to open the Color Category dialog, shown below.

Select the category on the left then the appropriate button in the dialog to add, edit, delete categories, or assign colors or shortcuts to categories.

Use the Color Category dialog to edit categories

You cannot add categories in bulk using this dialog.

Bulk Add Categories in Outlook 2007/2010

While you can bulk add categories to any item in older versions of Outlook by typing in the category field, in Outlook 2007/2010, you need to use the category menu or dialog to select categories.

Also possible in older versions, you could type (or paste) a comma-delimited list in the master category dialog then add the list to your master list. While this is not possible to do from the master category list in Outlook 2007/2010, it is possible to type a list of categories and add them to the master list.

  1. Open a contact form and switch to the All Fields page.
  2. Select Frequently used fields from the Select from menu, then type (or paste) a comma-separated list of categories into the Category field.
  3. Next, right click on the top level of your data file (where Outlook Today is) and choose Properties
  4. Click Upgrade to Color Categories button

Bulk add categories using the All fields dialog

FAQ: Color Categories

Q: How do I reset the categories?

A: In Outlook 2007 or Outlook 2010, you can remove the categories you added and restore the defaults using the cleancategories switch. Close Outlook and type or paste the following command in the Start Search field (Windows 7) or in the Run command (WinXP):

outlook.exe /cleancategories

This will remove all categories from the master category list and restore the default category placeholder names (Red Category, Blue Category etc). This will not remove the categories from individual items. To remove categories from Outlook items, create a search folder to find the items that have categories assigned then remove the categories using Select All, then right click and choose Clear All Categories.

If you decide you want to restore the categories to the master list (and haven’t deleted them from the items yet), use Upgrade to color categories.

In Outlook 2003, go to Edit menu, Categories, Master Category List. Click Reset and close the dialog.

Q: How is the Category list organized?

A: When you expand the Categories button, the flyout is ordered by the most recently used categories. If you click All Categories to open the Color Categories dialog, the list should be alphabetical.

Master Category List

The master category list is not a separate file, but instead is part of the Windows Registry. Each user has a different category list. Outlook 2007 does not store color categories in the registry.

To back up the Master Category List in Outlook 97/98:

  1. Run Regedit and go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\8.0\Outlook and select the Categories key.
  2. Choose Registry | Export Registry File to make a copy of the Categories branch of the registry.

To back up the Master Category List in Outlook 2000:

  1. Run Regedit and go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\9.0\Outlook and select the Categories key.
  2. Choose Registry | Export Registry File to make a copy of the Categories branch of the registry.

To back up the Master Category List in Outlook 2002:

  1. Run Regedit and go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\10.0\Outlook and select the Categories key.
  2. Choose Registry | Export Registry File to make a copy of the Categories branch of the registry. Note that this list is in Unicode encoding and is not compatible with earlier versions of Outlook.

To back up the Master Category List in Outlook 2003:

  1. Run Regedit and go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\Outlook and select the Categories key.
  2. Choose Registry | Export Registry File to make a copy of the Categories branch of the registry. Note that this list is in Unicode encoding and is not compatible with versions other than Outlook 2002.

To use any of these methods to move categories to another computer using a compatible version of Outlook, you’ll need to change the version number in the key before importing.

You can use this exported branch to distribute a category list to other Outlook users. See the MSKB article How to Migrate Custom Categories to Other Users. CAUTION: Using a .reg file to propagate a category list does not update a user’s own list; instead it completely replaces it. I personally do not recommend this method, because it eliminates much the utility of the Category feature for users. See the next section for what I think is a better method.

If you remove a category from the master list, any items marked with that category are not affected. In the Categories dialog box, that category is listed as “(not in master list).”

Also see:

Keeping Categories Consistent

I’m convinced that many people worry too much about keeping the Master Category List consistent from user to user, when what they really want is to keep the categorization of the items themselves consistent. It is critical to remember that the category set on an individual item is totally independent of the user’s Master Category List.

For example, you can set a category of Blue on an item, then delete Blue from your personal Master Category List. The item is still categorized as Blue. In the Categories dialog, you should now see its category as “Blue (not on master list).” Anyone who has never had Blue on the master list will see the same thing.

Yes, it would be nice if Microsoft had made this easier, but the real issue usually is making category assignment consistent. In a public folder, consider handling that with a custom form that forces users to pick from an “official” list of categories. I’ve put together a sample form at Required Categories Contact Form.

Another approach would be to use code behind the form to make category assignment automatic based on the value of other fields in the form.

One situation where the Master Categories list makes a difference is when you are working with a large folder and dragging a large number of items between categories. When a category is not in the Master List, you risk losing the original categories from items added to new categories. You can avoid problems by dragging fewer items at a time or select the items, right click and choose Categories.

How To …

To filter a folder on multiple categories …
On the More Choices tab in the Filter dialog, type the names of the categories separated by “AND” Do not use the Categories button.

For example, to display contacts who are in both the Personal category and the Business category, type in “Personal AND Business.”

In Outlook 2007, use the Advanced tab to create the filter. Use Categories for the Field, select contains as the Condition and enter the category names, separated by AND in the Value field.

The QueryBuilder can be used to create the AND filter if you use Outlook 2002, 2003 or 2007. See Using QueryBuilder for more information.

Remove Categories From Messages

To remove categories from incoming messages, create a rule and choose the condition to “clear messages’s categories”.

If you use an older versions of Outlook, Rules Wizard doesn’t have an option to remove categories from messages you send or receive, it can only add more categories. You’ll need to use VBA to remove categories.

