Outlook: Generate a Link to a Calendar Event 📅

With growing numbers of virtual conferences last year, there is little wonder that iCalendar links are more popular than ever. The idea behind  these special files/links is to create a seamless experience for your end users to add an event to their calendar by simply clicking on a link.

GIF of someone clicking on link to generate calendar event

Perhaps you want to post a series of links on a conference webpage so attendees can easily sign up for sessions, or maybe you just enjoy the ease of emailing links to a large recipient list rather than sending individual invitations. Let’s explore how these work.

But first, thank you to my friend Carolyn for inspiring this Byte with this excellent question. 😊

About iCalendar Links

The word “iCalendar” might remind you of an application made by Apple, but this is actually something different. iCalendar is also a media file type that can transmit information about events; like date, time, and location. This file can be opened by others and be used to communicate scheduling information to a wide variety of calendar types; including Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple Calendar, Yahoo Calendar, and many others.

The steps lined out below will cover how to accomplish this with Outlook Desktop Applications.

1. Create a Meeting

  • Start by creating a New Meeting in your Outlook Calendar. Be sure you select New Meeting, not appointment.

New Meeting button in Outlook

  • Select the time and date as you would like it to appear on someone else’s calendar. Because you have selected Meeting, rather than appointment, this event will automatically adjust to the end user’s time zone.  Add any comments that you would like them to see, including Zoom links.

Meeting details completed in an Outlook invitation

  • Even though you have no recipients, you can click Send on this invitation; this will save it to your calendar without attendees.

2. Save the event in an iCalendar Format

On Outlook for Windows/PC

  • Double click on the newly created meeting in your calendar to open it back up. Go to the File tab

File tab

  • On the left menu, select Save As.

Save As button

  • Save to your desktop (or somewhere easy to find). Be sure that Outlook is saving this as an “ics” or iCalendar Format.

Save As screen, iCalendar format selected

  • The file will appear on your Desktop, or whichever save location you  selected in the previous step.

iCalendar event on desktop

On Outlook for Mac

This process is even simpler for Mac users.

  • Find the event on your calendar, and click and drag it to your desktop.

Apple Mac screen, click and drag event to desktop

  • For Mac users, the click and drag feature will create an .iCalendar file automatically.

iCalendar event on mac desktop

3. Upload the iCalendar Event

Now you just need a place to store this file. Your steps may vary from here, depending on the location where you are storing it. Treat this file like you would any other file you are uploading to share on a webpage, like a document or a download.

  • In my case I uploaded it to my WSU Omni webpage.

Omni Campus upload button…I did this just for the purposes of generating a link. From here, I could right click and copy the link for use in other locations, like web pages, or emails.

Copy link on right click menu

Note: You may also chose to store your iCal file in OneDrive, or SharePoint, or any other location where a public link can be generated to an uploaded file.

  • Incidentally, if you are a WSU employee and are interested in learning more about how to create Omni pages or upload documents, Media Resources has some very helpful trainings and information.

The End User Experience

In my example, I inserted the link to my iCalendar file into a conference webpage. Maybe you would choose to do this for each of the conference sessions…

GIF of user clicking on link which generates an Outlook event

When your end user clicks on this link, they will be prompted to open the file with their default mail program (most support iCalendar events).

Open File Prompt

This will open as a meeting to be accepted. Although your name will be on this event as the creator, you will not receive notification when they accept this meeting.

Event invitation with option to accept

The event will now appear on their calendar with all the details you created.

Calendar showing event added


What do you think about this trick? Do you think you will create iCalendar links for your events? I would love to hear from you. Feel free to drop me a line!

Congratulations, Power Users!

Congratulations to all our Power Users! For the full gallery, and more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, please visit: wichita.edu/poweruser

  • Kristen Watts

10 MORE Secret Commands in Microsoft Office

Almost immediately after I posted my Top 10 Favorite Secret Commands in Microsoft Office, so many more came to mind… So without further ado, here are 10 more commands that go above and beyond our usual well-known commands.

Ctrl + ; to insert date

Ctrl + K = Hyperlink

This command works in all your Microsoft Office programs, and other programs as well (like OU Campus!). Select your text, and rather than going through a right click menu, press Ctrl + K to access your hyperlink options.

