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Outlook Categories: Is there a way to have a SharedMailbox with consistent Categories for all Users that access the mailbox?

Posted on 2017-02-14
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Last Modified: 2017-02-16
I have a client who moved to O365 from in-house. Their Public Folders were migrated (using BitTitan.com). Problem is that each user has their own individual list of Categories (just how Outlook works from what I have read). But if they open up a Contact they will see all the categories assigned to that Contact by them or anyone else (but they will be white, not colored). Again, how Outlook works I guess.

I learned the above from this great explanation (thanks David Lee!):
https://www.experts-exchange.com/questions/28374526/categories-Outlook-2010-not-showing-for-all-users.html

I'm wondering if we could create a SharedMailbox and then cleanup/fix their categories while logged into that mailbox and ONLY use that mailbox to manage categories going forward.

But, I fear that unless the SharedMailbox is opened exclusively in Outlook and Categories are then managed while logged onto that mailbox only, category chaos would resume (ie, if the SharedMailbox was later opened as another Mailbox by a user and they assigned/managed categories the categories would be from their personal profile).

Hope I've explained this clearly :^)

Has anyone come up with a way to tame the category beast so that categories can be centrally created/assigned/managed for a SharedMailbox that users can then access (but not mess with)?
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Question by:scion111
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David Lee earned 500 total points
ID: 42011389
Hi, scion111.

In Outlook, categories consist of a category name and an associated color.  Category names are both personal and universal.  They are personal in the sense that you're list of category names exists just for you just as my list of category names exists just for me.  They are universal in the sense that when you categorize a shared item that category name stays with the item.  When viewing the item I will see the category name you applied regardless of whether I have that same category name in my list of categories.  Category colors, however, are strictly personal.  You and I might have a category of the same name, but you'll see it with whatever color you assigned to it and I'll see it with whatever color I assigned to it.  There is no way to control that because the color associations are stored in each user's profile.  They are specific to the person, not specific to the mailbox (i.e. you can't have one set of categories for your mailbox and a different set of categories for a shared mailbox).

Outlook does not have a built-in solution to accomplish what you want.  In fact, there is no way I know of to enforce a set of categories across mailboxes.  That said, a few years ago I created a solution I called "Corporate Categories" that's available on my blog.  It works by syncing a list of category names and colors to any computer running the solution.  The idea was to create and distribute a standard set of categories to everyone in a group/business.  While it does do that, it does not enforce the categories.  Each user can still add, change, and delete.  And in the context if what you're looking for, this solution cannot create/maintain categories for a single mailbox.  That's just not possible.  The categories this solution creates would be available to all mailboxes.
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Author Closing Comment

by:scion111
ID: 42011583
Thanks David! Was hoping there was a better way to centrally manage categories (as they can get really messed up and confusing), but your explanation makes it very clear regarding what can and can't be controlled.
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