Private Sub Application_ItemSend(ByVal Item As Object, Cancel As Boolean)
      Item.Categories = ""
End Sub

Visit OutlookCode for assistance with Outlook programming.

Category-based Mail Merge

Note that this section does not apply to Outlook 2003/2007/2010. In any of these newer versions you can filter or group by category, select the contacts in the category and start the mail merge using Tools, Mail merge.

You can’t use categories directly as selection criteria for a Word mail merge in Outlook 97 and Outlook 98. (It is added in Outlook 2000 — but works only if each item has only one category assigned to it.) That does not mean that it can’t be done, though. It just takes a bit of extra effort. Here are several methods:

Method #1:

Select Contacts by category using a filter, copy all matching items to a new Contacts folder, add that folder to the Outlook Address Book, and use it as the mail merge source. See the MSKB article Q160521: Categories Unavailable to Mail Merge in Word. Also see Helen Feddema’s Code Sample 48 for a VBScript routine to do the copying to another folder for you.

Method #2:

You can use Excel to drive a bulk mailing based on a category. See the Microsoft article Using Microsoft Excel To Do a Bulk Mailing in Microsoft Outlook.

Some of the third-party mail merge tools also support merging by category.

More Fun with Categories

See Microsoft Exchange and Outlook Distribution Lists for details on how to use categories to create instant Personal Distribution Lists.

You can use categories in Rules Wizard rules, both as part of conditions and as actions, assigning one or more categories to an item. For example, I used to use an autoresponder to handle subscription requests for my Exchange Messaging Outlook newsletter and marked the incoming requests with a category of “Response sent.”

If you create a new Outlook item from another item, the categories carry over. Back to the autoresponder example: I manage the mailing list in a Contacts folder that uses a custom form. New items are created by dragging the incoming message to the folder. When the new recipient is created, it has the category of “Response sent.” This also works with replies and forwards; as long as you send in RTF format, the recipient will see any category you apply. However, if you send a message with a category via the Microsoft Network service, it may remain in the Outbox unsent. See the MSKB article Q163176: MSN Mail Not Sent with Category or Contact Attachment.

Helen Feddema’s Code Sample 55 demonstrates how to use an Outlook form to display all contacts by category. It’s up to you to take the next step of writing code to do something with all those contacts.

Also see:

Things You Can’t Do with Categories

You can’t create a view that shows both categories and subcategories. In other words, the Categories field can be used for grouping just once. What you might try is a set of categories that themselves include a subcategory: Friends – Good, Friends – Very Close, etc.

You can’t search and replace a category directly without writing code. However, you can select a bunch of categories, then right-click, choose Categories from the pop-up menu and work with the Categories for the entire group of items.

Problems and Issues

We have a report that GoContactSync (an Outlook/Gmail sync utility) resets the master category list. Categories are not removed from the Outlook items, but the categories are shown as “not in master Category”.

Color Names

Although knowing the names of the colors is less than useful for most users, they are in the Object model as OlCategoryColor. The 25 color names are as follows.

BlackDark MaroonDark RedGreenPurple
BlueDark OliveDark SteelMaroonRed
Dark BlueDark OrangeDark TealOliveSteel
Dark GrayDark PeachDark YellowOrangeTeal
Dark GreenDark PurpleGrayPeachYellow
White: No color assigned.

To print a list of the category names and their colors, see Print a list of Categories and their Colors.

Category Tools and Utilities

Category Manager
Category Manager

Category Manager allows sharing of color categories; it adds a sidebar to the folder view as well as opened items, in which you can group your categories and assign them lightning fast; and it adds a reminder, which optionally prompts you if you forget to assign a category. Version 3

Categories Administrator for Outlook/Exchange

Categories Administrator was specifically designed for users to easily administer Master and Individual Contact Categories in Outlook/Exchange/BCM. Add, rename, merge, remove, delete, import, and create categories in Outlook/Exchange/BCM. Create a query and then map it to the selected contacts.


CategorieZ adds a sidebar to Outlook allowing instant access to your categories. Select a contact and instantly see the categories assigned, need to make changes, easy just use the checkboxes. Set filters to show only the items in specific categories.

Categorize Plus

Categorize Plus enables users to categorize and search Outlook items using a selectable menu hierarchy. Categorize Plus also allows user to automatically process emails by creating Category Actions. In addition, Categorize Plus will automatically assign categories to items as they arrive in your Inbox or any other folder that you choose. Categorize Plus also includes a dock-able Category Editor that is used to quickly edit item categories and commands to copy/paste categories and to undo/redo categorizations. Available in both Free and Paid versions and works with Outlook 2003/2007/2010.

Category Importer

Want the same Master Category List in Outlook on different PCs? This free utility, Category Importer for Outlook, exports your Master Category List (MCL) to a text file that you can easily import on another PC.

CategorySet Plugin for Outlook2013

This first release displays all categories in one menu and contains all of the basic functionality of the new "Categorize" button for Outlook 2013.

CodeTwo CatMan

CodeTwo CatMan allows sharing of Outlook categories with other users on the local network. Centralized management using a shared configuration file. Version 3.0.1

Exchange Category Exporter

For Mac users. Export contacts from a specific category in Outlook 2011 or Entourage.

Exchange Category Manager

Exchange Category Manager is a plug-in for Exchange 2010. It enables you to manage the Outlook categories and colors that are available in Outlook 2007 and up. Define an unlimited number of groups with different users. Each group can have it's own set of categories and colors that the user can choose from. You can add categories to the existing list that a user has in Outlook or replace everything with the predefined list. As it integrates with Exchange server directly, the users do not have to do, their category list is automatically managed.