Ctrl + K to insert hyperlink

Think about how quick this action can be if you have already copied your hyperlink, you can simply select text, Ctrl + K, Ctrl + V (paste), enter, and you are done.

Ctrl + ; = Insert Date (Excel)

This is different than the =TODAY function we talk about in Excel Advanced Formulas class. This command, Ctrl + ;  does not insert a formula; rather, it inserts today’s date as stagnant text.

Ctrl + ; to insert date

By the way, a similar command is Ctrl + Shift + ; to insert the current time.

Ctrl + 1, 2, 3… = Outlook Navigation

We have talked before about how Outlook has some incredible time-saving commands, and here is one of my favorites. Ctrl + (a number) will take you through the basic Outlook navigation.

Ctrl + a number for Outlook navigation

Here are the basic navigation commands in Outlook:

  • Ctrl + 1 = Mail
  • Ctrl + 2 = Calendar
  • Ctrl + 3 = Contacts
  • Ctrl + 4 = Tasks
  • Ctrl + 5 = Notes
  • Ctrl + 6 = Folders
  • Ctrl + 7 = Shortcuts
  • Ctrl + 8 = Journal

So the next time you are in your mail module, and want to take a look at your calendar, try Ctrl + 2 to quickly access it!

Ctrl + Shift + < or > = Adjust Text Size (Word, PPT)

Do you want to increase a block of text by exactly one font size? In Word or PowerPoint, select your text, then try the commands Ctrl + Shift + > to increase all selected  text by one font size or Ctrl + Shift + < to decrease.

Ctrl + Shift + > to increase size

Ctrl + [Drag] = Duplicate

We have talked about Ctrl + [drag] in Acrobat fillable forms, but did you know if works in Microsoft Office as well?

If you would like to duplicate a block of text in Word: select the text, hold down your Ctrl key, and with your mouse click and drag it to a new location. You will have an exact copy of the selected text.

Ctrl + drag to duplicate

Same story in Excel. Want to copy a block of cells? Select them, hold down the Ctrl key, and with your mouse click and drag them to their new location

Ctrl + Drag to duplicate

One note in Excel, you will want to hover your mouse on the line of selected text, until you see the four headed arrow cursor. Otherwise, Ctrl will simply deselect one of the cells in your group, rather than move them.

Four headed arrow

Ctrl + Shift + C = Copy Formatting

Almost like the Format Painter in command format… you know that Ctrl + C is copy, but did you know that Ctrl + Shift + C copies formatting?

This will work in most of your Microsoft Office programs. Select the text you would like to copy, and press Ctrl + Shift + C.

Ctrl + Shift + C to copy formatting

Select the text where you would like to copy the formatting, and press Ctrl + Shift + V. The Format Painter as a command, how cool!

Ctrl + Shift + V to Paste formatting

Ctrl + Alt + V = Paste Special

Ctrl + V is paste, and we just learned that Ctrl + Shift + V is use when copying formatting… here is another paste option: Ctrl + Alt + V will Paste Special. This will work in most of your Microsoft Office programs.

Frequently used in Excel, but also when transferring Excel data to Word… Select your data and copy (Ctrl + C), select the new location and press Ctrl + Alt + V to access Paste Special options.

Ctrl + Alt + V is paste special

Ctrl + Shift + $ = Currency Format (Excel)

There is nothing wrong with selecting a number format from the ribbon, but if you know you want currency, it could speed things up considerably to select your cells and press Ctrl + Shift + $.

Ctrl + Shift + $ to apply currency format

Ctrl + Shift + ! and beyond= Number Formats (Excel)

While you are looking at the numbers on your keyboard, try out a few more. Ctrl + Shift + ! will give you a standard Number format. Ctrl + Shift + % will give you percentages, and so on. Test out a few, and see if there are number formats you find yourself reaching for regularly.

Ctrl + Shift + ! to apply number format

Alt + F = File Tab

The Alt commands are a powerful tool in Microsoft Office. Alt will take you to the ribbon in your Office programs, and there are so many paths you can learn and memorize from there. Here is a great one to get you started:

Alt + F will take you to the File menu.

