Tuesday, February 12, 2013

How to change Outlook 2013's default color scheme

This post will be about how to change Outlook 2013's default color 'theme' from 'all white all the time' (aka how to save yourself from clawing out your corneas). I am not a fan of the default view as I think it hinders visibility. I know my sentiments are shown in the general community as well.  

Note: I would like to preface this post by saying that I do recommend upgrading to Office 2013 and I am enjoying the added features. I do not get compensation for recommendations and referrals. Please don't think that even though I'd like to purchase a Surface. I'm not a fan boy and just really like it.

While there is no way to change the color scheme in Outlook 2013 like you could in previous versions of Windows for the OS, you do have the option to retain your sanity through a small tweak. This 'tweak' (aka new configuration option) will help alleviate this pain, but not fix what I consider to be a big issue.

There are two ways to 'customize' the look of the application: 'Office Background' and 'Office Theme'. I use the quotes in customize as its not making it unique in any way and is pretty mild in the changes that are actually made.
  1. With 'Office Background', it makes small changes to the top of the application... hooray...  See this well done post for more details: GroovyPost - How to Change the Office 2013 Background Theme.
  2. With 'Office Theme', it sightly changes the hue of the top and left hand side of the application. There are three exciting themes: 'White', 'Light Grey', and 'Dark Grey'. While sitting over my five dollar footlong subway sandwich (choice of the weight-conscious consultants), I decided these were about as exciting as their names teased.
Since the Office Background is not that exciting and the 'white' theme (See Figure 2 below) drove me nuts, this blog will just show you how to change this. In Outlook 2013, do the following:
  1. Click on 'File' in the upper left hand corner of the screen and select 'Options'
    • You will see a screen that looks like Figure 1 below
  2. Under 'Personalize your copy of Microsoft Office', you will see the 'Office Theme' option.
  3. Change this and set it to something other than white for god sake. I chose 'Dark Grey' to get it as far away from the default as possible. See Figures 2, 3 and 4 for an example of the options provided. You may need to adjust your monitor to see the difference...
According to HowTo-Outlook - 30 Short questions and tips for Outlook 2013, the white theme grows on you after a month or two. I won't doubt what they say as its a good blog but I can't live with it long enough to verify that statement. I can't believe the consumer preview only had 'white' as the theme. That is a testament to what beta testing consumer feedback can provide.

Figure 1 - The 'Office Theme' setting

Figure 2 - The 'White' Office Theme

Figure 3 - The 'Light Grey' Office Theme

Figure 4 - The 'Dark Grey' Office Theme


  1. Will it possible to add more colours?

  2. There is currently no official (or unofficial...) way to change this outside of the options I detailed above. Microsoft added more colors upon the first official release after the consumer preview version. Who's to say they won't do this again upon the next major update?

    From what I understand, Microsoft is going to release a new, very large update to the Windows 8 OS very soon. This will probably include updates to some of their base apps. I am not sure if this includes Office 2013 updates but I'm crossing my fingers. In my opinion, while the colors are 'cosmetic', that shouldn't mean its an insignificant. I wouldn't want to drive a hot pink car with an all electric yellow interior even if it drove like a Z06 Corvette...

    I'll post an update and put a link to that here if it does change.

  3. Have not heard or found anything yet I assume?

  4. Even with the new updates, there have no changes to this. Still the same colors...

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