ReliefJet Essentials for Outlook

The updated version of ReliefJet Essentials for Outlook adds many new features including support for Quick Text with hotkeys and expandable macros. New utilities added like Add BCC to Messages and Redirect Messages. All utilities can be integrated with Outlook Rules. A command line tool for Outlook professionals and administrators is also provided. More than 70 tools and utilities are now included. New utilities and features as well as performance enhancements. Improved compatibility with Outlook 2013, Office 365 and Windows 8.1.


Taglocity for Outlook enables users to assign unlimited keyword "tags" to any Outlook items such as email, contacts, calendar entries, etc. Instead of forcing content into conventional folder structures that too rigid, each tag essentially acts as a virtual folder, thus reducing the need for folder hierarchies. Taglocity can also automate common tasks by running actions when tags are set, such as turning email into appointments, assigning additional tags, or automatically moving messages into specified folders. Version 2.0

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.

Please post long or more complicated questions at Outlookforums.

221 responses to “Outlook Categories and Color Categories”

  1. Darlette Gayle

    How can I change the title of a category? Mine have the colors assigned to specific events (i.e., birthday, baby, phonecall, etc.). I would like to chang these titles. Is there an easy way to do this?

    Please advise.

    Thank you!

  2. Rita

    How can I stop Outlook 10 from automaticly adding catagories to my appointments. It even adds additional catagories I don't want after I've assigned a catagorie.

  3. Kat


    How can I sort out my 'colors' in outlook 2010. I want to be able to rearange color categories in specific order.

    thank you


  4. Kurt

    I want to restore my 'Category Names and Colors" back to their default setting. How do I do this?

    Thanks -


  5. Diana Baker

    How do I color code incoming e-mails from specific persons in Outlook 2010? In the previous version, we clicked on the messeage received from a sender then went to Tools, Organize, Using Colors, then applied a color. All in-box messages from the specified sender are highlighted with the chosen color. Is there a way to do this in Outlook 2010?

    Thank you,


  6. Ryan Bretzel

    I read this article but I still don't fully understand. Can I assign contacts into certain catagories and then export them (contacts info and catagories assigned to) to a cvs or other file type in case I want to import them into another computer without having to re-catagorize hundreds of contacts again?

    Also is there a way to search contacts by other fields like spouse name?

  7. Woody Grant

    I wish to add a legend beside my calendar fto show what the colors mean. How can I do this?

  8. Bill Thornburgh

    How can I stop Calendar from changing colors (white to whatever selected) when in "Month" view as I scroll forward month to month?

  9. Malik

    Hi, i'm an IT and have a problem

    1 i did an exchange migration 2003 to 2010
    2 I import NK2 file and Categories
    3 on one comptuter theyre are categories on Public contacts alla of them are not in the master list.

    My question is : how i can remigrate theese categories in master list ?

    what i do : Import all public contacts in a random mailbox and try Outlook.exe /remigratecategories

    but it dosent work this time.
    do you have an anser for me?

  10. Liz

    Can I turn a big color category into a group to send an email to?

  11. Maria

    I deleted the Master categories from outlook 2010 CALENDAR, I have no idea how to restore them. Could you please help me? However I still have them in the Mail Window.

  12. katie

    We want to assign a color category to each person's appointments in a shared calendar. However, it seems that these colors don't "hold" when the secretary assigns the colors. Only she sees the colors. Would we each have to have identical color categories assigned to be able to see the appointments in the colors that she assigned to us?

  13. Szymon Szczesniak (CodeTwo)

    If you want to share color categories with others in Outlook, be it in a shared calendar, shared tasks, mailbox or any other Outlook folder, there is a freeware tool developed by a company I work for called CodeTwo Catman. We use it ourselve to categorize tasks in Outlook:

    BTW: Great article Diane!

  14. Ken

    I want emails coming in from color categorized contacts to have a different view when coming in. I see where you can change settings for the view and I create a conditional format that says change the font of the email when it comes in if the contact is in this category. This is not working. any suggestions oh outlook guru? :)

  15. Cathy

    Outlook 2010 - It seems that I can only set up 15 x Calendar Categories - when I add more they drop off the list.
    Is there a limit of only 15?

  16. Ken

    Diane! I was skipped! I have tried working with the conditional formatting every way I can think but there seems to be a disconnect between the categories and filter view. Would you be able to offer any direction?

    Much appreciated.


  17. Ken

    Thank you Diane! I will test this out.

  18. Jeff

    Is there a registry hack or some other means to make Outlook 2010 show more than the most recent 15 categories under the Categorize button?

  19. Nicholas Tardent

    Thanks for such a good article Diane. I came across it as I was trying to find out how to backup the category name that has been applied ot each of my 2000 contacts within Outlook. We use exchange server so if there is a local machine failure, a user's Outlook can easily be setup again with all e-mails, calendars and contacts. BUT: we recent had an unexplained problem that meant a user's contacts completely lost ALL category information. We setup up their outlook again form the server and everything was safely there EXCEPT no categories were applied to any contacts. We had to manually reassign each contact to a category! Do you have any suggestions as what files we could backup that would allows to save this information and reassign it if this problem occurs again?

  20. Ivan

    Is there a way to automatically categorize mail that is a reply to already categorized mail in my inbox? For example I receive an email with subject "Test" and categorize iz manually, reply to that email and receive another reply from that person now with subject "Re: Test". In this case I would like that Outlook auto-assigns this reply with the same category I assigned to the original mail.

    Hope this makes sense...

  21. Ivan

    This reg entry works only for sent email. Example:
    I receive an email from Tom - categorize it manually with "Personal".
    I reply to Tom's email and see in my sent folder that this reply has the same category "Personal" (reg entry takes care of this).
    I receive a reply from Tom and have to manually categorize this email again.

