Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lessons from Outlook 2007 Notes colors

Enthusiastic web sites promote Outlook 2007 category colors as a feature for Notes ...

Customize Notes In Outlook 2007 ~ Windows Fanatics

... Another option you have for customizing notes is to categorize them by assigning color categories. If you have a large number of notes, this can be a great way of organizing them...

Clearly the author of this me-too web site never actually used this feature. It's unusable.

Here's why. In prior versions of Outlook color attributes were unrelated to categories. In Outlook 2007 color attributes became a property of a category.

This worked well for most aspects of Outlook. The color attribute is displayed in some parts of the UI, but not in the text field.

Notes, however, get the color background on the text field. The resulting text/background color combinations are hallucinogenic. This means Notes can no longer have categories.

The obvious fix would have been to apply the Category color to the notes header -- but that would have required editing the source code for Outlook Notes. I suspect that code is obfuscated assembler and it hasn't been touched in fifteen years.

Since only uber-geeks and Palm users ever use Outlook Notes, much less assign Categories to them, Microsoft chose to sacrifice the Category feature of Notes.

I have to admit it's a rational decision.



Anonymous said...

Rational? There's nothing rational going on here. If you create a Note, and assign it the custom category of "white" (also making the category color white, of course), then the Note will be recognized as a blue Note...

Ah, but to get a Note to be a white Note, just assign it to your custom "gray" category.

Make sense? lol...

Now for some Outlook 2007 Notes facts:

There are 5 Note colors (in no particular order):
Yellow (default)

There are 25 colors available for categories.

Users can create more than 25 categories.

...I think the color category is automatically assigned by a pre-defined link-up between one of the 25 category colors and one of the 5 Note colors. I'm not in the mood to publish the matrix, I'm handing off the torch...

Faheem said...

Aieeeeeee! My company finally upgraded to Office 2007, and now my nicely-categorized notes are practically unusable! I've had this system going for over a decade... and now it's broken thanks to the ridiculous color scheme. Makes you wonder: Didn't ANYBODY at Microsoft test this???

On a more practical note -- is there a way to change the color assigned to each category?