Organize messages in Outlook 2010 with colors and fonts

The 2003 and 2007 versions of Outlook had a great feature called the Organizer. Sitting in a small, pop-up strip above the list of e-mails, you could quickly apply custom colors or fonts to messages based on specific criteria, such as who sent it or words the subject line contained. It was a great feature, and it took just a few clicks to use.

For what reason I don’t know, in Outlook 2010 Microsoft decided not only to bury this feature where you’ll never find it, but to make it less intuitive to use once you do. So I’ll make it easier for you.

Here is how it works:

  1. Click the View tab, and in the Current View group on the left side, click View Settings.
    View Settings button
  2. That displays the Advanced View Settings dialog, which might look familiar from the older versions of Outlook. Click the Conditional Formatting button.
  3. The window that appears already contains some default rules. Click the Add button to create your own.
  4. Assign a meaningful name — something that tells you what you’re highlighting.
  5. Click the Font button. In the dialog box that appears, choose a format for how you want the message header (to, from, subject, etc.) to appear. This will not affect the body of messages.
    Font dialog box
  6. Click OK.
  7. Now click the Condition button to choose which messages to format. In this example, I want Outlook to find messages with a subject line of “latest releases from”.
    Rule filter
  8. Or instead, you could choose to format messages sent by Joe Smith or messages that contain the word “doohickey” in the body. If you specify more than one condition, all of the conditions must be true for a message to be highlighted (i.e. conditions have an and relationship). Click OK.
  9. The Conditional Formatting dialog should now display the name of your rule and what the header format will look like.
    Conditional formatting properties
  10. Click OK, then click OK again to close the dialogs.
  11. Now look at your inbox. All messages with the condition(s) you chose have your formatting.
    Sample e-mail header
  12. If you later decide you don’t want to highlight these messages, return to the Conditional Formatting dialog. Temporarily disable the rule by removing the check next it or remove the rule permanently by selecting it and clicking the Delete button.
    Deselected rule

This is also how you can go back to change the formatting.


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