Creating New Color Categories

Last reviewed on October 17, 2013

Creating new Categories in Outlook 2007/2010 is not as easy as in older versions – you can’t just type in the Category field. You can’t copy and paste lists into the Master Category dialog. You need to select a color category from the Color Category dialog and create the categories one at a time.

Sending Categories on Email Messages

How to create new color categories

Category Icon

  1. Begin by clicking on the Categorize button in any Outlook window to expand the Category list.
  2. Color Categories menuSelect All Categories to add new or edit existing categories or to select from categories not listed in the menu.

Click New to create a new category or select an existing category to Rename it, or change the color or keyboard shortcut.

Select (check) categories you want to apply to the selected Outlook item.

Add Color Category

Tips:

Right click on an item and choose categorize to add or remove categories.

Ctrl+click or Shift+click to select multiple items, then right click, Categorize to apply a category to the selected items.

If using By Category view, you can drag items between categories to change or remove categories.

Video Tutorial

Bulk Add Categories in Outlook 2007 or Outlook 2010

To bulk add categories to the master list in Outlook 2007 or Outlook 2010 requires a two step process.

Note: if the categories are already on one or more Outlook items, skip to Step 2 to add them to the master category list and assign colors. If you want specific colors assigned to a category, you’ll need to edit the color or add it to the master last yourself.

Step 1: Add the Categories to a Contact item

  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. Save the contact form.

Step 2: Upgrade to color categories

  1. Return to the main Outlook window
  2. Right click on the top level of your data file (where Outlook Today is) and choose Properties
  3. Click Upgrade to Color Categories button

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.

49 responses to “Creating New Color Categories”

  1. Will James

    Why can't Microsoft leave well enough alone. I want my categories the way they are in Outlook '03 and none of the color BS. I don't need color, i want my names to stay as they have been for 10 years. quit tinkering with this. its ridicolous. all driven to add consulting fees i am sure.

  2. Bob Williamson

    I'm new to 2010 and also like 2003 far better for organizing contacts into categories . . . a crucial feature for me. 2010 organizes contacts by company . . . is there a setting to organize by category like in 2003? Thanx.

  3. Linda Dellinger

    I agree wholeheartedly with Bob and Will. Leave it alone. I created categories based on project/case names. Now I can't add new cases and establish deadlines without cluttering my calendar with non-appointment type reminders.

  4. Christine Hilton

    We currently have 32 categories in our database Outlook 2010 does not offer enough colours for all of our categories. Do you have any suggestions on how to deal with this?

  5. Tammra

    Hi - can you export to excel by category??? If so - where do I find those directions. Thanks.

  6. bob

    Microsoft has taken its longstanding, stable, reliable office programs and completely, totally, utterly screwed them up. I've been a heavy computer user for two decades and I can no longer find ANYTHING or make the damn programs do ANYTHING.

    I'm looking for a replacement of the whole damn package.

  7. Evelyn Stice

    LOL Bob ... so interesting the different takes people have. I am using Office 2010 and also (in a more limited way) Office 2013, and my thinking is "FINALLY they are fixing some of this stuff that's been bugging me for years!"

    I've learned a lot about categories in the past few weeks as I've worked to implement Getting Things Done; it was time well-spent, definitely, and I wish I'd taken the time before now.

  8. Sharon Hyt

    How can I create a group of all contacts in my Blue Color Category?

  9. Sheila Frazier

    I have 2010 at work and my categories were all set up there right up in the ribbon. I have 2010 at home now and it's not there! When I go to add them, it says commands need to be added into a custom group, so I add the new group and add CATEGORIES.....it is now in the new group, but I can't get the new group to open to get me to my categories; it's all grayed out (inactive). Ok.....is this clear as mud?? All I want is for my categories icon to show up in my ribbon, so I can categorize my stuff!

    Thank!

  10. Heather

    I can't save my categories in my Outlook 2010 program. Everytime I log off my computer and log back in, the categories are back to the default colors and the names are gone. Any suggestions?

  11. Janame Jayan

    Hi Diane....
    We have categories in outlook 2010 but when we reply\forward the categoried mail and categories is not there in that mail in outlook 2010 and we have tried the registry solution-(
    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\14.0\Outlook\Preferences
    DWORD: SendPersonalCategories
    Value Data: 1 and also unable to find the path-HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\policies\Microsoft\Office\14.0\Outlook\Preferences.......Kindly provide any alternate solution for this issue...

    Regards,
    Janeme Jayan

  12. Sarah

    Our Senior VP has shared his Outlook contacts with me and asked that I categorize/label them. However when I try to create/change categories in his contacts I'm not able to. Are his categories locked from others changing or creating new ones? Is there another way to label/sort his contacts without me going back to him and getting him to start changing all this categories? Thanks

  13. Bob Levin

    Help! A fourth computer and other items were electronically destroyed in whistleblower retaliation that occurs each time with the erroneous termination of my Yelp account. This has cost me well over 3k in damages thus far. I just tried adding a designated gray color to my business contact list in Outlook 2007, that showed the business list, but no color. So when it asked if I wanted to apply the change to that list, I said yes, and it made a duplicate list with the gray. However, when I delete one without a color in the duplicate list, it deletes from both. If I manually delete the non-color business category individually, it only deletes that one and leaves in in the color coded list. Is there a simple way to delete the entire non-color coded list that when opened individually shows both a color coded business and a non-color coded business category in the headers?