File is Alt F

From here, notice the highlighted letters letters on top of popular commands. S for Save, P for Print and so on…

File Menu options

Even if you don’t end up falling in love with all the Alt commands in the ribbon, Alt + F is an easy one to learn and utilize.


What do you think, will you use these shortcuts to save time in Microsoft Office?

Congratulations, Power Users!

Congratulations to our newest Power Users! For the full gallery, and more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, please visit: wichita.edu/poweruser

Stephanie Versch (Picture coming soon!)

Outlook: Free Up Space FAST by Taming Large Emails

Sometimes archiving just doesn’t do the trick. Your mailbox is full, you archive, and still find yourself close to the precipice of another notification that you will need to free up space. So you go through old emails, deleting hundreds of junk mails, only to see the tiniest bit of space free up. What is going on? Well… the culprit is usually not the hundreds of text-only junk emails, but rather a handful of very large emails. Here is how you can isolate those large emails, and free up space FAST by contending with those large beasts in your mailbox.

Huge Emails

Method 1: Sort

At the top right of your email list, notice that your default is to sort emails by Date. This is usually what you want, but for the moment, you want to find your largest emails.

Click on this dropdown, and select Size.

Sort by date defaulted, select Size

Notice how this organizes your mailbox. Your emails are separated into:

  • Huge: 10-25 MB emails
  • Very Large: 5-10 MB emails
  • Large: 1-5 MB emails
  • Medium: 25KB – 1 MB emails
  • Small: 10-25KB emails.

Sorted by size

This is often an “aha!” moment for people. You might discover, for instance, that a newsletter you receive weekly is the culprit for the size inflation in your inbox. Perhaps you forgot about how a month ago a large quantity of pictures were sent to you, and so on.

Combing through and deleting a handful of your Huge and Very Large emails can free up tons of space in no time.

Method 2: Incorporate a Search Folder

Search Folders are not a new topic in Office Bytes… See this article for more: Outlook Search Folders and Smart Folders. Long story short, you can create a variety of search folders to create a window into a search in your Outlook program, and Large Mail is an excellent option if you want to keep an eye on large emails long term.

1. On the left side of the screen, scroll down to Search Folder. It is usually toward the bottom of your screen.

2. Right click and select New Search Folder.

Right click, new search folder

3. In the popup, scroll down to Large Mail. Customize this folder further by choosing a size at the bottom. Press OK.

Large mail selected, 1000 KB

4. Now you will have a handy folder on the left side of your Outlook  screen that you can access any time to keep track of large emails.

Search folders appear at the bottm left of the Outlook screen

You can delete emails from either your sorted inbox view, or from the Search Folder you created.

Don’t Forget to Empty Deleted Items!

Don’t forget, those items you delete will sit in your deleted items folder and continue to take up space in your Office account until you empty the folder.

One way to do this is to right click on the Deleted Items folder, and select Empty Folder.

right click, empty folder

Remove Large Attachments

Perhaps you have found a large email; and while you still wish to hold on to the email itself, the attachment is no longer necessary, or has already been downloaded. Another option you might consider is removing the attachments from large emails.

1. Select the email message.

2. Click on the dropdown next to the attachment, or click on the attachment. Do not double click, as this will open the attachment, just a single click to select it.

3. In either the dropdown, or in the Attachments contextual tab that appears when you select the attachment, select Remove Attachment.


What do you think? Will this clear up some space in your Inbox? I did this last week, and cleared out almost 2 GB in about fifteen minutes. I was shocked to discover that an image laden newsletter I had been receiving weekly was the primary culprit.

Congratulations, Power Users!

Congratulations to our newest Power Users! For the full gallery, and more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, please visit: wichita.edu/poweruser

Top 10 Secret Key Commands in Microsoft Office

Whenever I mention one of these shortcuts in a session, I see people taking out their pencils to write them down. Most of us know some commonly used keyboard commands in Microsoft Office; Ctrl + Z to undo, Ctrl + C to copy, and so on… but I have some lesser-known favorites to share with you today. Also, take a moment to check out this article, which contains some more general shortcuts.

