Assign categories to calendar events in Outlook 2016 IMAP accounts
Update June 2020: Updated to clarify the use of function keys.
Update March 2019: This workaround, which didn’t work for a while after an Outlook update, is now working again. Enjoy!
I use Outlook 2016 with an IMAP account. I was looking to add categories to calendar appointments as I used to do when working on Microsoft Exchange. I couldn’t get it to work (the Categorize tab was greyed out). On googling the problem, to my surprise I found out that this function is disabled for IMAP accounts. None of the workarounds worked for me or they were very complicated.
So I found my own very easy workaround. It takes 7 steps to set up, but then you can simply use Function key shortcuts.
Here’s how it works.
- In Outlook 2016, open a NEW appointment.
- Click on File (tab), then Properties (box)
- Click on the button “Categories” at the bottom of the Properties box, then click “All Categories“.
- This will open a window where you can assign colors, rename the categories. And assign a SHORTCUT KEY CODE using a combination of keys with the function keys F1, F2, etc.: e.g. Ctrl F2, Ctrl F3, etc.
NOTE: Depending on your keyboard, you may need to press the Fn key in order to access the function keys F1, F2, etc. That means that your shortcut key code will be to simultaneously press “Ctrl” and “Fn” and “F2”, for example.
- Create all the categories you want and assign names, colors and shortcut key codes.
- Take a screenshot as a handy memorizer of the shortcut key codes. (Tip: in Windows 10, you can use Snip & Sketch to take a screenshot.)
- Press OK, exit Properties and close the new item (you don’t have to save it).
- Go into your calendar, click on an item to select it. Then press the SHORTCUT KEY CODE that you decided on earlier (i.e. Ctrl F2, Ctrl F3, etc.). It will apply the color of the assigned category to the selected item. It will even apply it to all events in a recurring appointment.
ALTERNATIVE SOLUTION: Thunderbird email and calendar
If you reached this page you no doubt use Outlook and want to continue using it. For myself, to be honest I got a bit tired of Outlook for various reasons, and today I use Thunderbird instead. It’s open source, free, has great functionality and includes a calendar that’s easy to sync with other calendars like Google Calendar.