Color Schemes delivered with Outlook are terrible

Sorry, I don't know of a nice way to say it, but the as-delivered color schemes for Outlook 2010 are horrid.

All 3 of the colors are very difficult to read. What happened to the nice legible look of the demo? Is there a way to have button outlines for that good old "organized" look, or is the wave of the future this "floaty" look? I sure hope not. This looks look like it was lifted from a Mac.

Sorry to sound so negative, but this just seems like a big step backwards.

If anyone has something helpful I would appreciate it, but I'm guessing the answer is that this is just how it is.

  • Moved by Sally Tang Monday, June 28, 2010 6:01 AM (From:Office 2010 Setup and Deployment)
June 25th, 2010 4:40am



Thank you for contacting Outlook IT Pro Discussions Services. 


From your description, I understand that you found that the three color schemes are difficult to read: Blue, Silver and Black.


I understand the inconvenience you have encountered. However, this is by design. You can also change the Windows desktop scheme for better reading. For detailed steps, you can refer to this article:


If it is still hard to read after changing the scheme, you can post a screenshot hear, and I will try my best to help you.


If anything is unclear or if there is anything I can do for you, please feel free to let me know.


Best Regards,


Sally Tang

  • Marked as answer by Sally Tang Thursday, July 01, 2010 10:09 AM
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June 28th, 2010 6:15am



I am writing to see how everything is going with this issue. Is the problem resolved? If there is anything I can do for you, please feel free to let me know.


Sally Tang

TechNet Subscriber Support in forum

If you have any feedback on our support, please contact  

June 30th, 2010 2:48am




As I have not heard from you for several days. I will go ahead and close this thread. If this issue is not resolved or you have any questions, please feel free to reply to us and this thread will be re-opened.


Best Regards,


Sally Tang

TechNet Subscriber Support in forum

If you have any feedback on our support, please contact   

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July 1st, 2010 8:01am

Hi Sally,

Sorry, one of the other problems with Outlook 2010 is that the Hotmail connector doesn't work and I don't usually check the Hotmail web interface, so I never saw your response.

There are only 3 color schemes in Outlook 2010 and all are terrible. Oddly, the Outlook Web interface for Exchange 2010 is just fine, but no such color scheme is available in the client.

Thanks, Marc

July 12th, 2010 5:18am

The original poster referred to Outlook 2010 and I totally agree with him. The color scheme is awful, it's hard to see you have new messages with a quick glance the way it was possible in 2003 and 2007. Your solution is for Outlook 2007 and it doesn't apply to Outlook 2010. And keep in mind that we did go to Options and tried all three (3) color schemes and all of them are  terrible.
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July 18th, 2010 12:15pm

I agree with Marc.  I stumbled on this thread when searching for additional themes on the web.
October 13th, 2010 3:03pm

You've got to love it when the answer to your question is:

"I understand the inconvenience you have encountered. However, this is by design"

It saddens me that Microsoft is designing inconvenience into their products now. Most of us who use Office products don't have a choice in the matter, it is the corporate standard that is pushed down on us. Every time I check my email at work now I have to squint. Anyone who has ever studied user interface design understands that contrasting colors can be used to help the reader focus on key areas of the screen and prevent the eyes from wandering needlessly. Microsoft has instead decided that a better design would be to use washed out color schemes with gradients blending one section into another. Unbelievable. Thank goodness I can still use GMail for my personal email.


