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Backup and restore Categories

I’ve created a list of Categories in Outlook which I don’t like to lose so I thought about backing them up. Unfortunately I couldn’t find an export/import option for this.

How do I backup my Categories and, if possible; can I also copy or restore them to another mail profile?

There is no option in Outlook itself to backup or restore the “Master Category List”.

However, you can still workaround this limitation by assigning all your Categories to a single items and save that item outside of Outlook. You can then use this item to restore your Categories, even to another mail profile or share it with a colleague.

Outlook 2007, Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2013

Outlook 2007, Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2013 store the Master Category list in the mailbox or pst-file itself so if you backup your pst-file, your Categories will be backed up as well.

This of course doesn’t allow you to easily share your Categories or use it in another mail profile. To allow for this you can use the following method;

Backup Categories

  1. Create an new Note item (keyboard shortcut: CTRL+SHIFT+N).
  2. Write “Categories” in it to give it a name.
  3. Close the Note item.
  4. Switch to your Notes folder (keyboard shortcut: CTRL+5).
  5. Right click on it and choose Categorize-> All Categories…
  6. Select all the Categories which you want to backup.
  7. Save the Note outside of Outlook as an msg-file Outlook via File-> Save as… or by dragging it out of Outlook and into an Explorer folder or onto your Desktop. By default it will be called Categories.msg

Restore Categories

  1. Open your Notes folder (keyboard shortcut: Ctrl+5).
  2. Drag & drop the Categories.msg file from Explorer into the Notes folder.
  3. Switch back to the Mail Navigation (keyboard shortcut: CTRL+1).
  4. Right click on the top of your mailbox folder set and choose Properties.
  5. Click the button “Upgrade to Color Categories…”.
    Outlook will scan your mailbox for items with Categories which aren’t in the Master Category List yet and will add them.

New Categories assigned to an foreign Outlook item are marked with "Not in Master Category List".     Use the "Upgrade to Color Categories" button to find Categories which haven't been added to the Master Category List yet.
To get your restored Categories in the Master Category List you can use the
“Upgrade to Color Categories” button. (click on images to enlarge)

Note: As an alternative you can also start Outlook with the /remigratecategories switch.

Outlook 2003 and previous

Outlook 2003 and previous store the Master Category List in the MasterList value of the Registry (see further below). While you could export this Registry key and then later import it again, the downside of this method is that it will not append your current list but overwrite it. To overcome this you can use the following method instead.

Backup Categories

  1. Create an new note item (keyboard shortcut: CTRL+SHIFT+N).
  2. Write “Categories” in it.
  3. Close the Note item.
  4. Switch to your Notes folder (Outlook 2003 keyboard shortcut: CTRL+5).
  5. Right click on it and choose Categories…
  6. Select all the Categories which you want to backup.
  7. Save the Note outside of Outlook as an msg-file Outlook via File-> Save as… or by dragging it out of Outlook and into an Explorer folder or onto your Desktop. By default it will be called Categories.msg.

Restore Categories

  1. Open your Notes folder (Outlook 2003 keyboard shortcut: Ctrl+5).
  2. Drag & drop the Categories.msg file from Explorer into the Notes folder.
  3. Right click on the Note item and choose Categories…
  4. In the box at the top of the “Available categories:” list you’ll see all your Categories. Click in that box and copy the text (keyboard shortcuts: CTRL+A to select all the text and CTRL+C to copy the text).
  5. Click on the button: Master Category List…
  6. Place your cursor in the “New category” field and paste the copied text (keyboard shortcut: CTRL+V).
  7. Press the “Add” button.
  8. Press OK and OK again to close the open dialogs.

New Categories assigned to an foreign Outlook item are marked with "Not in Master Category List".     You can quickly add multiple categories to the Master Category List by separating each category with a comma.
Copy and paste the assigned Categories to the Master Category List.
(click on images to enlarge)

Registry key for Outlook 2003 and previous

If you don’t care about the existing Categories in your Master Category List you can export the following Registry key.

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\<version>\Outlook\Categories

To export the key, right click on the Categories key and choose Export. Save the reg-file with a meaningful name such as Outlook-Categories.reg.

To import the key and restore your Categories in Outlook, simply double click on the Outlook-Categories.reg key and acknowledge the warning about importing Registry files.

Outlook 2003 and previous store the Master Category List in an exportable Registry key. (click on image to enlarge)
Outlook 2003 and previous store the Master
Category List in an exportable Registry key.
(click on image to enlarge)

3rd party Category tools

If you are a fanatic Categories user, then VBOffice Category Manager is a useful add-in which gives instant access to your Categories via a side-bar, set multiple Categories with a single click, reminds you to categorize your items, allows you to filter your Category list, export/share/sync Categories and much more.

If you only care about having a shared list of common Categories between the clients in your network, you can use the free CodeTwo CatMan utility. The list of Categories can be managed in a central location and even colors can be pre-assigned too. Optionally, the list can be distributed via WWW or FTP server instead of via a local network share.



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