Header by pressing alt + ctrl + 1


F12 = Save As

If you have taken any of my Essentials sessions, you know this one, one of my absolute favorites. Remember in the old days when you used to be able to select Save As from the menu, and you would be taken directly to a dialog box with everything you wanted in one place? If you are like me, you found that box to be way faster than clicking through the options one by one in the new File/Backstage menu.

So just press F12. It does everything you want, and works in all your favorite Microsoft Office programs.

Save As screen

F7 = Spell Check

Want a quick spell check? No need to visit the ribbon, just press F7.

Word Spell Check

Especially useful in Excel, where we don’t get the red squiggly lines underneath misspelled words like we do in Word.

Excel Spell Check

F7 will also work in PowerPoint

PowerPoint Spell Check

Alt + Q = Find Features

This is a big one. Sometimes you know that a feature exists in Microsoft Office, but you are just not sure where to find it. Press Alt + Q to search for it.

Forget how to get to the Accessibility Checker? Press Alt + Q and search for it…

Find Features

While I still think it is a good idea to know where features live in the ribbon, this is an excellent tool to find what you are looking for in a hurry.

Ctrl + Y  =  Redo

Companion to the famous Ctrl + Z (undo), Ctrl + Y gets a lot less fanfare, and I have no idea why. It is a great cheat if you don’t know a key command for something. Ctrl +Y will simply recreate the last action.

Let’s say you want to insert a row into Excel in a variety of different places. Maybe you don’t know the key command (Shift Ctrl + +), so you insert one row… with the old-fashioned right click , Insert.

Right click menu, insert

To insert another row,  go to the new location, and hit Ctrl +Y. Click on the next location, Ctrl +Y, and so on. This will be much faster than performing the old “Right click, Insert” method 20 or so times.

New row with Ctrl + Y

It also works for formatting. A couple weeks ago, I was editing a Word document with quite a few pictures that I wanted to have identical style formatting. I selected one picture, applied a style format, then selected the remaining pictures, pressed Ctrl + Y and voila! All the same formatting was applied.

picture formatting. Ctrl + Y to reapply

Note: Ctrl + Y will only apply the last action, so if you were making several format changes to an item, you might be better off copying formatting with the Format Painter. Please attend an Excel, Word, or OneNote Essentials session to learn more about this amazing feature!

Ctrl + Home/Ctrl +End = Go to the Beginning or End

Need to get back to the top of a document, or conversely, need to find the end? Try Ctrl + Home or Ctrl + End to navigate.

Ctrl + Home will take you back to the top of your document, and Ctrl + End will take you to the bottom.

End of a row

Note: this will require that you are using a full keyboard… sometimes the Home and End buttons are not present on smaller keyboards or laptops.

Ctrl + Shift+ (arrow) = select an entire column or row

If you have attended Excel Advanced Formulas you know this one. Ctrl + Shift + Down Arrow will select all the data in a column. This also works with a right arrow to select all the data in a row. And in Word, it will select an entire row of data at a time.

All data selected in column with ctrl + shift + down arrow

Outlook: Ctrl + Shift + M = Create Email

I mentioned in a previous article that Outlook has some amazing time saving shortcuts. This one and the next one are my two favorites.

Regardless of the Outlook module you are working in, Ctrl + Shift + M will create a new email message. No need to return to the mail module.

Below I was in my Calendar module, and started an email with this command.

Create Email

Outlook: Alt + S = Send Email

Once you are done typing your email, don’t touch that mouse… Alt + S will send the email.

There have been occasions where someone was standing behind me as I used this command and the last in Outlook, and they exclaim, “How did you do that??” The wizardry of key commands!

Word: Alt + Ctrl + 1 (or 2, or 3) = Format as Heading

We are all utilizing headers after attending Word Essentials, right? Well, here is a quick way to set a line to Heading 1, 2 or 3: Alt + Ctrl + 1 (or 2, or 3).

Header by pressing alt + ctrl + 1

Excel: Ctrl + T = Convert Range to Table

After you attended Excel Essentials, you ran back to your computer to convert all your ranges to tables, right? The functionality we see for tables goes even beyond what we see in Essentials and Pivot Tables sessions. It is just a good practice to start utilizing them.

Instead of using the Table feature from the Home tab of the ribbon, place your cursor in the middle of your data and press: Ctrl + T.