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October 20th, 2010 1:49pm

I have to agree.  Microsoft has really screwed up a good thing.  Now I can't customize my color schemes and the choices I get are horrendous!!  The programmers have no clue on how and why people use color schemes.  The blue background shading of the Navigation Pane drives me nuts!  Why can't we have some simple options like using a white background or changing the type of format we want in each pane, etc.?  I came upon this thread when I was looking for any available alternatives to the only three color schemes that Microsoft offers.  When is Microsoft going to offer alternative easier to read color schemes?  As with all things Microsoft, we probably will ge this jammed down our throats and told that's just the way it is and we're not gonna change... deal with it.  And they wonder why more people are migrating to other OS's and other programs.  If this keeps up I'm going to start looking at them myself.  I wonder how Open Office handles this?  Does anyone have ANY alternatives to this issue?
  • Proposed as answer by SPbb Monday, November 01, 2010 4:57 PM
October 29th, 2010 1:04am

I'm baffled as to how short sighted MS designers can possibly be.  I mean all you can see in the forums is people hating the color schemes and the flatness of the new outlook.  This is certainly a step back...what is it going to be next ?  Are we gonig to run outlook from command line?  Unix engineers must be running the show now at MS.  That can be the only explanation.   I think I'm going to drop MS office completely and go for something much more stylish and "FREE" offered by SUN.

You guys at MS should be ashamed of yourself designing something this awfull.

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November 5th, 2010 6:27pm

I agree.  And it's not just Outlook, but all of Office 2010.  All the color schemes are dreary and hard to read.  The black color scheme is depressing, the blue wishy-washy, and the grey so washed out it is almost unreadable.  The lack of borders around objects makes it hard to click the right spot.  Please either have some of your designers create some more colorful schemes with good contrast, or let users select their own colors.  I know Microsoft has designers that can create attractive designs -- just look at the many attractive styles in the Access 2007 Report Wizard (which, bizarrely, have been removed from the Access 2010 Report Wizard!)
December 31st, 2010 12:00am

Back in Access 95, when the built-in form and report design choices were awful, I created a Design Schemes add-in, to let users create their own color schemes for forms and reports.  I didn't upgrade it for Access 2003 or 2007, because Microsoft added attractive themes.  Now they are gone, so I guess I had better upgrade that add-in for Access 2010.  Too bad I can't do anything about the Access interface colors.  Maybe somebody else will create an add-in for that purpose.
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December 31st, 2010 12:05am

Sorry Sally but this is REALLY appalling to provide only 3 color schemes AND NOT EVEN THE ONE WE GOT USED too in 2007.   Your link points to changing Office not Outlook.   Are all you Microsoft Millionaires really that lazy that you can't provide a classic color scheme and allow us to keep what we're used too?   Ballmer wonders why we don't like Microsoft?


It really is a shame in 2011.

January 3rd, 2011 5:57pm

I would like to add my agreement to this thread. I am a software developer, so I know that when I create a Windows program, by default the basic colour scheme of the windows, ie the colour of the title bar, the border, etc. is defined not by me the programmer but by the user's Windows colour scheme, which in turn depends on the user's version of Windows plus any customisation of the Windows colour scheme that has been done by the user. This is because the code for generating the basic components of a window is built into Windows, and is not part of each individual program.

For example, like many others I am still using XP (I'm not going to go into all the reasons for that again here!), with no customisation of the colour schemes, and the windows have a nice dark blue title bar and border, with white writing, and the menu bar, by default, is grey, which contrasts well - etc. etc.

In order  produce a program that overrides these (on XP at least, perfectly adequate) default colours the programmer has to go to a great deal of extra effort. So please, Microsoft, can you explain why you go to all that effort to make Office look different from every other program on my computer - and not only different but actually significantly worse - when you could have saved yourself all that effort and just used the default colour scheme, which after all you designed in thr first place, which is perfectly usable, and which would also maintain consitency amongst all the programs I use.

(The question as to why you also feel compelled to change the default colour scheme with every new version of Windows is a matter for another thread)

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February 6th, 2011 10:45am

I've been putting off using Office 2010 because of how awful the interface is.  I was going to complain about the poor visibility of the color schemes and I was going to accuse Microsoft of "age-ism" - discriminating against people who no longer have the eyes they had in their twenties.  However, after reading all of the other posts, I have to change my opinion and instead accuse them of "people-ism" - discriminating against all users who just want to see what's on the screen, regardless of age, race, or creed.

