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My Outlook Inbox is configured to the Conversation View, such that the newest message in a thread appears to be the only message in my inbox--unless you expand the thread with the disclosure arrow on the left to reveal the entire thread.

That said, let's say I have 10 emails that are part of the same conversation thread.

Scenario 1: When the most recent email comes in and I assign it a category, this seems to assign the category to every email in the thread--not just the one email message I care about. Not what I want.

Scenario 2: If I expand the thread and categorize any message within the thread, the expected result occurs: just that email message is categorized.

Any way to tell Outlook to not categorize the entire thread under Scenario 1 above?

  • -1 I'm on Outlook 2013 and I can't reproduce your Scenario 1. Like Techie007 says, all emails will have the same category if you selected the entire conversation and not the most recent e-mail only. I think this is user error and the product is working as expected. – Sun Feb 5 '15 at 23:35
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From my understanding, no there's not (at least not a built-in way).

Until you expand it, you are dealing with the "Conversation" and not the individual message. So anything done to the "Conversation" affects all messages within it.

Personally, I gave up on the Conversation view because of that type of stuff. :/

Anyhow, for your specific task you may be able to get away with a VBA macro like below:

Sub CatFirstEmail()
    Set Conversations = ActiveExplorer.Selection.GetSelection(Outlook.OlSelectionContents.olConversationHeaders)
    For Each convHeader In Conversations
        Set Items = convHeader.GetItems()
        Items(1).Categories = "My Category"
    Next convHeader
End Sub

Add this code to Outlook, and assign a quick-access button to the macro (and/or a keyboard shortcut).

Highlight the Conversation you want to categorize (not a single message within) and run the macro. It will categorize the first (incoming) message in the conversation with the "My Category" category.

Warning this example code only marks with a single named category, and it has to be a category name that already has been named in Outlook. It also seems to fly under Outlook refresh routines sometimes, so it may not appear to apply, but it's there. Or you've applied it but can't clear it. A restart of Outlook seems to get everything back in line.

Also, this code has not been thoroughly tested. For example: I have no idea what to expect if you run it in a folder other than your Inbox. ;)

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