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How do I recover colored flag assignments in Outlook 2007?

Posted on 2008-11-13
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Last Modified: 2013-11-29
I have been using Outlook 2007 on WinXP with an IMAP email account.  I flag some of my messages with different color assignments.  Last week my motherboard died, so I had to install Outlook 07 on a new machine.

When I retrieve my old email messages the flags are still there, but all the color assignments have disappeared.  How can I retrieve my old color assignments?

I can still retrieve files from my old hard drive.

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Question by:mousepad30
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Expert Comment

by:David Lee
ID: 22956162
Hi, mousepad30.

By "flags" I assume you mean the colors associated with categories.  If so, then those are stored in a hidden folder in the information store where mail is delivered.  There is no simple means of copying these to a new information store.  Frankly, it's a lot easier to use a script to create the categories which you can then use at any time to re-create them.  I can provide the script if you're interested.
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Author Comment

by:mousepad30
ID: 22956297
Hi BlueDevilFan,

To clarify, I imported my old data file (PST) and was able to retrieve the categories.  I had categories such as "Red - Urgent", "Blue - Follow up in 2 Days", "Yellow - Send Payment", etc.  The problem is that the category assignments I had made to 100's of emails are all flagged neutral with no distinct labels anymore.  

Again, I was able to recreate the master category list; such as "Red - Urgent", "Blue - Follow up", but I need to retrieve the existing assignments I made on previous emails.  

The information must be stored somewhere on my old drive.

Chris
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Expert Comment

by:David Lee
ID: 22956383
HI, Chris.

I understood that.  As I explained, they're in the hidden folder.  Le mt explain how categories work in 2007.  It's a matching process.  First, you create a category and assign it a color.  That information is stored as an entry in the hidden folder.  Second, you assign an item to a category.  That stores the assigned category's text in the Categories property of the item.  When Outlook displays the item it does a lookup, matching the text in the Categories property of the item to the list of items in the hidden folder.  If a match is found, then the colored flag appears.  

Retrieving the categories would require you to open your old PST file, then employ a tool capable of reading the hidden folder and copying the items over.  There may be a tool out there that does this, but I don't know of one.  It is far simpler to re-create the category to color assignments using a script.  The beauty of a script is that you can re-create your categories at a moments notice with nothing more than a double-click of a mouse.
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Author Comment

by:mousepad30
ID: 22956411
Hi BlueDevilFan,

Thanks for your patience... with this script will I have a way of viewing the 100's of email category assignments I have made previously?

Chris
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Expert Comment

by:David Lee
ID: 22956503
Unfortunately, no.  The only way to do that would be to read that hidden folder.  The script is just an easier way to rebuild the categories.  Going the script route you will need to make two comma separated lists: one of the category text, the other of the matching colors.  Something like this

Business,Personal,Project 1,Project 2
4,17,23,9

The colors are given as numbers.  The script then reads the two lists and rebuilds the categories.  The alternative to a script solution is to use the category dialog-box and re-create them manually.  It may seem that there's not much difference, but consider the impact if this were to happen again.  Without a script you'd be faced with creating the categories manually a second time.  But, with the script you simply double-click the script file and voila.
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Author Comment

by:mousepad30
ID: 22956632
Thanks for your advice BlueDevilFan.  At this time, my Master Category List is only 10 items long and already restored via importing my old PST file.  

The big issue I am trying to resolve is re-sorting all the emails I have.  I may try booting from my old drive to see if I can at least find out which emails were labeled.  

For future reference, is there a more stable and exportable way of categorizing emails?  Apparently, PST files do not store these records.
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LVL 76

Expert Comment

by:David Lee
ID: 22956700
To quote Homer Simpson, "Doh!"  Apparently my brain is asleep today.  I went back and re-read what you said and see that I didn't understand.  Apologies.  You've already re-created the categories, you're saying that the categories are missing from the items.  Right?  If so, then that's a problem.  The category tags for individual items are stored in an item property called Categories.  They would be pulled in during an import along with all of the rest of an item's properties.  If they aren't there, then either the import didn't work properly or the items are damaged.  If you re-connect the old PST file do you see the categories on the items in it?
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Author Comment

by:mousepad30
ID: 22956833
No problem, I am glad we are on the same page now :)

After re-connecting the old PST only calendar events and my Master Category List are restored.  Hundreds of email messages are flagged, but appear un-categorized.

I never got a chance to do a proper import/export in Outlook, because my original computer died suddenly.  I literally pulled the .xml, .pst, and other data files directly from:

E:\Documents and Settings\christopher\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook
E:\Documents and Settings\christopher\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook

I dropped the old files directly into the fresh install directory under C:\

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Author Comment

by:mousepad30
ID: 22956836
No problem, I am glad we are on the same page now :)

After re-connecting the old PST only calendar events and my Master Category List are restored.  Hundreds of email messages are flagged, but appear un-categorized.

I never got a chance to do a proper import/export in Outlook, because my original computer died suddenly.  I literally pulled the .xml, .pst, and other data files directly from:

E:\Documents and Settings\christopher\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook
E:\Documents and Settings\christopher\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook

I dropped the old files directly into the fresh install directory under C:\

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LVL 76

Expert Comment

by:David Lee
ID: 22956934
"Hundreds of email messages are flagged, but appear un-categorized."

Sorry, but I'm not clear on what you mean.  When you say "flagged" are you talking about follow-up flags?  Could you take a screen-shot of an item and upload it here so I can see what you're talking about?
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Author Comment

by:mousepad30
ID: 22957266
I pulled these images off the internet, but they will suffice.  

This is what my categories used to look like:
http://www.carsonified.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/03/flags.png
http://www.projectwoman.com/uploaded_images/followup-706992.jpg
(Notice the green and purple categorized emails in the to-do bar)

This is what my screen looks like now:
http://www.dotnetcurry.com/images/Outlook/flag_list.jpg
(Emails are flagged for follow up; but no individual categories)
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LVL 76

Expert Comment

by:David Lee
ID: 22959384
If you open one of the items, do you see the category name(s) at the top of the item?
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Accepted Solution

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mousepad30 earned 0 total points
ID: 22962532

I have a solution to my outlook problem!

I have documented the steps I took below for
future reference.

PST files need to be properly imported through
the OL07 (under file >> import/export).  I had
previously dragged and dropped my old PST
files into a new install directory; which OL07
does not handle well.

It also took me awhile to figure out how to
reconnect my old PST with an active email account.
When you move a pst file to a new computer
it will necessary to recreate an email account
and import/merge your old PST; especially if
you are using IMAP.

Steps I took to solve the problem:

1. Save a copy of my old PST files.

2. Recreate email accounts in fresh install of
OL07 (setup IMAP, passwords, server, etc.)

3. Under File >> Import/Export choose "Import
from another Program" then choose "PST file"
on the next menu.  I am using IMAP, so I was
given the option to merge my old emails and
either replace duplicates or not.  I chose
replace duplicates, because the color category
assignment information was stored in my old
PST.

It can take 20-30 minutes to import an old
pst into a new email account.

Tada! All flags and category assignments
restored.

Chris

PS Thank you very much for your help and
follow-up.  After all day of troubleshooting the
same software issue it helps to get input
from others on the issue.  
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LVL 76

Expert Comment

by:David Lee
ID: 22963996
Chris,

Glad you have a solution.  Since you solved this yourself you should request that the question be closed and your points refunded.
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