  14. Bob Levin

    When I open the individual contact, it shows the business listing with no color and the one with gray. But the one without color, says it is not in the master list and the delete option goes non-active.

  15. Bob Levin

    My life is not that easy and I'm afraid to do more. There are still two contact lists. The one with a gray color when each person's contact opens individually, it shows both a gray business and no color business category. From there I must click on the no color business category, then all categories, to uncheck the no color box, then save. If you first click the all categories in the ribbon, there is nothing indicating the no color business exists. There is no way to mass remove the no color business category.

  16. Bob Levin

    Thank you, I did a test with a small group of contacts in Canada, held my breath, then did my big business list, and it worked...thank you for all you help :O)

  17. Bob Levin

    One last problem and I'm using a Microsoft 8:1 OS. My Outlook 2007 keeps randomly restarting. I copied this information in the more information drop down. Any ideas?

    Problem signature:
    Problem Event Name: APPCRASH
    Application Name: OUTLOOK.EXE
    Application Version: 12.0.6691.5000
    Application Timestamp: 52e8c57c
    Fault Module Name: ntdll.dll
    Fault Module Version: 6.3.9600.17031
    Fault Module Timestamp: 5308893d
    Exception Code: c0000005
    Exception Offset: 0001f0a3
    OS Version: 6.3.9600.2.0.0.768.101
    Locale ID: 1033

    Read our privacy statement online:
    http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?linkid=280262

    If the online privacy statement is not available, please read our privacy statement offline:
    C:\WINDOWS\system32\en-US\erofflps.txt

  18. Bob Levin

    I have Comcast and Gmail. Never run it in Safe mode before and have not knowingly used any add-ons. Where do I find scanpst?

  19. Bob Levin

    Thank you for all of your trouble. I wanted to ask you, if I backup my pst file like I have, if the next attempt doesn't work, could I delete my Outlook or Office program and reinstall it?....or is there a repair feature on the disc? I bought a stand alone software package of Office Ultimate 2007.

  20. Bob Levin

    In Safe Mode I ran the diagnostic and the first window said it found no problem, then I clicked more results and it opened a webpage that showed more problems than I could possibly no what to do with.

    See below:

    Diagnostic Results

    None of the Microsoft Office Diagnostics found any problems.

    More resources
    Setup Diagnostic — File corruption or altered file

    The Setup Diagnostic repaired problems with your installation of Microsoft Office. Your Microsoft Office programs should now function correctly.

    If your Microsoft Office programs continue to crash, the source of the problem may be a hardware failure or hardware configuration problem. Review the results of the Disk and Memory Diagnostics to determine if a hardware failure is affecting your installation of the 2007 Office release.

    More resources
    Setup Diagnostic — Missing media

    The Setup Diagnostic was not completed because a valid source was not found. Either the local installation source is missing, or the original source that was used to install Microsoft Office is not available to the repair process. You may need to provide the original source to allow this diagnostic to run successfully. Valid sources for the 2007 Office release include the following:

    Your 2007 Office release installation CD
    An installation disk or repair CD provided by the vendor of your computer
    A connection to a network installation of the 2007 Office release

    After you obtain access to a valid source, run Office Diagnostics again.

    More resources
    Disk Diagnostic — Failure of hard disk predicted

    The Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology (SMART) feature of your hard disk has found errors that may indicate that the hard disk is likely to fail. SMART is a feature that some disk drive manufacturers provide to give users advance notice of potential hard disk failure. Instability in your Microsoft Office programs may be the result of these hard disk drive errors.

    Note This result can indicate a severe problem, but some hard disks may not accurately report their results.

    We recommend that you do the following:

    Back up your important data immediately.
    Check the results of other diagnostics, and follow the instructions for resolving any issues that the other diagnostics have reported. After you resolve those issues, run Microsoft Office Diagnostics again to see if this Disk Diagnostic issue is resolved.
    If you continue to get this result, contact someone, such as the vendor of your computer or hard disk.

    More resources
    Disk Diagnostic — Errors in system event log

    The Disk Diagnostic found evidence of hardware errors. Instability in your Microsoft Office programs may be the result of these hardware errors.

    This result occurs if one of the following has happened recently:

    The Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology (SMART) feature of your hard disk has found errors. SMART is a feature that some disk drive manufacturers provide to give users advance notice of potential hard disk failure.
    Microsoft Office Diagnostics has found blocked-out (failed) sectors on your hard disk.
    Microsoft Office has had trouble accessing files from the hard disk; it needs these files to function properly.