    So most my emails are conversations with more that 2 replies but I end up manually categorizing them all over again every time I receive them :(

  22. Sarah

    Help! If I categorize inbox messages in Outlook 2010, the category then shows to the recipient I reply to and continually in the conversation. My category read ' Must reply to' and the recipient sees. Also it is annoying becuase if they reply back it looks as if I still need to action 'must reply to'. How can the category be 'swiched off' when replying to an an email?

  23. Ania

    I want to assign two color categories to the same Outlook calendar event. One to tell me what conference room I have the meeting in (such as dark blue) and another to tell me if I need to order food for the meeting (such as orange). Is that possible? I've added the two different colors to one event but only the dark blue shows up for the item on my calendar.

  24. Kree

    For my calender appointments when I add a category and then remove that category and choose a different category the first category gets added back for some reason. How do I get it to go off of the appointment permantly?

  25. Betsy

    I just lost all my designated assigned Categories. Where did they go on my machine? What is the file name to Restore my designated Categories? I don't recall clicking the Clear Categories option but I could have as it is at the top of the listing on the drop down. Please help to Restore my assigned Categories as I have spent years creating this file or option to categorize all my 8,000+ Contacts. Thank you.

  26. Eddie H.

    I would like to remove catagories that I do not use from the Master Catagory List. When I "delete" a catagory, all it does is change the color to a white box. I would like to completely remove the item from my list leaving only the catagories I have created. Is that possible?

  27. Pat

    Do you have to use colors in 2010 Outlook? How do I find my Master List?

  28. Peter Burke

    Is it possible to set up another field to create a basic Category list? Until I imported my contacts to Outlook I always Categorized by a descriptive name like Personal, Business, Prospect, Customer etc.

  29. HiHo

    Why does it take up to 30 seconds after changing a colour of a category ( in f.eks. a shared mailbox ), to be updated in another user's Outlook? This happens in Outlook 2010. It went almost immediately in outlook 2003.

  30. HiHo

    I work in a business where users need Category update go much faster.

  31. DR Smith

    Diane, in Outlook (2007) in this case, is there any way to "merge" categories? After 7 years of Outlook emails/archived et al - their are a few duplicate categories and would like to be able to effectively merge them together under one or the other existing categories - or better yet; merge to a new category and delete old ones... help!

  32. Gordon

    I have allocated Color Categories to my Contacts in Outlook 2007. I would like the Category colour to be displayed in Business Card view.

    Is this possible? If so how?

  33. Marshal

    In my current version of Outlook 2007 there are only color catagories. I have gone through all my contacts and added my catagories only to have them dissapear after restarting the computer , Any ideas would be great.

  34. Lenny


    I have a user who wants her Inbox emails to be coloured and sorted by category colour is there anyway to do this in Outlook 2010? She is adamant that this is how she did things before we upgraded her to 2010 and 'needs' this to manage her emails. Grateful for any clues,

  35. Peggy Wayne

    Is there any way to customize the drop-down list for the "most used" categories? Categories appear there that I don't want and I can't get the ones that I do want to appear there. It would be easier than having to open all the categories every time I need to choose a color.


  36. Cass

    Please help - we use colour coding daily for appointments in the calendar - when I try to change an appointment occurrence it says I can only do it for the series - I cant find a way to change one appointment in a series to a colour, can you please help?

  37. Tom Hicks

    Dear Diane,

    Thanks for posting these useful features for categories. I am interested to work out the following functionality

    Let's say, I received email A from User A and I categorize this email under "Blue" category. I reply to this email and User A replies back on the same email as a further followup. Is there any way to maintain this assigned category in the subsequent correspondence?

    Thank you,

    Tom Hicks

  38. Tom Hicks

    Dear Diane,

    Thanks for the quick reply.

    I came across a default rule setting in Outlook 2010, which is "clear categories on mail
    (recommended) (client only)". What does this do and will disabling this help to maintain the category assigned during subsequent email exchanges?

    Thank you,

    Tom Hicks.

  39. Karen

    Everything was fine...then it wasn't. In the month view of calender (Outlook 2010), when I set a recurring event over several days and assign a category color, the background color of the days change to the selected color as well at the "event bar" at the top of the boxes for the days. This is new. Before, only the event bar at the top changed color and the background color of the boxes for the days of the recurring event did not change color. I don't know why this happened now but would like to not have the background colors change. How can I do this? Thank you.

  40. Chris

    Thanks for this column! Great information.

    In Outlook 2010, I use categories for my e-mail. I had one category named. When I renamed it, it showed up alphabetically in the categories list as it should. But when I got to an e-mail, right click to give it that category, it doesn't show up. It is actually the first alphabetically on the categories listing, but it doesn't show up when I try to use it with the right click. Help?

  41. Raul

    Outlook 2003 allowed me to replace a calendar category from blue (appointment) to green (successful). This helps me focus on appointments or tasks that need attention.
    Outlook 2010 will not always allow me to do these changes. I get the message "You can only make changes by opening the series"
    I wonder what the difference is for allowing to change or not since I set these categories on the recurring appointment feature.
    I hope you can help. Thanks!

  42. Sharee

    Diane - I just want a list of the names of the 25 colors in the categorize function. whenever I try a search for that [i.e., colors in color categories, category colors, category color list, 25 colors in Outlook, and many more ...] all I get are "how to" instructions on use of the categories. I need a list and wonder if I am to go to all the trouble of creating it myself since I don't want to waste more time on this, but could surely use that list. Thanks, Sharee

  43. Matt

    Diane - Great article and feedback. In Outlook 2003 when utilizing categories it would display a count of emails in that category. How can I add this to the 2010 version?

