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(Our numbers tell us that many people want to learn about conditional formatting in Outlook--a clear explanation is below--so we're moving this post back into the top spot to better share it with all of you.)
Last month I wrote about how to quickly create rules to help rid your Inbox of so-called graymail. This week I wanted to share another tool for making sure the right email messages stick out when you’re reading down the message list in your Inbox. This advice comes straight out of the Outlook Best Practices – a series of guidelines to help you be as productive as possible with Outlook.
Conditional Formatting allows you to customize how different messages appear in your Inbox message list based on criteria that you set. By default, conditional formatting makes unread messages bold. By adding your own customizations, you can highlight the messages that are most important to you.
For example, when you are at work, emails that are sent directly to you and no one else are probably some of the more important messages for you to review. For that reason you might want to set these messages to appear larger than others in your Inbox.
To set up Conditional Formatting from your Inbox, on the View tab, in the Current View group, click View Settings, and then click Conditional Formatting. Click Add to create a conditional formatting rule.
Let me take you through an example. I first created a formatting rule for mail that is sent only to me, so after clicking Add, I named it “Only You.”
Next, I clicked Condition and then specified that I want this to apply for messages where I am the only person on the To line.
After clicking OK, I clicked Font and then selected how I want the text to appear in the message list. Because these are the most important messages, I chose a red color and a larger, bold font.
I repeated these steps to create conditional formatting for mail where I am on the To line with other people, mail that I was on the CC line, and mail that was sent to a specific distribution list (DL) instead of directly to me. Here are the results of what these look like in my Inbox.
The different sizes and colors help me see the most important emails and leave the others for later. I recommend that you try conditional formatting rules that help you keep your Inbox more organized. For some people that might mean using a specific color for messages from family members, or making messages from your boss larger than others. We love to hear what works for you, so leave a comment below.
Outlook Program Manager
More info on Outlook conditional formatting
Dear Crabby: Creative OutlookingGetting too many email messages? Outlook can helpMake the New Year great with a better organized InboxAutomatically change incoming message colors and fonts based on sender, subject, or recipients What happened to the Organize feature? Best practices for Outlook 2010
@Jed - thanks for the response. That worked great! @Steve -- I had the same question as you, but it looks like you can set the precendence of the rules by moving them up or down. So I think if you move your John Doe rule up above your general unread rule then it will do what you are looking for
I thought that a previous version of Outlook allowed you to forward or reply to a message that you had already moved from the Inbox folder, and the new message would save in this same folder, not the Sent folder; was I dreaming or is there a setting that I need to apply?
Nice post! I use this function a lot and I can say i'm relying on this function for my day to day operation. However, I figure out that when i apply a formatting and change the font ie. Tahoma, the font still using Segou UI instead of Tahoma as configured earlier. How I can fix this?
There has been much said about this topic. I user colors for my calendar as well. One look is enough to see what important things I have to do for today.
One of the main issues for me is the automatic formatting of time. Why is it not possible to change time format (free, busy, out of office, etc) based on conditional rules as well? E.g. I use a calendar entry called "travel time" to prevent other people to propose an appointment for that time. But I set the time format to Out of Office to let them know that I am available for phonecalls during that time.
Please let me know that this functionality is planned in the near future...
tried the exacts steps but unfortunately it didn't work instead my outlook crashed . tried uninstall the whole office suite reinstalled it back. still nothing happened.
Faulting application name: OUTLOOK.EXE, version: 14.0.4760.1000, time stamp: 0x4ba8fefd
Faulting module name: USER32.dll, version: 6.1.7600.16385, time stamp: 0x4a5bdb2f
Exception code: 0xc0000005
Fault offset: 0x0005936f
Faulting process id: 0x1990
Faulting application start time: 0x01cbd9cc007fa766
Faulting application path: C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office14\OUTLOOK.EXE
Faulting module path: C:\Windows\system32\USER32.dll
Report Id: 871381b6-45bf-11e0-bcff-70f395292644
I have had the same crash issue while creating the conditional formatting on Outlook2010. Anyone have a fix?
How can I print my Outlook calendar with the background white for every month? If I print out a 5-week calendar that overlaps months, it prints one month white and one month gray - which WASTES A LOT OF INK! Any suggestions? (can respond to firstname.lastname@example.org)
I've been using automatic formatting for a while and generally it works well.
I have a problem using the "Where I am: on the To line with other people" rule though. If I receive an email sent to another James, where I am only included in a DL or on the Cc line, Outlook still applies the formatting. It's as if it is searching for either my first or last name appearing anywhere on the To line, even if it appears in someone else's name.
Any ideas how I can get around this?
Very nice! I always experiment with fonts, size and color, I find it fun.
That's great it can be applied to email:)
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Is it possible to apply conditional formatting to emails coming from anybody outside of my organization? E.g. if I were an employee of google, all emails with with a domain other than @google.com would turn blue . . .
I work for myself and when I check WHERE I AM 'THE ONLY PERSON IN THE TO' line, it only applies formatting to e-mails where the TO line says my name: ie Jay Garland. It does not look at the underlying e-mail address so e-mails with the following in the TO line are NOT formatting according to the rule: 1) name in single quotes (ie 'Jay Garland'); 2) e-mail address used by sender instead of name (ie email@example.com); 3) my first name only is used by the sender (ie Jay). It would be great if this function used the underlying e-mail address so it picked up all relevant e-mails.
Got #email overload? Prioritize with #Outlook conditional format. Works on your calendar too! http://bit.ly/J5Z4hP @office @stephenrcovey
where the hell is skype