MVPs for Office and SharePoint 2010: Using Outlook 2010’s Conditional Formatting

Editor's Note: The following is a guest post by MVP Diane Poremsky as part of the MVP Award Program Blog's "MVPs for Office and SharePoint 2010" series. Diane Poremsky is an Office MVP who has been involved in Office and Windows technology and development for more than 10 years and has been an MVP since 1999. She is the author of numerous books, magazine articles, and she currently publishes Exchange Messaging Outlook for, a weekly newsletter covering Outlook and Exchange issues.

While you can use flags and color categories to highlight important messages, you can make the messages stand out more by using conditional formatting to color the text displayed in the message list, as seen in Figure 1. 

Figure 1: Conditional formatting view on Message list (left)

In previous versions of Outlook, the Organize pane was used to create simple formatting rules and you could edit the view to create more complicated rules. In Outlook 2010, you need to make the conditional formatting rules yourself as the Organize pane was removed.

Although it’s a bit more work to create the conditional formatting rules now, I feel its better for users, as many users had no idea that Organize created the formatting rules in the current view. When they changed views or moved items to other folders, the coloring was lost and they had no idea why the colors disappeared. Now users will know where the formatting rules are stored and will know they can create rules using different criteria, instead of limiting themselves to creating conditional formatting rules based only on the sender's or recipient's name.

Conditional formatting works with any folder type and view, except Icon view (used with Notes); however, color categories take precedence so conditional formatting rules won't apply to categorized calendar items in the Calendar view.

To create a conditional formatting rule for the current folder only, you'll customize the current view using the Advanced View Settings dialog. There are several methods you can use to open this dialog in Outlook 2010; the easiest is to switch to the View tab, then click the View Settings button. You could also click on the field names at the top of the message list and select View Settings from the menu.

After you open the Advanced View Settings dialog, click the Conditional Formatting button, and then click Add to create your formatting rules.

1. Enter a title for your Conditional formatting rule.

2. Click Fonts and select a new font and font attributes (if desired) and a color.

3. Click Condition and create the filter for your rule.

 Figure 2: Conditional Formatting Dialog (right)

That's all there is to it. It's just a couple more steps than using Organizer and you have more conditions to choose from.

When you move messages to a new folder or change views, the conditional formatting may disappear if the same view is not used on the folder. If you want to use the conditional formatting in other folders, you have two choices: make a new custom view by copying the current view or open Manage Views and select the view by name and edit it, then apply the view to the other folders.

Tip: Filter rules are tied together using the AND operator. A single rule From Mary OR To Mark is not possible unless you enable the QueryBuilder. For help with the QueryBuilder, see Using Outlook's QueryBuilder and OL: How to Use the Query Builder for View Filters and Advanced Searches .

Comments (2)

  1. dhika says:

    thx so much now i can setup 🙂

  2. Wayne says:

    Can the conditional formatting be set by GPO?  I've searched for an answer to that but can't find anything.

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