Really awful user interface - just plain hard to see and organize.  It seems like there should be some other color scheme choices, the ability to use the Windows scheme, or some sort of options editor.  Having just the three built-in, bleak schemes is nfg.

February 13th, 2011 7:57pm

I find the same thing. Just installed it today and Am going to UNINSTALL it and go back to 2007. MUCh easier to navifgate and read.
I can tell you this...the next computers i buy will be Mac............

This new office Sucks....pure & simple.

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February 13th, 2011 9:31pm

Haven't heard from anyone on the Microsoft team for six or seven months on this thread.  Does that mean they are all off somewhere redesigning the interface?
February 14th, 2011 12:13am

Wow, wish I would have decided to Google Office 2010 BEFORE I installed it.     In all seriousness, is it possible to down grade back to my 2007 version? 
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February 14th, 2011 2:21pm

 I agree the darkened left navigation pane is horrible.

And the fact that of the three color options having it be the old way is not one of them is ridiculous.

My friend has scotopic sensitivity so she likes things dark like the new left navigation pane. She prefers to read on dark-colored paper. Prefers to read in less than bright light. Obviously whoever designed this is the same way.



February 16th, 2011 5:24pm

So, inconvenience by design, an interesting concept.  Not one that will get you the good will of customers however.
Many people have commented on their displeasure with the Office 2010 interface.  So far, except for an entry last year, no one from Microsoft has offered a solution.  I guess if they keep ignoring us we will just go away.  If more people knew of this forum and that tehy COULD complain I bet there would be many more complaints here.
The current interface and color choices of Office 2010 are not user friendly.  The Office 2010 user interface is difficult to read, no object borders makes it easy to click on the wrong area - there are no "buttons".  The Office 2010 interface does not have any user configurable color or font choices.




I understand the inconvenience you have encountered. However, this is by design. You can also change the Windows desktop scheme for better reading.


Best Regards,


Sally Tang

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March 2nd, 2011 7:10pm


Have you come back to look at this post lately?

There are a lot of people out there that are disgruntled that Microsoft has not been back to this post

I think that we are all wondering if Microsoft is listening to our problems and will respond by fixing our issues with the limited - eye straining - color schemes that have been provided with the Office 2010 products.

Can you tell us if Microsoft will be responsive and will work to give us something that is more palatable?

I have also been on a few other forums that are complaining about the 3 color schemes provided and find it very disturbing that Microsoft has created this "roadblock to success" for those people who are sight impaired.

I've only had the product up for about 2 hours and my eyes are watering already.

Too Bad

Maybe my company will let me re-install the older version


March 3rd, 2011 4:25pm


'Just installed Office 2010 Pro yesterday, mainly interested in Outlook, and the very first thing I thought was "Gotta change the color immediately".  Silver was impossible to read with no contrast.  What horror to find only two other options, and both were only slight improvements over Silver.  No customization???

For crying out loud.   Ridiculous

Blue is bright and faded.  Awful

Black?  Geez.  I cannot decide between these two.  Blue is hurting my eyes with too much light, and Black does almost the opposite with not enough light.

Tell me Microsoft, you're not hurting for money.  Tell me you have a room full of guys designing several dozen new skins to download for free and they'll be available tomorrow.  Right?


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March 4th, 2011 11:19am

I don't think Sally has any intention of looking in this thread again.  She closed it back on July 1st, 2010, and there is now a checkmark next to this thread rather than a quesiton mark, which I assume means "resolved or closed".

I don't know how to create a new thread.  I was just looking around.  If anybody knows how, you gotta create a new one with the same name "Color Schemes Delivered With Outlook Are Terrible", and let's keep the pressure on.  Just because Sally was impatient with the original poster, was no reason to ignore all this commentary which has followed.