Ctrl + T converts to Table

Of course, you can still make adjustments via the contextual Table Tool tab.

Table Tools Tab


What do you think, are any of these one of your favorite shortcuts? Or do you have a different favorite secret shortcut to share?

Congratulations, Power Users!

Congratulations to our newest Power Users! For the full gallery, and more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, please visit: wichita.edu/poweruser

  • Kaleb Basham
  • Joan Wilson

Outlook: The Power of Drag and Drop

Most people are somewhat familiar with the concept of “drag and drop” when it comes to software… that is to say, when you click on an item, hold down your mouse, and drag it to another location. Sometimes it is as simple as moving a file from one folder to another; the action of clicking on the file and dragging it to the new folder. But there are other tools you can access with this action. Outlook takes this feature to another level, and contains a remarkable number of possible uses for drag and drop. Here are just a few…


In Outlook Essentials, we talk about the Attach File button in the ribbon…

Attach File button in ribbon

… but another popular way to attach files is by dragging the file from its location into the body of an email. Particularly handy if your document is located on the desktop.

Drag and drop an item from desktop into an email

This will also work to drag the attachment from the body of a received email into a new email.

Drag attachment from one email to a new one

Reorder Calendar View

Here is a secret, little-known drag and drop feature: reordering calendars. Many of us work with multiple calendars open at once, like my two coworkers’ calendars below.

Calendar view, amy belden first, then Madelyne Toney

Sometimes calendar order gets altered for some mysterious reason, or maybe you just want them to be in a different order than the default. Drag and drop to the rescue!

Click on the calendar name on the left pane and change the order with drag and drop.

Drag and drop calendars to different location

In this case, I chose to flip the order, but I could easily flip it back with another drag and drop.Calendar order switched due to drag and drop

By the way, if you are working with calendar groups (come to Outlook Advanced to learn more), you can reorder an entire group with drag and drop. Pretty nifty!

Create Appointments from Other Modules

When I wrote about the Journal (secret feature!) I showed you this little trick, dragging and dropping a Journal entry into the calendar to make a note of the time you spent on the phone call or conversation.

The same goes for the other modules. What if you would like to set aside some time to look at the content of an email, or make a meeting in response to it?

Drag and drop the email from your inbox into the calendar module in the navigation.

Drag and drop email to calendar in navigation

This will create an event with the details of the message plugged in. Don’t forget to set the time and invite attendees, of course!

Appointment created by email drag and drop

Create Emails from Other Modules

What about the inverse? Perhaps you have an event, the details of which you would like to share in an email without an actual invitation.

Try dragging and dropping a calendar event into your mail module in the navigation.

Drag and drop calendar event to email naviagation to create new email

This will create an email, with all the contents of your calendar event, ready to share with interested parties.

Email created from calendar drag and drop

Create Tasks from Other Modules

There are tons of ways to create tasks from an email, but one of them is drag and drop! Same story here, click on the email and drag it down to the tasks module to get started.

Drag an email down to tasks in navigation

In this case, sometimes the flag button we talk about in Outlook Essentials is a little quicker, but this may come in handy too!

Congratulations, Power Users!

Congratulations to our newest Power Users! For the full gallery, and more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, please visit: wichita.edu/poweruser

Kelley Smetak

Kelley Smetak

Outlook: Delete Old Calendar Events in Batch (Plus Bonus Tip)

Most of us employ archiving to some degree in our Outlook experience. Even with archiving, sometimes you may find that you don’t feel the need to keep old calendar events from many years ago… and believe it or not, they are taking up space in your Exchange account. If you are in this boat, you may decide to delete old calendar events in batch. Here is a handy way to accomplish this in Outlook.

Menus as described below

By the way, shout out to Aaron for having this quandary and inspiring this Byte!

Using Advanced Search

There are probably several ways to accomplish this task, and some of it depends on your version of Outlook. We are going to use Advanced Search for this Byte. And you can follow along up until the last three steps if you are uncertain if you want to delete but just want to explore the feature.

