Customizing Outlook: Signatures, Categories and Rules

Office 365 / SharePoint Blog

I make Outlook my go-to center for getting things done. I generally follow the advice of Sally McGhee and John Wittry in “Take Back Your Life: Using Microsoft Outlook 2007 to get organized and stay organized”. While the book was written for 2007 all of the features still exist; some are just located in different places.

Getting my Outlook set up the way I want it can be a process that takes several hours. I got a start today with setting up my Signatures, Categories, and Rules.


For signatures I generally set up two of them: one for new emails, and one for replies. The one for new emails has all of my information in it, including name, title, location, phone number, email address, as well as my strengths. The one for replies only has name, title, phone number and email. I do that to save on clutter throughout the email.

You find signatures in Outlook 2013 by going to
File | Options | Mail and then finally: Signatures


I love categories because they help me set up my agenda for any meetings that I have with people. They also help me with my rules so that I can move things to folders after they have been categorized and dealt with.

Categories are fairly easy to set up: there is a Categorize button right on the ribbon on the Home tab.

Regarding colors, I tend to set up like items with similar colors, so my team members all have the same color; all departments have the same color; all committees have the same color. I save my category colors mostly for calendar and task-related items.


Rules are (for me, anyway) where the magic happens in Outlook. I like to minimize the clutter in my inbox, but at the same time, I don’t like to have unread messages in folders. So for that reason, I don’t tend to have rules run automatically except on messages that I know I won’t need to deal with right away. Those messages get filed away so they don’t clutter up my inbox immediately.

Some of those messages include:

  • listserv messages – they get put into a folder where I can handle them as I have time
  • newsletters from experts – they get filed away as well
  • automated messages that come is as a result of me doing something (such as sending out the newsletter)

For all other rules, I run them manually because in that dialog screen, I have the option to run the rules only on read messages – leaving all unread emails in the inbox.

You can find Rules right on the ribbon.


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