  • Proposed as answer by IT Kine Thursday, March 10, 2011 8:44 AM
  • Unproposed as answer by IT Kine Thursday, March 10, 2011 8:44 AM
March 4th, 2011 11:31am

I totally agree with all the posters. The new color choices all suck very badly, so badly that I'm going to downgrade to 2007 since at least I can read that.

Apparently that is the only option.

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April 19th, 2011 3:57am

I'm sure Sally did not mean that the product is intentionally designed to be inconvenient. She meant that there are three schemes by design, and she understands that the original poster finds that inconvenient.

I have to agree that the color schemes are difficult to read. Simple black on white as in Outlook 2007 would be better. The other thing I am missing is the large bold font above the message list, to the left of the Search box, telling me what folder I'm in. That was extremely useful; now it's just wasted space.

I would suggest that anyone concerned about themes submit feedback here:

Microsoft Office 2010 Feedback

Mark Berry
MCB Systems


April 21st, 2011 1:37am

Still, Sally's response is true in most any sense it is read. Obviously, this lack of customization is by design, or lack of it, and any inconvenience has been designed into the program; whether by failure to consider the user, in haste to rush a product to market and reap greater moneys, or simply ignorance and non-caring of the end user's desires. While I see offerings in Office 2010 I have failed to realize in previous versions, I do agree the lack of meaningful customization in the general color scheme is troublesome and is a lacking quality. Considering this is a fairly expensive suite to obtain, one would think greater insight into user needs and desires would have been utilized. So sad! Mitiouto
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April 24th, 2011 6:44pm

yoo hoo, Microsoft?   anyone assigned to monitor this thread?

I have poor eyesight as it is, and this color scheme on Outlook 2010 is accelerating my race to blindness.

please, please help.  at least holler that you are looking into it.

silence is not golden here..

folks, if any of you in this thread have had luck getting Microsoft response ina different thread, kindly post here...

May 2nd, 2011 8:00pm

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May 5th, 2011 9:45am

I hate the color schemes as well -->what happened to the nice yellow one i got in the trial? --> do not have eye sight problems however colors bother me greatly blue puts me to sleep as well as black and the silver is just so dull that it hinders my drive to get work done...I need some warm colors or something.
May 9th, 2011 1:53am

The new color schemes in Office 2010 are awfull. The lack of transperans leads to people with visual disabilities, have great difficulty using the program. I myself am a web designer, who for years has worked with color schemes on websites and it is therefore incomprehensible, that a company like Microsoft, does not take into account these issues. I have been happy to Microsoft's software packages for many years, but I think it´s the time for me to switch to Apple. Their design line is definitely more user friendly and timely.
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May 13th, 2011 11:08am



Thank you for contacting Outlook IT Pro Discussions Services. 


From your description, I understand [blahblahblah-nothingdoing], please feel free to let me know.


Best Regards,


Sally Tang

Dear Sally Microsoft-Millionaire Tang,

The ugly colors that make reading anything but item content impossible are completely understandable!

  1. first, mm will make very readable buy the next Office version ads, as well as coding redundency
  2. second, mm does offer a way to make everything in windows usable for VISUALLY IMPAIRED, only vi settings don't rescue the intentional office 2010 wipe-out

Why not patch a MAKE USER INTERFACE FONTS READABLE button into SP-1?! Alternative Options General Tab button name could be  YOU'RE NOT REALLY COLOR BLIND!

Affectionately, dispondently distant (but able to read black on white theme), Mark Wears-Rags Stewart

June 2nd, 2011 3:55pm

I agree with you. I am desperately trying to find out how to modify the color schemes beyond this awful, hard-to-read grey, blue-grey and grey-black. Its not blue, silver and black - its grey grey and grey.



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July 11th, 2011 8:53am

I take it Microsoft genuinely are ignoring this post - despite it being the second Google result when searching for "Office 2010 Color Schemes". There's been enough (admittedly deserved) Microsoft-bashing in this post, but, seriously, has nobody come up with a solution - even a hack - to change the colour-schemes?