1. Navigate to the calendar in the navigation (lower left).  In the upper right click into the search field.

2. This activates your search tab. In this tab, select Search Tools and Advanced Find.Search Tools Advanced Find

3. Go to the Advanced Tab in the popup.

4. In the Field dropdown, select Date/Time fields and End.

Menus as described below

5. For Condition, select On or Before.

Condition with on or before selected

6. For Value, list the date that you want to cut off.

7. Select Add to List and Find Now.

Screen as described in instructions

8. Click into the body of results. Press Ctrl + A to select all

9. Right click, and Delete.

right click menu with delete selected

10. Don’t forget to empty your deleted items folder to free up space!

The same process could theoretically apply to mail, though I have found that people tend to archive mail and/or want to be more cautious about deleting them in batch (understandably)… whereas fewer people care about what meetings and lunches they attended in 2014.

Bonus Tip: Emojis

How about a bonus Outlook tip at no extra charge? I have to thank Emily for this one, because I had no idea about this shortcut.

If you want to insert an emoji into an email, you can access a full list with the command:  Windows Key + ;

Emoji Popup

If you don’t see this appear, be sure you have clicked into the body of the email message.

By the way, you can access these emojis in other screens as well… try it out in your browsers!


What do you think? Do you need to clear out any old events in your calendar to free up some space? Let me know how it goes!

Congratulations, Power Users!

Congratulations to our newest Power Users! For the full gallery, and more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, please visit: wichita.edu/poweruser

Outlook: Disabling Automatic Schedule View in Calendar

The Automatic Schedule View feature in Outlook is generally regarded as a gnawing frustration for most Outlook users. It is not a debilitating occurence, but something that requires constant correction. Here is the good news… you can turn it off so it never bothers you again.

More arrow in arrange group

Before we jump in, big thank you to Megan for having this question in the last Outlook Advanced session.

How is Schedule View Triggered?

Most people, when viewing multiple calendars at a time, are used to viewing them side by side like this:

Regular calendar view

But, by default, if you open more than 5 calendars at a time, instead your view automatically changes to something like this:

Schedule view

This horizontal orientation is Schedule View. Not the end of the world… most people just mosey up to the Arrange group in the ribbon, and flip back to Work Week or Week view (depending on their preference).

Arrange group, Schedule View selected

That being said, some find it a bit jarring when you are browsing through 4 calendars, then open up one more and suddenly the whole view is changed. Sort of interrupts your train of thought…

Who knows, maybe you even like Schedule View (no judgement), but would like to activate it yourself, rather than have it flip on automatically. Here is how you can make that change.

Disabling Automatic Schedule View

  1. Go to the Calendar module.
  2. In the Home tab, Arrange group, click on the arrow in the lower right of the group.Arrange group, more arrow
  3. Scroll down to Display Options, and either uncheck “Automatically switch…to Schedule View”, or change the minimum number to automatically switch from 5 to a number you prefer.

Display options, box unchecked next to automatically switch to Schedule View feature

4. Click OK.

Some of this is personal preference. I turned this feature off completely. For me, I would rather change my view by hand rather than have it automatically change when I am in the middle of browsing calendars.

You may decide that you want it to automatically change for you, but just after a larger number of calendars are opened. Either way, the power is now in your hands!


What do you think, do you think you will make an adjustment to your Schedule View defaults?

Microsoft PowerUp!

Hey are you all signed up and ready for one of my upcoming PowerUp sessions? I hope to see you there! More information can be found at wichita.edu/powerup.

Powerup Session poster. visit wichita.edu/powerup

Congratulations, Power Users!

Congratulations to our newest Power Users! For the full gallery, and more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, please visit: wichita.edu/poweruser

Arlene Thomsen

Arlene Thomsen

Microsoft Office 365 PowerUp! Sessions

New Session for WSU Faculty and Staff

Microsoft Office 365 at WSU will feature biannual updates, so you will start seeing new buttons and features appear in your ribbon periodically (perhaps you have noticed a few already). So, we are testing out something new…

Microsoft PowerUp!

  • The sessions will be called Microsoft PowerUp!
  • PowerUp is intended to showcase new features in 365, and will contain new information not covered in previous Microsoft Office sessions.
  • The sessions will be quick. These are demos, not full training sessions, so you can plan for about an hour.
  • Two January sessions will be offered: January 8th and 15th.  
  • Sessions are listed in myTraining, so sign up now and we will save you a spot and a free guide!


