8. Tagging Emails


Add visual cues such as categories and flags to assign specific meanings to emails, helping to make them stand out.

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Lesson Goal

Learn how to tag emails with categories and flags.


Categories are a way to assign emails to a specific predetermined group. We can create our own categories to suit our specific needs and assign different color codes to help differentiate our categories. We can also assign multiple categories to a single email.

To apply a category to an email, select it, click the Categorize dropdown command and choose one of the available categories. Alternatively, we can click All Categories to open open the Color Categories window where we can apply multiple categories at a time.

We can also use this window to rename categories, create new ones, delete ones or assign keyboard shortcuts.

Follow-up flags

Another way we can tag our emails is with follow-up flags. These are simple red flags that let us know that we need to follow-up on an email and how urgent we need to be. The darker the shade of red, the more urgent it is.

Adding a flag is very simple. Just click click the empty space in the flag column. By default this will set a flag with the highest urgency. If we right click the flag, we can set a different deadline. If we right click and select Set Reminder, we’ll open the Custom Flag window. Here we can set a reminder time and date. Once we reach this time, a popup will appear which will summarize our active flags.


Previously we discussed how to manage our group emails to make our email folders more efficient. In this lesson, we'll learn how to tag emails with categories and flags.

Categories and flags allow us to add an additional layer of information onto our emails. This makes our email folders even more efficient.

Let's start with email categories. I have a few emails containing invites to various meetings. I'd like to tag these emails with a category for invites.

I'll select one of these emails, navigate to the tags group, and select the categorize dropdown.

By default, these tags are all named after their associated color, but we can adjust that by selecting all categories.

In the newly opened color categories window, we can create new categories, and rename or delete existing ones.

We'll check the box next to the blue category to apply it to our selected emails.

I'll now customize the categories. We're only going to use four categories, so I'll delete the two at the bottom of the list.

I'll then assign keyboard shortcuts to the remaining categories.

At this point, I'll rename the first category to invites.

I'll also rename some of the other categories.

I'll call one AGM for emails about planning the company's annual general meeting.

I'll rename another and call it research.

Finally, I'll rename a category as customer support, as I sometimes get copied on customer support tickets.

I could also change the color of these categories, but I'm happy with them as they are.

I'll click okay to accept the changes.

At this point, I'll categorize some of these emails.

To start, I can see another email with a calender invite icon. I'll right-click it, hover over categorize, and select invites.

I have conversations about a research collaboration and lab results that fit under the research category. I'll hold the control key and select them, but this time I'll use the keyboard shortcut I assigned to this category.

Note that the categories column shows the colors of categories we've just set.

If we click the categories column, we'll sort by categories, and the grouping will adjust to separate the emails by category.

There's space for more colors because we can assign multiple categories to an email.

I don't have any emails for customer support, but I do have one concerning the AGM.

This email is actually an invite to a meeting to prepare for the AGM.

It's already tagged as an invite, but when we assign the AGM category, both colors appear side by side.

Another way to tag emails is with follow up flags.

We can use these to indicate how soon we need to respond to an email.

For example, I have an email here that's tagged with high importance; I'm too busy to reply today, but better respond soon. I'll select it, navigate to the home tab, and click the follow up dropdown command. Here, we have a few flags to choose from.

At the top is today for any emails that we need to follow up on today. Below that, we have tomorrow, this week, next week, no date, and custom date. Note that the color of these flags differ. The less urgent, the paler they become. In this case, I'll select tomorrow. The flag has appeared in the flag status column, and the entire email preview has been highlighted in a light yellow. Note that these flags will update as time passes. At the moment, it's slightly pale because our follow up isn't due until tomorrow. If we jump forward in time by one day, we can see that the flag has become dark red, indicating that the follow up is due today.

When we've finished a follow up, we just need to click the flag to change it to a check mark.

To remove the flag, right-click it, and select clear flag.

We can also add custom flags.

We'll select the email we just flagged, click the follow up command again, and choose custom.

At the top we can set the flag type.

There are a few specific options here but they don't really apply, so we'll keep it set to follow up.

We'll set tomorrow as the start date and end date.

We can also add a reminder to the flag.

We'll set it for later this morning.

We'll click OK, and jump forward in time to the end of the day.

When the reminder appears, we can choose to dismiss it or snooze it.

Dismissing the reminder doesn't affect the flag. We still have to click the flag icon after we've followed up.

If we select snooze, the reminder will trigger again after the chosen snooze interval. Let's stop here.

In the next lesson, we'll expand on ways of organizing our mailboxes by learning how to move emails both manually and with email rules.

Outlook Essentials
Sending and Organizing Emails


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