Software

Use a built-in Microsoft Office color scheme to reduce visual noise

If you find the Office screens a bit "loud," switch to a more soothing color scheme. Susan Harkins shows you how.

Ever tried to have an important phone conversation with your boss, at home? Perhaps your child's renegade robot is terrorizing the galaxy or your teenage daughter's favorite CD is blaring in the background. I've even had the smoke detector go off because of a neglected cooking pot. (Seriously, that really happened! Oh sure, I'm in total control of the project, why would you think otherwise?)

Visual noise is similar - too much visual stimulation can be just as uncomfortable and chaotic as sound. By default, Office screens are loud (in my opinion). Every component of every window is bright and shouting at you for attention. If you spend all day in front of your computer, all that noise can zap your energy level and your ability to concentrate on the task at hand.

It's particularly harsh in Outlook because there are so many different windows set to the same level of visual clutter. You can turn the volume down a bit by applying the built-in color scheme, Black. It's easy to do and if you're like me, you might find the change soothing:

  1. Click the File tab and click Options.
  2. Select General in the left pane.
  3. In the User Interface Options section, click the Color Scheme dropdown.
  4. Select Black.

Below, you can quickly compare the difference. It's a personal choice of course, but I find the black scheme much quieter than the blue or silver. The dark panes allow your eyes to immediately focus on the working window, instead of pulling in all directions.

For better or worse, this is a suite setting. Changing Outlook's color scheme will change all of the Office applications. Because the working screens in Excel and Word are so large, the black color scheme isn't necessary in those applications. Fortunately, it's an easy setting to get to, so if you want to use black for Outlook, but not the others, you can switch back and forth easily enough. You might even write a VBA procedure that does it for you.  If you do, please share your code with the rest of us!

About

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.

8 comments
WCarlS
WCarlS

Open Outlook 2007. Click "New Message" to open a new window. Click the "Microsoft Office Button" at the top left-hand corner of the "New Message" window. Select "Editor Options" at the bottom right-hand side of the menu. Choose the color scheme you would like from the drop-down list located under the "Popular" category in the "Editor Options" menu. Press "OK" to save your changes.

johndoe4024
johndoe4024

Of course, up through Office 2003, we could set whatever combination we wanted for myriad GUI components. Our anarchy, obviously, had to be Gadhafi'ed. Watch for Office 2012. We'll probably be Henry Ford'ed.

cutting
cutting

You neglected to indicate the operating system or version of Office. I am running XP and Office 2007. I am guessing you wrote for Windows 7 and Office 2010?

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

I change the color scheme of Windows and Office to reduce the strain on my eyes - no pure whites. I have not tried the black scheme, but it interests me. What color scheme are you using right now? Have you modified it in some way?

ssharkins
ssharkins

This feature is available in XP or 7.

callandor87
callandor87

If I'm not wrong, it works for both Office 2007 and 2010 on what OS it runs on.

ssharkins
ssharkins

Sometimes I can't see the forest for the trees... I'm going to add the steps right now. Thanks for asking! ;)

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