Microsoft Office: Color Themes and Custom Color Palettes

Working with color themes in Microsoft Office can open up a whole world of possibilities for customizing your documents. Most people don’t realize how much they are already interacting with themes in Office, or how much control they can have with just a couple clicks. Let’s check it out. But first, a special thank you to Sheree for having some excellent color palette questions in an Excel Essentials session a couple weeks ago and inspiring this Byte.

Exercise File

You can follow along on one of your existing documents, or if you would like a starting place, here is a Word document you can start with:

This is a Word document with a few visual elements that incorporate theme colors. These are all things that will be effected by altering the color theme.

Themes and Color Palettes

What does it mean to apply a color theme? In most of your Office programs, you are already using a color theme, whether you realize it or not. The default is the Office color theme. You see your theme colors in everything from the color options for your fonts, to your default headers, to tables and charts… and more.

In the test file you downloaded, you are seeing it in the headers, the chart, the icons and the table…

One of the easiest ways to check your current palette is to visit the Home tab, Font group, and click on the dropdwon arrow next to the Font Color.

Notice how there are Theme colors, and Standard Colors. The Theme colors display your current color palette. There are gradations underneath each main theme color…. lighter and darker versions of each of the theme colors to create contrast.

Change the Color Theme

Changing your color theme is simple!

1. Go to the Design tab, Document Formatting group. (By the way, this is also where you can go to change your default font settings for the document).

2. Select the Colors dropdown to see a full list of themes. Hover your mouse over each color palette to see a preview.

3. Select a color theme by clicking on it.

Because theme colors are utilized in so many ways in this document, we really see a change in appearance!

Custom Color Palettes

If you are artistically inclined, you might be interested in creating your own custom color themes.

1. In the Design tab, Document Formatting group, click on the Colors dropdown again, but instead of selecting a predefined color set, select Customize Colors…

2. Click on the dropdown beside any of the accent colors to make an alteration. Typically Accent 1 is the color you will see the most in a document.

3. You have the ability to select colors from a color wheel, or select More Colors to enter an exact RGB color.

4. When you are finished, name the color palette and click Save.

5. The new color set will appear in a new section at the top of the Colors dropdown called Custom.

You will be able to access this color palette anytime you create a new document on this computer.

Accessing Custom Color Themes in other Microsoft Programs

Once you have created a color theme that you like, you may want to access it in other programs. Microsoft knows this, so has made them accessible to you in many of your Office programs. They are in slightly different locations though, so let’s take a look.


In PowerPoint, you often see color themes even more prominently than in Word. Here is one popular theme called Berlin, that features a red and yellow color set.

1. In PowerPoint, visit the Design tab, Variants group.

2. Select the dropdown arrow in the lower right:

3. Here is where you will see your color theme options, plus the new custom color you just created in Word. Neat!

This definitely changes the look of this document…


In Excel, Color themes affect features like tables, charts, shapes, and fonts. The default in Excel is the Office color set as well. These colors should look familiar:

1. In Excel, visit the Page Layout tab, Themes group.

2. Select the Colors dropdown.

3. Here is your custom color theme again… no need to reinvent the wheel.


Outlook? Did you read that right? Yep! Outlook also has the same themes and color sets you know and love from your other Office programs.

1. Open up a new email.

2. Visit the Options tab, Themes group.

3. Click on the Colors dropdown, and there you are…


What do you think? Do you think you will utilize custom color themes in your Office documents? By the way, if you create a cool WSU themed color theme, I would love it if you would share it with me!

Congratulations, Power Users!

Congratulations to our newest Power Users! For the full gallery, and more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, please visit: wichita.edu/poweruser

Madelyne Toney

Linda Claypool

Susan Johnson

Karen Wilson

Jaime Scherer

Jessica Casper

Cara Tucker

Linda Young (not pictured)

Outlook: Special View Settings with Conditional Formatting

Are you lost in a sea of emails? It might be useful to make certain emails stand out with a special color or formatting. Perhaps a fillable form that comes to your inbox with a specific subject could be green, or all emails from your boss could show up as red. Customizing your inbox with … Continue reading “Outlook: Special View Settings with Conditional Formatting”

Are you lost in a sea of emails? It might be useful to make certain emails stand out with a special color or formatting. Perhaps a fillable form that comes to your inbox with a specific subject could be green, or all emails from your boss could show up as red. Customizing your inbox with conditional formatting can be a huge time saving tool to help draw attention to certain emails in your inbox at glance. Let’s take a look. Before we get started, I would like to thank Michelle for having an excellent question in last week’s Outlook Advanced class that inspired this Byte.

