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In Outlook 2003, and earlier versions of Outlook, we had flags that you could check in order to assign your messages to a broad grouping. So, for example, we'd have a red flag, a blue flag, a green flag, a Seuss flag. Now you'll notice that the flags are all shades of the color red. That's because we're not going to use flags for grouping by color. We're going to use Categories. If we select, for example, this message and we say we'd like to categorize this, you can right-click and you can choose from one of six built-in categories.
The fact that they are the same colors that the flags used to be isn't a coincidence; it's a bridge to help you understand how these work. So I'm going to choose the green category. The first time you choose any of these categories, you are asked if you want to rename them, and if you say no now, there is another way to do it, but you won't see this dialog box again. I'm going to say that I want to use this green category as the color for OilFest 2010. If you're a keyboard user, you can also assign a Ctrl+Function key combination to assign this category to one or more items that you've selected.
If you don't choose any, then you'll be using your mouse in order to provide categorization. I'm going to say Yes, and a couple of things happen at the same time. First, you'll see that green color and the words "OilFest" assigned here, but I also have a banner at the top of my message that says OilFest 2010, which means that there is already a little more utility to this than there was to the old flag, which was simply available in the Information viewer. If I want to assign some other items to OilFest 2010, for example all of these items about the design, I can select them, and I can either right-click or choose what is now called OilFest 2010, and you'll notice that it moved up the list, because I've customized it. Or I can choose from the Categorize dropdown and choose OilFest 2010 and assign that to all these items.
Now, I don't have to use these six colors, and I'm not limited to only six categories. If I choose Categorize > All Categories, the Color Categories dialog box opens, and it shows me these categories, but there is also a dropdown list that includes 25 colors, of which these are only six. So I can choose to assign, for example, various shades of green - there are several: one, two, three, four actually to OilFest. I can also assign the same color to more than one category because when I sort by category, it's actually sorting by the name I give it, not by the color.
So if I wanted to create, for example, another category that was for another year's OilFest, I could create a new category, and I could also make it green. But if I named this one OilFest 2011, then when I sorted by category, this would come up as two different categories, even though the color is the same. There are 25 colors here, but you won't actually find that they are all useful because unless you see, for example, the dark peach and the dark yellow next to each other, you won't be able to tell them apart.
So you'll get about a dozen to sixteen useful colors for categories out of this list. You can continue to create new categories here. If there is a category you don't want to use, you can simply delete it. Or you can rename categories here in bulk one after another, particularly if you've used Outlook previously and are used to using categories. Or you can simply wait, and as you need a category, use them, and as you use these primary color categories for the first time, you'll be prompted to provide names for them.
After I've assigned things to categories, I can now use categories. For example, I can click and sort by category. What I'll find is that I have my uncategorized items, and here are my items that are all in the OilFest category. I can also switch to a view that uses categories here, so both of those methods work to be able to sort my items by category. The categories that you use here aren't used only here in the Inbox.
They are the same categories that I'll use in my Calendar and in my Contacts and in my Tasks. So as you think about setting up Categories, think bigger than the Inbox. You might, for example, not care to have a category in your Inbox for vacation, but you definitely will want to have one in your Calendar. With Outlook 2010, it's really easy to set up these categories across all the folders in Outlook, and use them to be able to sort, group, and filter my items in my Inbox.
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