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!