View tab, view settings

About Conditional Formatting

Just like we experienced in Excel, conditional formatting in Outlook will look for certain conditions and apply a specific appearance to them. Here are a few caveats before we jump in:

  • This feature is currently only available for the PC desktop application of Outlook (apologies to Mac users).
  • Conditional Formatting applies to one folder at a time. This means that you can create separate rules for each folder. It also means that you should be cautious of which folder is selected before jumping into the view setting.
  • Changes you make with this setting are at your computer application level only: it is a view setting within the Outlook desktop application. This means that other instances of Outlook (e.g. the online application, or the desktop application running on an additional computer) on will not adopt these view settings.
  • If you would like to learn more about Conditional Formatting, please attend one of my Outlook Advanced sessions (listed in myTraining).

Create a Conditional Formatting Rule

1. Start by selecting the folder where you would like to apply the rule. This may just be your Inbox if you are not a big fan of folders.

2. Go to the View tab, Current View group, and select View Settings.

View tab, View settings

3. Select Conditional Formatting.

Advanced view settings screen, conditional formatting button

Here are all your current Conditional Formatting rules. That’s right, you already have some rules… like the way an unread message uses blue font, for instance… I would not recommend changing existing default rules.

3. On the right select Add.

Conditional formatting box, add button circled.

4. At the bottom of the popup, you will be prompted to name your rule. Use a name that is relevant to you.

Properties with a name created: "amazing title"

From here, there are two settings we have to create: Font and Condition. Just like with Excel, it is easy to get carried away with creating one setting and forget to do the other…

Font Settings

Let’s set the appearance first.

1. To the left of your title, select Font.

font button in conditional formatting popup

2. A popup screen appears with various font options along the top: font type, style and size…

Font screen, font styles, sizes, color visible

… and of course the funnest part, in the lower left, Color!

Color dropdown menu

3. Make your font and color selections, then press OK once.

Condition Settings

This second part is easy to forget. Sometimes we spend a lot of time crafting the perfect appearance, and then forget to tell Outlook what the Condition is where the appearance should be applied.

1. Below where you selected Font, select Condition.

Condition button, conditional formatting screen

Take a look at your options… you have the ability to format based on:

  • Specific words in a subject field
  • Emails from or to specific people
  • Situations where you are the only person in the To: line
  • … and we will see some more examples shortly.
Filter screen, condition optiosn including items mentioned in bullet points above.

2. For this scenario, I am going to set a condition based on emails From a specific person. Click on the From button to browse the directory. Double click on the person’s name, then press OK.

  • This option works best if you browse for a name, rather than typing in the full email.
Global address list, name search for Ali Levine. OK button circled.

3. Let’s take a look at the More Choices tab, because things get even more interesting here. Not only are more options present here, but we could layer these on top of the previous selection… here are conditions based on:

  • Category
  • Only unread or read items
  • Items with attachments
  • Importance level
  • Items that are flagged
Filter options in conditional formatting, more choices visible, as described in bullets above.

So think about this, you could set your formatting to color code emails from a specific person that are unread; or emails that have specific words in the title that also have attachments. So many possibilities!

4. Once you have this set how you would like, press OK. Then OK again to get back to your Outlook folder.

Conditional formatting screen, OK button circled

If all went well, you should be able to see the effects of your lovely new rule. I picked purple for mine…

Inbox shows email from Ali Levine with purple font


What do you think about Conditional Formatting in Outlook? Do you think you will apply some of these rules to your Outlook folders? I would love to hear from you!

Congratulations, Power Users!

Congratulations to our newest Power Users! For the full gallery, and more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, please visit: wichita.edu/poweruser

Samantha Dolan

Samantha Dolan