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Color coding Holidays, Birthdays and Anniversaries

I’ve imported holidays into my Calendar folder and I’ve also added birthdays and anniversaries to some of my closest contacts so that they’ll be added to my Calendar as well.

While I really like this feature, they do blend in with my regular appointments and meetings a bit too much for my taste.

Is it possible to highlight or color code these events so that they are different from the other Calendar entries?

Outlook has 2 methods to color code your Calendar entries: Color Categories and Conditional Formatting. Which one to use depends on your version of Outlook, how the calendar entries were created but also a bit on your personal preference.

Note: While this guide discusses holidays, birthdays and anniversaries, you can use the methods discussed for any calendar entry or types of calendar entries which you wish to highlight as well.

Color Categories for Holidays

Color Categories was introduced in Outlook 2007 and when you use this for Calendar entries, the Calendar entries will be shown in the color of the category which you assigned to it.

This method is highly recommended to be used with imported holidays as they already have the “Holiday” category assigned to them. However, by default this category is not yet in your “Master Category List” so no color is assigned to it.

To add the Holiday category to your Master Category List and assign a color to it:

  1. Select a holiday entry in your Calendar.
  2. Open the Color Categories dialog
    • Outlook 2007
      Edit-> Categorize-> All Categories…
    • Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2013
      tab Home-> Categorize-> All Categories…
  3. Click on the category name: Holiday (not in Master Category List)
  4. Press New…
  5. Leave the name as it is but select a color for it.
  6. Press OK and OK again to return to your Calendar; all your Holiday entries should now be in the color that you selected.

Add the Holiday category to the Master Category List to assign a color to it.
Add the Holiday category to the Master Category List to assign a color to it.

Conditional Formatting

Conditional Formatting (called Automatic Formatting in Outlook 2007 and previous) is a view setting to color code items based on specific properties.

This method is the way to go when you are using Outlook 2003 or previous. It is also an easy method to color code your birthdays and anniversaries in Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2010 if you do not want to assign Color Categories first.

  1. Open the Conditional Formatting dialog
    • Outlook 2003
      View-> Arrange By-> Current View-> Customize Current View…-> Automatic Formatting…
    • Outlook 2007
      View-> Current View-> Customize Current View…-> Automatic Formatting…
    • Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2013
      tab View-> View Settings-> Conditional Formatting…
  2. Press: Add
  3. Name the rule. For instance: Birthday
  4. Select a color.
    • In Outlook 2003 and previous, the colors are labeled. To change the name of the label use; Edit-> Label-> Edit Labels…
  5. Press: Condition…
  6. Add one of the conditions as indicated below the screenshot.
  7. Repeat step 2 to 6 for each condition that you want to add.
  8. Press OK until all open dialogs are closed to return to your now color coded Calendar.

Automatically color code Calendar items with Conditional Formatting.
Automatically color code Calendar items with Conditional Formatting.
 

Holidays (for Outlook 2003 and previous)

  • tab: More Choices
    Categories: Holiday

Birthdays

  • tab: Appointments and Meetings
    Search for the word(s): Birthday
  • tab: Advanced
    • Field: Recurrence
    • Condition: Equals
    • Value: Yearly

Anniversaries

  • tab: Appointments and Meetings
    Search for the word(s): Anniversary
  • tab: Advanced
    • Field: Recurrence
    • Condition: Equals
    • Value: Yearly

Note 1: Colors assigned via Color Categories overrule the colors assigned via Conditional Formatting.

Note 2: For more Conditional Formatting examples see the guide: Color Code Your E-mails Advanced

Color Categories for Birthdays and Anniversaries

While even in Outlook 2007, Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2013 using Conditional Formatting is the easiest way to go, you can also use Color Categories for birthdays and anniversaries. However, you’ll first need to assign them a category as they don’t have any by default.

As all birthday and anniversary entries are marked as such in their subject, you can find them quickly by typing the following in the search field:

  • Birthdays
    birthday isrecurring:yes
  • Anniversaries
    anniversar isrecurring:yes

You can then easily select all the results by using CTRL+A and use the Categorize feature to assign them a newly created Color Category called “Birthday” or “Anniversary”.

Note 1: Yes, the search query indeed only says “anniversar” without the “y”. Due to some strange bug in either Outlook or the Search Indexer, for the full word “anniversary” it sometimes doesn’t return all results.

Note 2: By adding isrecurring:yes we filter out any single appointments or meetings which also hold the word “Birthday”. For instance, it will filter out the Dutch Holiday called “Queen’s Birthday”.



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