Categories in OWA

Frequent Contributor

In Outlook desktop I can use the Categories (colours and descriptions) and I can create "Smart Folders" that grouped messages for category.

In OWA I can assign a category, I can manage the categories, BUT I can't find how I can see messages grouped for categories.

Someone can explain me? Thanks

16 Replies

You cannot filter by categories in OWA, neither can you create Search Folders there.

Why are the categories in OWA? Man Surprised


it would be nice if the business side had the same category feature that is on the consumer side - it more or less works the way Vincenzo wants. ( gets all the cool stuff.)

uhm... the business version of Outlook for  Mac had this feature, in OWA there's the possibility to assign a category and then?

Why in OWA I can assign categories?
What is their function?  

You can use search in OWA to find emails categorized with a certain category. For example you can search for this: category:="Yellow Category"

Yes, but OWA does not recognize the categories assigned in Outlook (desktop).
It is not possible to assign categories in OWA, categories in Outlook !!!!

I can assign a category in Outlook and see it in OWA and vice versa. This should work for you also, but if it doesn't then you probably have a sync issue.

I have several messages with different categories in Outlook for Mac: I can't see them in OWA.

I have assigned a category to a message in OWA: I didn't see it in Outlook for Mac.


I tested using Outlook for Windows and I don't have an Outlook for Mac at this moment to test with, but I think it should work in a similar way.
A bit of info about categories in Outlook for Mac:

Outlook for Mac 2011 uses a local list of categories. The names of these categories are synchronized to the server that is running Microsoft Exchange Server when they are assigned to items. This makes the names visible on different clients and devices. However, the colors for these categories aren't synchronized to Exchange.

Outlook 2016 for Mac uses the Master Category List (MCL) that is stored on the Exchange server to synchronize the category names and colors.

Therefore, when you migrate from Outlook for Mac 2011 to Outlook 2016 for Mac, any local category names that are assigned to items are merged with the MCL. Random colors are assigned to these categories because the colors from Outlook for Mac 2011 are not synchronized.

Thank you for the information, but I am working on Outlook 2016 and not with the importation!

OK, I have tried it, yesterday, with Office Insider Fast v. 15.28 and today with the 15.29

I have to open a ticket in my tenant or I have to write via Outlook with a report of the problem ??!!!

I understood that you are not importing or migrating anything. I gave you that info because there is an important part there, "Outlook 2016 for Mac uses the Master Category List (MCL) that is stored on the Exchange server to synchronize the category names and colors".

What this means is that the categories visible in Outlook for Mac are the same ones as those visible in OWA, so you should be able to apply then using one client and see them in the other client, unless there is a synchronization issue.

OK, thanks.

there is a synchronization issue.

I will open a ticket in my tenant for OWA...

You're welcome.

My opinion is that the sync issue might be caused by Outlook for Mac, not OWA. You could try the following steps (

Cause: Items from an Exchange account are stored in the Outlook cache. If this cache becomes corrupted, it may cause synchronization problems with the Exchange server.
Solution: Empty the cache in Outlook so that Outlook can download all the items from your Microsoft Exchange account again.

CAUTION: The following procedure deletes any information that is not synchronized with the Exchange server, including your contacts' mail certificate. Emptying the cache replaces the contents of the folder with the latest items from the Exchange server. Before emptying the cache, you may want to ensure that your Outlook information is backed up.

1. Make sure that your computer is connected to the Exchange server.
2. In the navigation pane, Ctrl+click or right-click the Exchange folder for which you want to empty the cache, and then click Properties.
3. On the General tab, click Empty Cache.
4. After the folder is empty, Outlook automatically downloads the items from the Exchange server.

I have followed instrucions at

BUT without success.


I have tried to find in the OWA site the messages with category:="_Vari Category", no results.

In Outlook for Mac I have tried to filter for category "Blue Category", no results.


I am waiting for a technical support.

This worked for me, but without equal sign after colon. I typed the following into the O365 search


category:"New Project Ideas"


making sure the Category Name was an exact string match.