I really do get the ribbon thing - as a developer I think it absolutely supercedes the old "File", "Edit"... menus, once the users get their heads around it. But the colour-scheme!! Please, Microsoft, or somebody else with a bit of initiative, is there NO solution to this?

July 19th, 2011 2:54pm

I would like to add my voice to everyone on this thread. The color schemes for Outlook 2010 are HORRID! They are bad enought that I want to discontinue the product, get a refund and go back to the previous version.

The colors are all washed up into each other. There is no clear boundaries between message, border, screen, river, valley. It all looks like one big blobber. Starring at that this all day would give people a headache. And that is simply unacceptable!

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July 20th, 2011 4:00pm

I was going to upgrade from 2007 to 2010, my friend by mistake bought 2010. Seeing all the progs, Word, Excel, Outlook etc, I personally feel that Microsoft is gone mad, or may have become quite selfish or may be thinking itself super duper genius... god knows I don’t have words for Microsoft...

I stumbled on this thread hoping to find a solution to change or modify theme colours for 2010...

I am MCSD and am sure I read it somewhere in one of Microsoft book about the colour coding while writing programs, it was specifically mentioned that while designing forms and putting colours on it make sure it doesn’t stress the user’s eyes... but I think Microsoft has gone wrong himself while designing its own product big time...

I cannot set myself with any of 3 colour schemes Silver, Blue or Black provided with 2010, all sucks and is yukeee...

I am sure, like me there are millions of people who are complaining, just cant come here to complaint and let Microsoft know about it doesn’t mean “All is good”...

Now I guess, if Microsoft carries on like this then its time to switch to Linux... everything for free and the whole community listens and programs...

Shame on you Microsoft, never expected this from you, we had very high hopes from you...

July 20th, 2011 10:13pm

My biggest beef with the three horrid colors schemes is that it is difficult to determine the active window.  The color change between the active and in active windows are so close that they are almost indistinguishably.  It is hard to believe that nobody at Microsoft notice this glaring problem. When i have muliple emails open find it very hard to find the actual edge of the current window.

Microsoft forces all other applications to honor the user's appearance choices setup in windows but microsoft office developers appear to consider themselves above such mundane rules and have gone out of their way to make their software less usable. 


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July 23rd, 2011 1:41pm

OK, I can only agree with everyone that the supplied colour schemes are unusable! I am unable to see where the active window is, over any inactive windows behind due to the window borders and the active title bar colours are not distinct.

I have searched for 3rd party add ons, but none found

I have managed the following work-around (tried on XP and 2003)...

Control Panel, Accessibility Options, Display, enable Use High Contrast, click Settings button, and in the Your current high contrast scheme is: select a standard scheme (eg Spruce is my fav). OK these dialogue boxes. Hey-presto, even Office 2010 and Outlook now follow the scheme.

You can now also change specific colours by going to Control Panel, Display, Appearance, Advanced and change individual items (eg I set Windows background to Grey)

The only funny I have noticed is that the icons in the toolbar/ribbon are low resolution, but at least the product is now useable!!!!!!!!

...and Grrrrrr.... just found one major drawback... it also affects the way web pages are displayed in IE etc :-(

might be of some help though?

July 28th, 2011 8:39am

OK found simple work-around to IE problem........... use Chrome

(unfortunately Firefox does the same as IE)


but now I can work!!!!

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July 29th, 2011 8:55am

This isn't the only place people are complaining about Outlook 2010's look.  I have been searching for possible additional themes to change it with no luck.

Like another poster in this thread, I found this remark from Sally Tang of Microsoft quite amusing, as well as illuminating:

"I understand the inconvenience you have encountered. However, this is by design. "


Sally took a powder after her initial response and the further comments.  I guess those couple of sentences are the bottom line.


Ah, Microsoft.  They sure knew their stuff when it came to marketing, though.


August 25th, 2011 9:00pm

As a LONG time Microsoft developer and customer... this is ridiculous. Microsoft USED to be on the cutting edge of UI design. HEY BALLMER... this UI design is TERRIBLE!!

