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How do I make flagged emails highlighted in Outlook?

Highlighting flagged emails in Outlook can help you quickly identify important messages that need follow up. By default, Outlook does not highlight flagged emails, but you can easily enable this feature through color categories.

Why Highlight Flagged Emails?

Highlighting flagged emails serves a few key purposes:

  • Makes flagged emails stand out visually – When you assign a color category to flags, flagged emails will be highlighted in that color. This makes them easy to spot in your inbox.
  • Identifies emails that need follow up – A highlighted flagged email serves as a visual reminder that you have flagged that message for follow up. The highlight color draws your attention to those action items.
  • Prioritizes your inbox – When important flagged emails stand out, you can triage your inbox more effectively. You’ll be able to focus on the highlighted messages first.

In short, enabling a highlight color for flagged emails improves your productivity by making it easier to stay on top of priority messages and action items.

How to Highlight Flagged Emails in Outlook

Highlighting flagged emails in Outlook is simple once you know where to look. Here are the steps:

  1. Open Outlook and go to the Home tab.
  2. Select ‘Categorize’ and choose ‘All Categories…’. This opens the Color Categories dialog box.
  3. In the dialog box, select the category named ‘Red Category’ (it has a red color bar next to the name).
  4. Check the box next to ‘Flag Status’.
  5. Click OK to save the changes.

That’s it! Now any emails you flag will be highlighted in red. The red color makes them easy to identify at a glance.

You can customize the highlight color by creating a new color category and selecting it in step 3 above. Just be sure to associate that color category with the ‘Flag Status’ in step 4.

Other Ways to Highlight Flagged Emails

In addition to using color categories, there are a couple other ways to make flagged emails stand out in Outlook:

  • Conditional formatting – You can create a conditional formatting rule that highlights flagged emails automatically. The downside is this will highlight the entire message, not just the flag icon.
  • Category column – Add the ‘Category’ column to your mail view. Any flagged emails will show ‘Red Category’ or your custom category name in the column, making them easy to identify.

The category color method is the most flexible option since it highlights just the flag. But feel free to use conditional formatting or the category column if those work better for your workflow.

Tips for Managing Flagged Emails

Here are some tips to get the most out of flagging and highlighting emails in Outlook:

  • Use flags consistently – Make it a habit to flag any messages requiring you to take action. Use flags sparingly for maximum effectiveness.
  • Review flagged emails daily – Set aside time each day to review flagged messages and take action on them. This prevents things from slipping through the cracks.
  • Clear flags once handled – Once you reply to, forward or otherwise handle a flagged email, remove the flag. This keeps your flagged messages current.
  • Use color categories for priorities – Assign different color categories for high, medium and low priority flags. For example, red for high priority messages, orange for medium, yellow for low.
  • Filter by flag status – Use the ‘Has Flag’ filter to temporarily view only flagged or unflagged emails. This lets you focus on flagged messages.

Flagged emails are only helpful if you actually review and act on them. By highlighting them, you make it easier to stay on top of the flags you create.

Troubleshooting Highlighted Flagged Emails

If your flagged emails aren’t highlighting properly in Outlook, here are some things to check:

Issue Solution
Flagged emails show category name but no highlight Make sure the color category is associated with ‘Flag Status’ in the Color Categories dialog box.
Entire flagged email is highlighted This is caused by conditional formatting most likely. Remove the conditional formatting rule.
Only some flagged emails are highlighted You may have multiple color categories associated with flags. Consolidate to a single highlighted category.
Flagged emails in other folders aren’t highlighted The color category is only applied to the current folder you set it in. Apply it to All Mail Items to highlight across all mail folders.

With the color category method, your flagged emails should consistently highlight in Outlook. If you continue to have issues, contact your IT support technician for further troubleshooting.


Highlighting flagged emails in Outlook is a simple but effective way to improve productivity. By associating a color category with your flags, you can visually identify messages that need follow up. Just remember to use flags consistently, review them daily, and clear them once handled. With this approach, you’ll never miss an important action item again.

The built-in color categories provide an easy way to highlight your flagged emails right within Outlook. Set it up once, and let the color-coding help keep you on task. Combined with good flagging habits, you’ll gain control over your ever-filling inbox.

So give it a try today – your future, more productive self will thank you! Just follow the steps outlined above to start highlighting flagged emails now.