    We recommend that you do the following:

    Check the results of other diagnostics, and follow the instructions for resolving any issues that the diagnostics have reported. After you resolve those issues, run Microsoft Office Diagnostics again to see if this Disk Diagnostic issue is resolved.
    If you continue to get this result, contact someone, such as the vendor of your computer or hard disk.

    More resources
    Memory Diagnostic — RAM failure

    The Memory Diagnostic found evidence of failure in the random access memory (RAM).

    We recommend that you do the following:

    Check the results of other diagnostics, and follow the instructions for resolving any issues that the diagnostics have reported. After you resolve those issues, run Microsoft Office Diagnostics again to see if this Memory Diagnostic issue is resolved.
    If you continue to get this result, do either of the following:
    Run a Microsoft Windows memory diagnostic. For more information, see the following:
    Windows Vista How do I know if my computer has a memory problem?
    Microsoft Windows XP Windows Memory Diagnostic
    Contact someone, such as the vendor of your computer or RAM.

    More resources
    Memory Diagnostic — User is not an administrator

    The Memory Diagnostic was unable to run because you do not have administrative rights on this computer. To successfully run the Memory Diagnostic, someone with administrative rights must log on to this computer and run Microsoft Office Diagnostics.

    More resources
    Update Diagnostic — Installation is out of date

    The Update Diagnostic determined that your installation of Microsoft Office does not have the latest service packs installed. Installing service packs improves stability. We recommend that you visit Downloads on Microsoft Office Online, and then, under Office Update, click Check for Updates.

    More resources
    Compatibility Diagnostic — Conflicting versions of Outlook found

    The Compatibility Diagnostic identified conflicting versions of Microsoft Office Outlook. To remove the version of Outlook from your computer that you do not want, do the following:

    Microsoft Windows Vista
    Click the Start button, and then click Control Panel.
    Click Uninstall a program.

    Note In Classic view, double-click Programs and Features.

    Select the version of Outlook that you do not want, and then click Uninstall.

    Microsoft Windows XP

    Click Start, and then click Control Panel.
    Double-click Add or Remove Programs.
    Select the version of Outlook that you do not want, and then click Remove.
    ***snipped***

  21. Bob Levin

    I'm running out the door, but my Outlook did crash again, but this time while in Safe Mode.

  22. Bob Levin

    This PC is only a few months old, but was attacked electronically through and with the termination of a Yelp account. This has happened repeatedly and intermittently within 14 account terminations and 5 particular events now having cost me nearly 6k in losses. I'm finalizing a legal complaint this morning. I've been politically sanctioned since 2000 when I became a now former FBI Whistleblower. I'll check to see if my PC is still under warranty and believe it is.

    Q?: I scanned using the help stuff at the top and running a diagnostic. You mentioned scanning my pst file, how specifically do I do that?

    Q?: To try a repair of the Outlook or removal and replacement, tell me again what to do first?

    Other: My HP printer software was wiped out, but that restored fine. My Logitech MK mouse software was wiped out, I downloaded it from the weblink they sent, but cannot get it to sink with the mouse, tried everything they suggested until they ticked me off by telling me to use another computer.

  23. Bob Levin

    No I have not had time to run the repair yet.

  24. Bob Levin

    Just finished a successful short and long DPS Self-Test through the HP PC. Test Succeeded: Completion Code: 0. Hard Drive found to be okay. Cleaned out all temp files and tons in the trash bin. Outlook finally gave the customary, "personal files" not closed properly and took 10 minutes to open. Let me see how it acts between now and when I get back this evening. Will keep you posted.

  25. Bob Levin

    While I'm thinking about this, I have created several folders for various types of emails in my Outlook 2007. The other day it asked me to Archive the sent folder and I did. Question: If you have an existing archive folder and it says to archive the same or a different folder again, will the old archived emails remain in the archive folder when you archive the new patch ??? Question: Can you create individual archive folders for each folder to keep things in order for possible retrieval at a later date ???

  26. Bob Levin

    Hi Diane...FYI: Holding my breath, scanned the pst files, "errors, folders found 31, items in this file 62983", checked the backup box, it ran its paces, and fingers crossed it seems to have fixed the problems :) Thank you for all your positive energies! Best; Bob

  27. Bob Levin

    Outlook was doing good, but did a restart after I received emails from a lawyer and from Craigslist? Anything?

  28. Bob Levin

    The latest crash report:

    Problem signature:
    Problem Event Name: APPCRASH
    Application Name: OUTLOOK.EXE
    Application Version: 12.0.6691.5000
    Application Timestamp: 52e8c57c
    Fault Module Name: ntdll.dll
    Fault Module Version: 6.3.9600.17114
    Fault Module Timestamp: 53648f36
    Exception Code: c0000005
    Exception Offset: 0001ec81
    OS Version: 6.3.9600.2.0.0.768.101
    Locale ID: 1033

    Read our privacy statement online:
    http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?linkid=280262

    If the online privacy statement is not available, please read our privacy statement offline:
    C:\WINDOWS\system32\en-US\erofflps.txt

Leave a Reply

If the Post Coment button disappears, press your Tab key.