Change Outlook theme, customize Outlook colors and more

Personalize Outlook and make it look the way you want

Do you use Outlook.com in a browser on your Windows PC or Apple Mac? There are many ways to customize Outlook Calendar and Mail and make it look great. Let’s customize this online tool.

Outlook Calendar and Outlook Mail use the same interface and they are like two tabs in the same app. Personalize one and some settings apply to the other. For example the same theme, dark or light mode, and a few other things affect both Calendar and Mail.

I will focus on Calendar here, but you will see some changes in Mail too. The free online version of Outlook is used at outlook.com or office.com rather than the Outlook software installed on a computer. No subscription is required. Did you know you can install the Outlook.com website as a desktop app? Read Turn websites into apps running on PC and Mac desktop.

The most obvious ways to personalize Outlook and change its look is by selecting a new color scheme. The toolbar at the top can be changed, and if you use multiple calendars, it is useful to choose a different color for each one. There are also date and time options, and you can choose the start of the week.

Change Outlook to dark mode

Outlook website dark mode setting
Switch to dark mode with Outlook

Dark mode for apps and operating systems has a lot of fans and whether you use light or dark mode on the PC or Mac desktop, you can select dark mode for the Outlook.com website. It is a global setting that is applied to both Calendar and Mail.

Click the gear icon at the right side of the toolbar at the top of the page and then turn on the Dark mode switch. It looks great and it is an easy way to personalize Outlook.

Change the Outlook theme

Select a theme for Outlook.com mail and calendar
Select an Outlook theme

Click the gear icon in the Outlook toolbar and a few themes are shown. Click the View all link below the tiles and the full collection of themes is displayed. Use the scrollbar on the right to see them all. Change the Outlook theme and the background of the toolbar at the top is replaced. It doesn’t always change the text colors, but sometimes they change too.

See the theme that is selected in the screenshot? That is an animated one! There is a whale in the toolbar and the waves on the sea move. Click each of the theme tiles to try them all and see if you can find any more animated ones to customize Outlook with.

There seem to be more themes here than when I last looked, so check again in a month or two to see if there are extra ones.

Set Outlook Calendar time scale

Customize Outlook time scale
Set Outlook time scale

What is Outlook Calendar time scale? Click the gear icon in the toolbar and look for Time scale in the Settings panel on the right. There are options from 60 minutes down to 5 minutes. What do they do?

Switch to the Day view in Outlook so that only one day is shown. With the hourly time scale, there are 24 one-hour slots in which to create events. This is fine if all of your events are hours long and start and stop on the hour.

Create an event in the Outlook calendar
Create an Outlook Calendar event with the hourly time scale

The start and end times of an event or meeting can be set to whatever you want, but there isn’t the space in the Day view slots to show multiple events within an hour properly. Take a look at the next screenshot.

Create an Outlook calendar event
Create an Outlook Calendar event with the 10 minute time scale

This is with the time scale set to 10 minutes, so there are six slots in each hour. You can easily create a 10 minute event and show it in the day view of the calendar.

Events can start and stop at whatever time you set, such as 11.07, it is just that you can show multiple events in the same hour clearly with a time scale of 10 minutes because there is more space. Try creating three or four events in the same hour with the 60 minute time scale to see the difference.

Set Outlook date and time formats

Customize the date format in Outlook Calendar
Set Outlook date format

Different regions around the world display times and dates differently. You may also have personal preferences too. All can be customized in the Settings panel on the right.

Click the gear icon in the toolbar to show the Settings panel and then set the current time zone. If you are a remote worker in a different time zone to your employer, or if you have clients or customers in another time zone, you might want to set Outlook time zone to theirs, rather than yours.

Set the date format too. Some places use day/month/year and some use month/day/year. Do you want leading zeros or not? It is up to you. Choose whatever suits you.

set the time format in Outlook Calendar
Select the time format to use

Select the time format to use in Outlook. Choose whichever one you like the best. There is no right or wrong. It affects the display of events and appointments in the calendar.

Set the start of the week in Outlook Calendar
Set the day for the start of the week in Outlook

What day does the week start on? Sunday or Monday? It is personal preference, but I find it better to set Monday as the first day of the week and this makes Saturday and Sunday the end of the week. It makes sense to lump them together as we often do things at weekends, like go on a trip and both days appear next to each other in the calendar views.

Select the calendar color in Outlook

In the screenshot below, you can see that all the calendars are the same color. This makes it hard to distinguish one from another. Customize Outlook calendar colors. Move the mouse over a calendar in the left sidebar in Outlook and click the three dots to open the menu. Move the mouse over Color and a menu flies out on the right. Select a color for the calendar.

Set the color for a calendar in Outlook
Set different colors for calendars

You could have a holidays calendar and color it green for example. This makes it very easy to see when your holidays are when looking at Calendar in month view. If you have a shared work or family calendar, or some other calendar you are subscribed to, select a different color for it, like red.

It is surprising what a difference a bit of color makes to the calendar views, and it really makes events stand out.


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