  44. Rose Fowler

    What do the colors of the flags mean?

  45. Linda Segal

    We at Visiting Nurse Association use Outlook 2007 for 3 conference rooms, assigning VNA1 as yellow; VNA2 as purple, and VNA3 as white. When we set up recurring meetings, they're usually all in the same conference rooms--and with 2003 we did not have trouble changing the meeting room color. However, now that we've upgraded to 2007, we can no longer change the color of a single occurrence without changing the whole series. (Sometimes a meeting needs to be moved into a different conference room. These are posted on the Conference Room doors so everyone knows what is going on where.)

    HELP, please. There has to be a way to change the color of a single occurrence of a recurring meeting.


  46. Steve


    Have a wierd category issue. We have a user who was upgraded from Office 2007 to Office 2010. She can set the category in the Exchange inbox portion and wverything is fine. Problem arises when she then moved the email from the Inbox to the PST. The category is tripped from the email. When she tries to re-apply the category, there is only the color options and none of the labels.

    Any ideas how to fix this? this is the first time I've run across this after numerous upgrades.

    Thanks for the great information.


  47. Heather

    After I have assigned a category to an incoming email, how do I print that email without having the category show up on the print out?

  48. Tim Holt

    Is it possible to share a calendar but only have selected categories of events shown to them? I'd like to share my calendar with a couple of admin staff members, but only show them some events that they need to see rather than the details all my appointments.

  49. Michael Reed

    i have read this but still have a question.

    I have outlook and recently changed from mail street to 123together for my hosted exchange.

    The tech dept at 123together had me do an export of my profile to the desktop and them import it under a new profile

    Categories didn't make it! if i open the old profile they are there just not in the new profile.

    How can i move categories from one exchange profile to another on the same computer with the same outlook 2010

    Hope someone can help I imagine its moving something around in the registry

  50. Michael Reed

    Hi Diane,

    this looks a bit above my geek grade and i would be afraid i would lose it all, are you or someone else at your firm available for a fee to remote in with team viewer etc and do this process?


    Michael Reed

  51. Michael Reed

    Thanks hope you enjoy your vacation!!!!!!!!!!!

  52. Jeff

    Hi Diane,

    I'm trying to use the conversation view but also group my emails by category (helps me do triage on my inbox). Outlook doesn't natively allow this (once you use the conversation view you can't group by category).

    Alternatively, I'm just trying to use the conversation view and then sort by category, but category isn't an option in the "sort by" list.

    Any ideas?

    Thanks - Jeff

  53. Judi Francisco

    Can i add color categorized mails under "Favorites"?

  54. Jenn

    We are using public folders for a Master Department Contact List and each contact has a category assigned. Multiple people enter contacts into this list and assign categories. They have to enter the category each time and of course, there are spelling errors and inconsistency in the naming. How can we get them to pull from a Master Category list and just select the Category instead of entering it each time when using a Public Folder?

  55. Christian

    With Exchange 2010 you could have another problem
    by default that setting have that value "ClearCategories $True"

    you must have to modify that value
    Set-TransportConfig -ClearCategories $False

  56. Edoardo

    Hello Diane, thanks for the good work you do.
    I experience a small issue while sorting messages.
    If I click on a message, then I click on (e.g.) Date received tab, all messages will be sorted by that parameter AND the message I selected will be highlighted. This works for every other field, except category. That is: if I click on the Category tab, all messages are sorted by category, but outlook brings me to the first message - therefore I lose a lot of time to retrieve the message I had selected at first. Is it a normal issue? Is there a solution?

  57. Deborah Gardiner

    I would like to create a pie chart from my bosses monthly calendar which is color coded to show where he spent the majority of his time that particular month. Can you help by telling me how to do this, is it even feasible? Thank you!

  58. TTruax

    Although slightly off-message, I would like to show the Message Options ("Properties") dialog box to categorize my message before it is sent. How do I programmatically show that dialog box?

  59. Edoardo

    Hello Diane,
    my Outlook version is 2007 with Windows 7.
    I sincerely don't know what "conversation view" is...

  60. Edoardo

    Hello Diane, have you found time to re-check my question here above ? I copy it here:

    I experience a small issue while sorting messages.
    If I click on a message, then I click on (e.g.) Date received tab, all messages will be sorted by that parameter AND the message I selected will be highlighted. This works for every other field, except category. That is: if I click on the Category tab, all messages are sorted by category, but outlook brings me to the first message - therefore I lose a lot of time to retrieve the message I had selected at first. Is it a normal issue? Is there a solution?

    as said, I have Outlook 2007.

  61. Phil Gencher
  62. Edoardo

    Hello Diane,
    just normal view, sorted by "received" date.
    What I also found is that I lose the info on selected email not only going to "category" sorting, but also coming from it. E.g.: when I sort by category and select a mail, if I sort by something else (e.g. received) I also lose the email.
    Thanks again

  63. Julie Haeflinger

    Thanks for all the helpful info re. categories!
    Is it possible to create a report on all the categories? I want to quantify the total time used in meetings and then the breakdown of time spent in each category.



  64. Brian Tillman

    In the second yellow box on this page is a link labeled "Outlook 2330, 2007, 2010". Outlook 2330? I suspect this should be "Outlook 2013".

  65. shaiju

    how can use previous pst files categories in current pst - In all mail option can use more than one pst but that time experiencing with previous categories not showing in instant search panel.

  66. TJ

    Your work is certainly meeting a community need by providing clear answers to sometimes complicated questions - thanks!

