How to color-code appointments in Outlook Calendar (2024)

by Susan Harkins in Software


How to color-code appointments in Outlook Calendar

Finding important appointments is a bit easier when you can scan for a specific color rather than text in Microsoft Outlook Calendar. Never miss an appointment again.

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How to color-code appointments in Outlook Calendar (2)

Several versions of Microsoft Outlook ago, you could use color to identify appointments by quickly applying a category. Outlook no longer supports this feature, although, with a little roughhousing, you can still get to them. Because they’re not supported and because you do have to jump through hoops to retrieve them, I don’t recommend their use any longer. I expect them to disappear with every upgrade, and if they don’t completely disappear, they might stop working as expected, and you might not even realize it.

SEE: Windows 10: Lists of vocal commands for speech recognition and dictation (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

You can, however, still use conditional formatting to color code appointments. The good news is, once the formatting rule is in place, you won’t have to do anything. Outlook will apply the color automatically. In this article, I’ll show you how to use this feature in Microsoft 365’s desktop version of Outlook. You can use conditional formats with other Outlook items, such as email messages. The process is the same, but you need to be in the appropriate window.

I’m using Microsoft 365 desktop on a Windows 10 64-bit system, but you can use earlier versions. There’s no demonstration file; you won’t need one. This feature isn’t supported in Outlook Online.

Make a plan for your Outlook Calendar color codes

Before you start creating rules to color-code your appointments, spend a few minutes deciding which colors you want to apply and to what types of appointments. I can’t give an exact rule of thumb because everyone works differently. For instance, you might color code appointments by subject matter or project titles. Or you might color code by whether it’s mandatory or optional. There are all kinds of reasons you might want a particular appointment to stand out.

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The type of appointment that you choose to color-code should have a consistent property or content for the rule to find. For that reason, you do need to think it all out just a bit before diving right in. We’ll color-code appointments by a trigger phrase in the subject text, “Restructure Committee.” If someone sends a message to the group but uses a different subject, the condition won’t be met. That’s why this needs a bit of up-front planning.

Before we can do anything though, we need an appointment.

How to add an appointment in Outlook Calendar

Before we add the conditional formatting rule, let’s create an appointment for the restructure committee, as follows:

  1. Double-click Sept. 7, 2021, a Tuesday in your calendar (I’m using the Month view; I just find it easier when creating appointments because you get a bigger picture of everything that’s going on.) Doing so creates an Event item. Alternatively, you can click New Appointment and create it from scratch, but for now, use the double-click.
  2. In the resulting dialog, enter the name Restructure Committee. When applying to your own work, the name should be descriptive and meaningful so it’s easy to find and maintain.
  3. Uncheck the All Day option so the start and end times are available.
  4. Set the time for 9:00 AM through 12:00 PM, as shown in Figure A.
  5. Click Save & Close to return to the Calendar window.

Figure A

How to color-code appointments in Outlook Calendar (3)

Technically, you don’t have to have an appointment that meets the condition before creating the conditional formatting rule, but the feature does work with existing appointments.

How to apply the conditional format in Outlook Calendar

With or without an appointment, applying a conditional format is easy, and Outlook applies the code automatically. You need a condition, which in this case is the subject text, “Restructure Committee.” In addition, you need to select a color; we’ll use red.

Let’s get started:

  1. Open the Calendar window and click the View tab. Then, choose View Settings in the Current View group. In the resulting dialog, click Conditional Formatting.
  2. Click Add to create a new rule, and enter a name for it, such as Color Restructure Appt.
  3. Choose the color red (Figure B).
  4. Click Condition in the bottom-left of the dialog. This is where things can get a bit complex.
  5. Click the Appointments and Meetings tab (if necessary, it’s the default).
  6. Enter Restructure Committee in the Search for the Words control (Figure C). Don’t uncheck the In Subject Field Only (default) setting because you want to look for this phrase in the message’s subject. This dialog deserves some exploration later because of its many options. You’ll want to learn about all of them.
  7. Click OK three times to return to the Calendar window.

