Use Conditional Formatting to Highlight Messages

Last reviewed on May 18, 2013   —  7 comments

Instead of using email rules to move message, you can leave the messages in your Inbox and use Automatic Formatting rules in a custom view to highlight messages or filters to hide messages.

In Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2013, Automatic Formatting is renamed Conditional Formatting. The dialog is identical, only the name is changed.

This tutorial shows you how to highlight and show only messages from specific senders but you can use any criteria in the filter dialog.

In this example, I’m highlighting messages from a sender in Red then creating a copy of the view so I can show only the messages from that sender.

Step 1: Create a Automatic (Conditional) formatting rule.

  1. Open the Customize view dialog. In Outlook 2010/2013, look for the View Settings button on the View tab. In all versions, right click on the row of field name (or Arrange By) at the top of the message list and choose Customize (or View Settings).
  2. Click Conditional Formatting button (Automatic Formatting in older versions.)
  3. Click Add and enter a name for the formatting rule; choose your Font.
  4. Click Condition
  5. Select your conditions. If you want to filter by email address, not display name, type the address or part of the address in the From field on the Messages tab. Do not use the From field on the Advanced tab.
  6. Filter by address

  7. Close the dialogs and apply the view when finished.

Step 2: Copy the view to create a back up.

You can simply copy the view to back it up. If the original view gets messed up, copy the copy and apply it to the folders.

You can also create a copy and add additional filters to it.

Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2013

Outlook 2007 – earlier

Click on Arrange By to expand the menu and select Custom… then Automatic Formatting button.

Remove or Reset Custom views

If you decide you don’t like the custom views, you can delete or reset them several ways. Or to restore all of Outlook’s views to the default settings, use the /cleanviews switch.

For instructions, see How to Reset the View in Microsoft Outlook

More Information

The Automatic Formatting filter dialog uses the same filter dialog as Search folders, Advanced find and Views.

When you are applying filters to domains, use the From field on the first tab for the address or partial address. The From field on the Advanced tab is used for display names.

Tip 373: Filters and the From field

About Diane Poremsky

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 Outlook forums by

7 responses to “Use Conditional Formatting to Highlight Messages”

  1. vickvern

    This was great advice. Is there away to remove the line from the completed tasks showing in the calendar for Outlook 2010. I managed to remove it from the tasks section with your tutorial, but they still show up lined through in the Calendar view. I appreciate your assistance,

    1. Diane Poremsky

      Right click on the row of field names at the top of the task list and deselect Show completed tasks.

  2. Neslihan

    hi, i did some rules on auto. formatting. it was working but since 2 days it is not working. i delete the rules and create the same rules but still not working. can you help me pls.

    1. Diane Poremsky

      How do the rules read? Is this a mail folder? As you using categories?

  3. Fran

    GREAT - Solved a problem a line manager was having and I've learnt something new. Thank you.

  4. Alison

    Excellent; thanks!

  5. Kane

    Thank you so much!! This has made my Outlook a lot more functional!

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