    I have read all of the questions and have one that was remotely similar: We color code our appointments and work to projects and would like to report total time by category within a reporting period. Are you aware of any utility, tool or technique that does this?

  67. Megan


    I am using Outlook 2010 and was able to change some of the category names for my calendar in the past. Now when I go to rename the categories or change the color, everything is greyed-out and I cannot choose any of the following: New, Rename, Delete, Color, or Shortcut Key. I'm not sure why it is not letting me have those options anymore, but it is important that I have them and would much appreciate it if you could help me out! :) Thanks!

  68. Megan

    I believe it is in a shared mailbox because when I click on the main calendar categories it'll let me change them, but not when I click on the other calendar that is shared. Does that mean I can't change those categories and colors since it's a shared calendar?

  69. Monika

    I have not much hope, that anybody might see my question. Isn't there an easy way to expand the list? Why use the last 15? I am always lost, I need too much ... and my Monitor would be quite big enough
    Yes, there are some Managers, but isn't his just a regkey or something?

  70. Megan

    Thanks so much for your help! :) That makes total sense! Have a great day!

  71. Melissa

    we use a shared calendar for all appointments and tasks. the 'owner' of the calendar wants to change the categories and colours. he has figured that out. I as the 'keeper' of the calendar can not see the new categories. he has tried to share them through contacts but all the colours disappear. how can he create the categories and share them with the other 3 users?

  72. Svetlana

    I have Outlook 2010. I was trying to send e-mails by Categories how it was shown in the lesson http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdTm5MwSMtc but… this function is not working… At the end of all my actions the e-mails from category do not come in e-mail form all together (only one)
    Please could you help me with this problem? May be I have to change somewhere some options or something else?

  73. Svetlana

    Dear Diane, thank you for your answer but unfortunatly it did not lelp. I selected all contacts in the category and pressed *Creat e-mail* . The contacts did not come in e-mail form... May be something wrong with options or something else?

  74. Victor

    Hello Diane, thanks a lot for this thread.

    I've got a problem in Exchange 2010.

    I want to assign categories to groups of mailbox so I can have the same categories for each group of my company. I saw that there were 2 software wich can do that (Exchange category manager and category manager for Outlook/Exchange) but they're not free. There must be a solution, but i can't find anything on the internet to help me ...

    Thanks a lot for your help.

  75. claus

    is it possible to also apply an icon to a task category instead of just using colors like it can be done in onenote? I am already using categories for my outlook task like @phone but instead of using the word "@phone" I would rather like to have a phone symbol in front of the task.

  76. Lisa Stratton

    Are there changes to catagories/colors in Outlook 2013 that affect this posting?

  77. Joe

    Hi Diane, it's been a while since anyone posted here, lets see if I can change that!

    I have a user who has the below problem from seemingly nowhere. They are on Outlook 2010 without reading pane using Office 365.

    When they sort their 'Inbox' (and only Inbox) folder by the Categories column, they expectedly see categorised emails first / last and everything else in the middle. The problem here is that they work from this 'view' and when they open emails that are unread and come back out of it, the email stays as unread, if you then sort the inbox by Date, From, To, Subject, etc. the same email marks itself as read correctly, but only after re-sorting.

    It only seems to be once Outlook is sorted by Category that it doesn't mark emails as read and I can't replicate it!

    Have you seen this behaviour before?

    Thank you

  78. Joe

    I've given that a go this morning but unfortunately its acting as above still.

    I think I may be left with creating the profile again as I've tried duplicating it in a few places now with reading pane on and off and am unable to replicate it! it's an odd one that's for sure.

  79. Pasha

    I have Outlook 2003. I seem to be unable to filter view by more than one category via the use of the AND operator as described. Shows zero contacts.

  80. Pasha

    Exactly! And not working this way. Gets me zero. If an item has categories A,B and C, is the filter of "A and B" supposed to filter it out? Doesn't work like that in my case. Just to make clear, I'm typing the filter parameter ... and here forgive my translations from Russian Outlook... by going to "adjust current view", then the forth button from the top "filtering", then the third tab "Additional", and then "set additional conditions", from the drop down menu I select frequently used fields, then category, then the condition of "contains" and under value I type the filter parameter.

  81. Pasha

    And also, if my category names have more than one word, it's not an obstacle to the AND operator? I tried putting quotation marks around category names. Doesn't work with them or without them.

  82. Mike Caudle

    That stinks...I was able to do that before we upgraded to 2010 and loved that feature. I really miss being able to do that so I sure wish that could be changed back.

  83. Lawrence

    I use icloud with outlook 2010 to sync my contacts and calendar on my pc laptop. I just categorized all my contacts (blue = past clients, green = current clients and so on). When I went to search for one of the categories I created, using Outlook, only a few contacts came up or contacts came up that I did not categorize but contained words similar to the category name I created. This is frustrating and I wanted to know why this is happening and if there is a solution. All I need to do is simply pull up contacts by category.

  84. Lawrence


    1. Webmaster

      Hmmm. If you use the category field name, the search is should be limited to that field. I'll see if i can repro it in the iCloud.

  85. Kris Barr

    Category Colors Not Working in E-mail. I just upgraded to 2013 because I was losing emails when trying to file them in 2010, so we thought we would try the upgrade. One of the first things that I notice because I used it so much to osrt my emails is that the category colors are not showing up in my list, instead the name of the category is displayed and therefore doesn't really help with sorting. Is there something that can be done to fix this?

    1. Diane Poremsky
  86. Valerie

    Hi, is there a way to sort the tasks alphabetically withing the categories in Outlook 2010?