Figure B

How to color-code appointments in Outlook Calendar (4)

Figure C

How to color-code appointments in Outlook Calendar (5)

Browse to the appointment for Sept. 7. You’ll find the existing appointment color-coded in red as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

How to color-code appointments in Outlook Calendar (6)

The condition set in step 6 could be different. For instance, you might choose to look for only the word restructure. Or you might click the Advanced tab and add more words other than restructure, but omitting committee—when specifying multiple words, committee might get a lot of hits that don’t apply to the restructure committee. This example is simple and doesn’t offer any possible snags, but things can get more complex when needed.

How to make a meeting recurring in Outlook Calendar

The formatting rule will work on existing and all new appointment items that fit the condition. Use the instructions above to create a new appointment if you want to see that at work. If you opt to make the meeting recurring, the rule will even color-code those, after the fact. Open the appointment and click Recurrence in the Options group (on the Event tab). Outlook will select the Weekly and Tuesday options for you, as shown in Figure E. When you return to the calendar, you will see an appointment for every Tuesday, in red.

Figure E

How to color-code appointments in Outlook Calendar (7)

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  • Must-read coverage: Windows 10 (TechRepublic on Flipboard)

By Susan Harkins

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

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As a tech enthusiast well-versed in Microsoft Outlook and productivity tools, I've extensively explored the functionalities and features available in Outlook Calendar. I've used various versions, including Microsoft 365's desktop version on Windows 10, to efficiently manage appointments and schedules. My knowledge extends to conditional formatting, email management, and maximizing Outlook's capabilities for enhanced productivity.

In the article by Susan Harkins published on September 7, 2021, she delves into color-coding appointments in Outlook Calendar using conditional formatting. Here's a breakdown of concepts and instructions covered in the article:

  1. Background on Color-Coding Appointments in Outlook Calendar: Susan mentions how in previous versions of Outlook, users could utilize color to identify appointments quickly through categories. However, this feature is no longer officially supported. Instead, Susan explores using conditional formatting to achieve similar color-coding benefits.

  2. Conditional Formatting for Color-Coding Appointments: Susan demonstrates how to set up conditional formatting rules to automatically apply colors to specific types of appointments. She highlights that once these rules are established, Outlook will apply colors automatically based on predefined conditions.

  3. Planning Color Codes: Before implementing conditional formatting, Susan recommends planning which colors to assign to specific types of appointments. Users can decide color codes based on various criteria like subject matter, project titles, or appointment importance.

  4. Creating Appointments in Outlook Calendar: The article walks through the process of creating appointments in Outlook Calendar. It emphasizes the importance of providing descriptive and meaningful names to appointments for easier identification and maintenance.

  5. Applying Conditional Formatting: Susan details the steps to apply conditional formatting in Outlook Calendar, guiding users through the View tab, View Settings, and Conditional Formatting options. She specifically uses the example of color-coding appointments containing the phrase "Restructure Committee" by choosing the color red.

  6. Complexities of Conditional Formatting: Susan explains that while the example is straightforward, conditional formatting can involve complexities. Users can refine conditions by using additional settings, such as searching for specific words in subject fields or exploring the Advanced tab for more options.

  7. Making Meetings Recurring: The article concludes by demonstrating how the formatting rules work for both existing and new appointments that meet the specified condition. Additionally, it guides users on making meetings recurring and how the formatting rules apply to recurring appointments.

Susan Harkins, an IT consultant specializing in desktop solutions, provides step-by-step guidance for users to effectively utilize conditional formatting in Outlook Calendar to color-code appointments based on specific criteria.

The article presents a comprehensive guide for users aiming to enhance their Outlook Calendar organization by leveraging conditional formatting for efficient appointment management.

How to color-code appointments in Outlook Calendar (2024)


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