Track your time better by automatically color coding your Outlook appointments

Using the conditional format feature, you can configure Outlook to color code an appointment automatically.

Most of us find color coding (or categorizing) information helpful. The visual clue is often all we need to make quick decisions. If you want a bit of a shortcut, you can try color coding appointments. A quick glance might be all you need to apprise your day.

You can manually color code appointments when you create them, as follows:

  1. With the appointment open, name it and enter all the particulars.
  2. On the (default) Appointment tab, click Categorize in the Tags group.
  3. Choose the appropriate category. For instance, below, I choose blue.
  4. The first time you use a category, Outlook will prompt you to name it. Enter a name and click Yes. Outlook adds a blue bar to the top of the appointment window and displays the category's name. In this case, that's Personal.

Doing it yourself isn't difficult, but it's unnecessary. Using a conditional format, you can configure Outlook to color code an appointment automatically. You'll need a condition, or in this case, a keyword to engage the format. In this case, we'll use the subject text, CAMG, to define our condition. Then, we'll create next month's appointment to show the results of the new format. First, let's create the rule:

  1. In the Calendar window, click the View tab and then click the View Settings button in the Current View group. Next, click Conditional Formatting. In Outlook 2007, choose Automatic Formatting from the Edit menu.
  2. Click Add to create a new rule.
  3. Enter a name for the rule—Set Color Personal.
  4. Choose a color—choose blue.
  5. Click Condition (at the bottom-left of the dialog box).
  6. On the Appointments and Meetings tab (the default), enter CAMG in the Search For The Words control.
  7. You want to retain the In Subject Field Only default setting, so don't change it. Later, when you apply this technique to your own appointments, click the Advanced tab and take a look around. This feature is flexible and can handle multiple and even complex conditions.
  8. Click OK three times to return to the Calendar window.

Now, let's create a CAMG appointment for December, as follows:

  1. You can click New Appointment and create a new appointment from scratch. Or, if the appointment recurs, open the existing appointment and click Recurrence in the Options group.
  2. In the pattern section, choose Monthly.
  3. Choose the section option: The First Tuesday Of Every Month.
  4. Click Save & Close to return to the Calendar window.

Browse ahead to the first Tuesday in December. You'll find the first of many recurring appointments, already color-coded for you! In this case, the condition was simple: the text CAMG in the subject field. The feature is flexible enough to handle many conditions.