  87. jeanne.ackerson@ed.gov

    I have my categories set up in Outlook 2007 and use mail merge frequently by clicking on the category with contacts of whom I want emails sent to. I have contacts that might have 3 or 4 different catagories assigned to it. If I select 2 or 3 categories to send email to via mail merge - and the contacts are assigned in each of the categories - how can I get rid of sending duplicate emails via mail merge? Am I making sense. Thanks.

  88. malcolm padina

    Hello Diane

    I have converted my private domain to use outlook.com. I also use outlook 2010 on windows 7. As suggested i have two email accounts in outlook 2010 - one for my domain and one for outlook.com.
    All my contacts in the outlook.com contact list have lost their categories!
    An thoughts?


  89. malcolm padina

    Thanks Diane. My contacts list is long and has been with me for more years than i can remember. So the current list was fine, including its categories, when i was running my Outlook 2010 to my domain using exchange server. Since i migrated to outlook.com all the categories have disappeared?

  90. malcolm padina

    Yes it was Outlook not Office 365. - Um!

  91. Jeanne Ackerson

    Thanks so much for your prompt reply. I really appreciate it.

  92. Cheryl laski

    Going from outlook 2007 to 2010, I am seeing an issue with appointments that do not have a category assigned (white). They pick up the color of the calendar tab. In addition, the color can change when I add an appointment. Seems to go from green to pink. By the way, this is on public calendars. We use a purchased category manager.

  93. Justin

    Diane, I am trying to set up categories that can be seen by others in my org when I categorize an email and send it. I have downloaded the CodeTwo Cat Man software and had others point to the internal link- that is working well. I also added the Registry Key per above. However, when I categorize an email and send it, the other person doesn't see the category. Thoughts? I set a rule to always include the category if the person had my company email address @companyname.com

  94. Alan

    I have a user that is trying to share a new calendar with another user. They set them up has an owner and the new person is able to do add, change, and delete various events on the calendar. They are also able to select the different categories that are listed. However, they are not able to create any new categories. They are both using Windows 7 computers with Outlook 2007 installed. Is there anything else that I can try to be able to allow the other person to create new categories? Thank you

  95. ブルガリ ネックレス

    Just how do i switch firefox with recollecting my fb details?

  96. Matthias

    Hey, do you have a macro I could use to automatically assign a specific category to my appointments in outlook, as soon as they are over? Thanks

  97. Matthias

    Thank you so much, it would be a big help since I am still fairly new to VisualBasics.

  98. marybethpottratz

    Hi, I had categories set in Outlook 2013 for weeks. Suddenly today, all categories disappeared, both color code and category name! There are two old categories showing up that I had been using about two years ago on an old PC. Is there anyway to get my categories back? It took hours to set it up. Thanks for any help you can offer.

  99. Jody

    Hi, my boss and co-workers all share their calendars with me and I keep them in overlay view to keep track of everyone's schedules at a glance. It's confusing when they add category colours--if I have assigned pink to X's calendar and their appointments appear in green or orange or whatever, it defeats the purpose of the at-a-glance tracking. Is there any way I can see their calendar appointments with only the colour I have selected and not their category colours?

  100. Jody

    Thanks very much! Not the answer I was hoping for, but I sure appreciate your responding so quickly!

  101. Jenece

    HI i am a working graduate student and I am interested in tracking my practicum related appointments (hours) in my calendar. I have assigned them all a particular category. Is it possible to query all of my specific categories within a specified period of time to determine how many hours I spend doing a particular activity?

  102. Bill

    Hi I was using Palm Pilot platform for NOTES with Categories many years ago. Then I transfer the NOTE to my Outlook 2010 but I found several duplicates categories. I have several email account in outlook 2010. I sync with BB and the notes duplicate again. Is there any way to assure the notes could be sync and not get duplicate. Could you help me . Thx Bill

  103. Judy Martin


    I've been categorizing my calendars for years so that I could separate my personal & my work calendars. It has been working fine with Outlook 2010. However, within the last few weeks, I suddenly can no longer separate my categories to make work & personal calendars. (View, Change View, Work or Full Calendar.) I have been able to do this with no problem for years until a few weeks ago, and suddenly it won't switch back to my work calendar. I even tried a few times to make a new calendar (filter, more choices, categories, check categories I want included in the calendar, then click OK. When I get to this window, the filter field shows all my categories. When I click OK again, it always says Filter: off. Can you help me resolve this problem? Thanks Judy Martin

  104. Liam

    Hi, i share a single mailbox with another user on Outlook 2010. Up until recently we used colour categories which idenitifed the particular email being managed by each other. However, i recently had to reinstall the email mailbox on both computers, and since then the colour categories arn't sharing properly between the two computers. Can somone explain what i should do?

  105. Lori Williamson

    We have a client that is reporting that since last week, she states that in Outlook 2007 SP3, she works consistently in the Category View. She states that previously in this view new messages would appear at the top of the list. This behavior no longer happens, there is no automatic refresh. She needs to click in etc. for it to refresh. I can reproduce the behaviour on my machine. The thought was that maybe a security patch last week caused this. I have since uninstalled all patches and still the behavior persists. Can you confirm what is "suppose" to happen? Also if you read a message, it will not mark itself unread.

  106. Lori

    Yes this is an exchange account. No if you stay in category view and click in on other messages then the new message pops to the top, and if you open it, and close it. It still shows as unread. Interestingly enough, it is happening on both our 2007 and 2013 clients. Of course if you sort by "received" this problem doesn't occur. It is when she is in category or sorted by category. If you look at the inbox, the # of new messages indicator, shows a new message. Plus we also see the pop up notification through the system tray etc. but the message simply will not refresh to the top.

