Naming Your Outlook Quick Flags

One of the features we built into the Outlook 2003 user interface is called Quick Flags.

You can single-click next to any mail item to color it so that you can find it again later. Or, you can right-click to apply one of six colors to help you categorize it further. Either way, all marked messages automatically and immediately appear in the For Follow Up search folder.

This feature has become quite popular and became the impetus for the redesigned categorization and time management system being introduced in Outlook 2007, in which the same colored categories work across all parts of Outlook.

Probably the single biggest feature request in this area has been to enable the naming of Quick Flag colors. This is totally built-in to Outlook 2007, but as you can't go purchase that just yet, I wanted to show you a cool trick which gives you something close in Outlook 2003.

The article describing the trick is in found on the Office Online web site: Name Your Colored Quick Flags.

Name your Quick Flag colors in Outlook 2003

It's not a complete panacea (it doesn't change the context menu, for instance) but it does provide a useful, interactive legend as to what each color represents.

This tip works only in Outlook 2003, because Quick Flags (and search folders, for that matter) didn't exist in previous versions.

Comments (9)

  1. SteveA says:

    Hi Jensen

    You mention search folders

    I have just started to use categories in Outlook in conjunction with the search folders, and it is proving to be very useful.

    I even figured that in the search folder criteria, under more choices, categories, you can have logical expressions, such as "and" and "or". So for example I have one search criteria that looks for "Microsoft" and "External", which helps me filter stuff out that is "Microsoft" and "Internal".

    It would be nice to see brackets supported but I can live without that:-)

    But the key thing for me is I move emails from my main mailbox, to a different pst file as a sort of archive process (and also as our enterprise sets a 100Mb main mailbox limit). But I can’t copy the search folders across as well, so end up having to recreate them. Hope this will be improved in Office 12.

    BTW – Are you going to continue with the entertaining blog after launch?

  2. That’s an excellent tip on an underused feature.  As an efficiency consultant, I’m constantly employing this feature with my clients…particularly if they’re using a Getting Things Done approach to email organization.

    My personal application is to have two flags:

    (1) Follow Up

    (2) Read Later

    I use Follow up for the messages that’ll take more than a couple minutes to get to and then I file those messages into an appropriate folder.

    I use Read Later for good ideas I’ve seen while browsing my RSS feeds, newsletter mailings, tips from friends, etc.

    The next important bit, which isn’t discussed in that help article, is to create a custom search folder for each of the specific search flags that are used.  I then place them in my favorite folders.

    If anyone’s interested feel free to ping me and I can write up a tutorial on more of how to do this…  Cheers.

  3. Hanford says:

    Off topic, but thanks so much for turing off ClearType for your screenshots. I’ve blogged a bit about why <a href="">Turning off ClearType when taking screenshots for a blog is a good idea</a>. Bravo.

  4. I use the Quick Flags feature in Outlook a ton, and have a different purpose for all five colors. Only…

  5. Marc says:

    Dude, Thunderbird has had colored flags for ages!

    Maybe other mailprograms too but i only use Thunderbird :P.

  6. Charles A says:

    I use QuickFlags all of the time in 2003. What I find disapointing in 2003 is that if you use the outlook webclient setting QuickFlags is only an option in the IE version of the webclient. This seems like a silly limitation to me.

  7. thrax says:

    Shout-out to Macintosh Finder System 7

  8. Tom's Blog says:

    I use the Quick Flags feature in Outlook a ton, and have a different purpose for all five colors. Only

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