  107. Lori Williamson

    Not sure if my reply posted or not. Trying again. Yes exchange account. We see the desktop alert, system tray icon and the new unread message counter increases in inbox, but the new message does not appear at top of list when in category view. If you click in list, it appears. Also if you open and close it does not change to read.

  108. Carol Bernett

    My work place uses Outlook to organize incoming emails that contain setup requests and all the department data updates. The emails are sorted to folders depending on what the request is for. Our categories are setup to show who is working on which email request. Is there any problem if the categories are not uniform between the users? Is there any reason to have all users have the same categories? Each category is a color and an employee's name, but each user has a different list of categories. Please let me know your thoughts. THANKS!

  109. Michelle

    I want to have a legend or key of all my categories show on my calendar page so they can be seen easily and interpreted (I use my calendar kind of like a task organizer - along with several other methods to keep organized as I need all the help I can get in that category) Haha...I said Category! Anyone know how to do that?

  110. Peter

    Hi, I've downloaded and like the software on the top of the tools list: Aladdins Categoriez.
    I'd like to buy and register the program, but every link seems te be broken on the http://www.software-solutions.co.nz/ website and I don't find any referenc or contact info. Does anyone have an idea how to contact them (or register the software) or know an equivalent solution?


  111. Peter

    Hi Diane. Thx for the reply.
    If only I could contact them. The product is great, but I've only 8 day of trail left :(
    What I liked so much about this solution is the category grouping and the auto-categorizing. I've tried 'Categorize Plus', but the are not working with 'real' categories.
    I'll give the VBOffice.net cat mgr a try.

  112. Nathan

    When using a shared email box is it possible to flag sent emails with a specific category? For Example all of Jack's emails get flagged blue when moved to the sent items folder, and all of Jill's items are flagged orange.

    I found this registry key (see website) that will automatically move the sent items to the proper sent item folder, but I need something to auto categorize based on sender. Is this possible?

  113. Jeff Taylor

    This is a very long thread. Although I read most of it pretty thoroughly, I apologize if I've missed a reply that you posted previously.

    I'm interested in making a change to one aspect of the default Category behavior in Outlook 2010. When I right-click on a message shown in the Inbox message list, the Context Menu options that appear include "Categorize." Hovering the cursor over that option displays a sub-menu with a list of categories. However, that list changes in seemingly random ways.

    I'd like to tweak that behavior to be able to produce either of these two results.
    1) Display the alphabetical list of all my categories, of which there are far more than appear in the default list.
    2) Select the categories that appear in the initial list, so that the contents of the list does not change.

    Is there any way to do this?

  114. Jeff Taylor

    Thanks for thinking about this. If my preferred changes aren't possible, perhaps I can do something else that would at least be a step in that direction.

    1) Can I increase the number of categories that appear in the list shown when hovering over the "Categorize" menu option?

    2) Can you tell me what criteria are used to determine which categories are shown in that list? For example, is the selection based on how often a category is used, how many messages have been placed in that category, etc.?

    3) Can I change the criteria that are used to make that determination?

  115. Larry

    How can I have dual calendars using 2 different color categories for appointments? My personal calendar has color categories that I've assigned. Someone sent me a shared calendar, that has the information for our whole department on it. The colors that were assigned/used on that calendar, don't show up on my screen when I look at the two calendars side by side, but others in my department have both calendars on their outlook show up with different color categories. My Outlook version is 2010.

  116. Miriam

    Hello Diane,

    I have Outlook 2010 and share a contact list. I would like to create envelopes and select one of the two categories listed for each individual on that list. How can I do that?

  117. Miriam

    Hello Diane,

    Thank you. It worked like a charm. It will make my job a lot easier.

  118. Sonja Spörhase

    Hello Diane, we have a huge problem in our office with categories and I did not found a solution yet. We tag all our contacts in the outlook database with categories like name of the street, nature of the business, member or non-member etc. We work a lot with filtering categories and using them for different purpose. Since several months we watch, that our contacts are loosing their categories. Only one is left mostly. But we don't know, when and why! I try to fix it now by setting new categories for every contact. But I fear, that they will get lost again. Do you know this problem? Is it common? What are we doing wrong??? Please help. Thanks a lot in advance, Sonja Spörhase Bremen/Germany.

  119. Max

    Hello Diane, I just upgraded from Outlook 2007 to 2010. It appears the Category option that I used to select on the message in my Inbox is no longer there. Did this get removed? Is it an option that can be turned back on either by me or our Administrator? To be clear, it used to sit next to the Flag in the message header.

  120. Yinnie

    A department is using a calendar to organize their group work on that group calendar which is located in Public Calendar Folder. Of course, it would be marvellous if we would categorize per person and visually have a color for that individu ... according to IT, it is not personal when calendar is on Public Calendar, and is only possible in personal mailbox (and shared the mailbox) .... but the purpose here is to have a common departmental calendar where tasks are assigned on that calendar ... can you help me out?

  121. Tara

    Can you print a calendar of events of only certain categories?

  122. Brett Burningham

    When click on the box to assign a color category, my email message disappears from my inbox. I can't find it, where does it go? I've looked through the settings and can't find out how to stop this. It's happening with every new message I try to click and assign a color category. HELP

  123. Jade Webber


    Is trying to obtain a consistent Master List for multiple PC's using 2013 Outlook still relevant in the "Keeping Categories Consistent" and " Category Importer" link? Or is there an updated method to going about it?

  124. Jade Webber

    Thank you so much Diane! Your advice is always excellent!

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