Three lousy choices? Come on... build some granular configuration into the UI... take a few minutes to write in some legacy themes. Stop being so lazy.

The ribbon is convoluted and confusing! The gray/baby blue fades behind the trees and calendars are stupid. I feel like puking.

THERE MUST be a serious Outlook competitor created SOON.

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September 5th, 2011 5:52pm

Come on .... you don't like Outlook 2010 because it has only 3 color schemes ???? What about all the other functionalities that it has ?

Do you think that other email clients are better if they offer the possibility to change the themes ?

Please !!!

September 17th, 2011 7:17am



I also have to voice my dissatisfaction with your "by design" color schemes.

I found that the schemes (subliminally) distract me from my work. It is difficult

to focus because lack of clarity and uncustomizable color schemes. Too much time

is spent trying to decode (from the mess) each display item. You've designed a

product that makes us "by design" less efficient.


Additionally, the contrast for your icons (on windows status bar and elsewhere)

are poor. Contrast is poorly designed. You've made it (all) harder to read and

distinguish differences.

For example: Outlook icon looks like a wood burning project from High School.

   It's difficult to tell what the letter is (subliminally).


Bottom Line:

1) Allow us to customize the color schemes.

2) Redesign the look for efficiency, not for flash or to drum up new business.

      Make it for best ergonomic practices.

3) Listen to your users. Don't alienate the masses.


****Note to the dissatisfied:

If you believe that MS is not monitoring this thread anymore, then open

new complaints reminding them to re-read this thread.
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October 3rd, 2011 2:15pm

Done. Thank you for the link.
October 10th, 2011 9:17pm

OK found simple work-around to IE problem........... use Chrome

(unfortunately Firefox does the same as IE)


but now I can work!!!!

Hmm, interesting solution, will try it out.
What I found so: You can actually adjust the design a bit to make it not quite so black and white:
When you click on some of the adjustment possibilities on the very bottom you get the customization window (almost same since win 95 :-) with various options to adjust some of the setting.
The low resolution icons is a easy reason: Windows seems to revert back to the old icons (which where only designed with 16x16 and 32x32 in mind). Hmm, maybe one can have a different legacy icon set which would than be used on the Office interface as well??? Hmm...

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November 17th, 2011 6:30pm

Interesting: A link was provided to submit new complaints. The only thing Microsoft has done:

REMOVED THE LINK FROM THIS TREAD! So much for being customer friendly or listening to users....

I have to use Outlook 2010 at work, privately I am still using Eudora (yes the software that is dead for a few years now. And no the "new" open source Eudora is NOT as good as the original in many ways) but that software is easy to use, simply contrast rich icons (not "pictures" as in newer Software, it's called ICONS for heaven sake!), has better and easier to use advanced search options and an attachment management which is still far ahead of anything that is out there. (plus many other things)
It didn't corrupt any of my mails, I don't have to create "archive folders" to keep the program zippy (I still have e-mails dating back to 1998)...

Microsoft: PLEASE PLEASE look into efficiency and easy to use. But PLEASE don't mix up "easy to use" (easy to read, simple operation, getting things done fast) with easy to use for complete computer beginners (which the Ribbon and Win 7 is heading for).

I LIKE my advanced features and DO NOT want the simple features which I can access with shortcut keys in my face (i.e. Undo, Copy, Cut, paste buttons where not to be found on my old customized toolbars, but filters and categories, paste values only where)

November 17th, 2011 6:44pm

it is ridiculous to realize that I dont like new office because of their new color scheme and their new ribbon.


for the color scheme, I am strongly suspecting the UI designer has some color distinguishing  issue. highly recommend to go to see eye doctor.



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December 8th, 2011 2:31am

Hi Marc,


I can understand how you are feeling having no choice but only those three color schemes, I was also searching for changing color schemes of MS outlook but didn't find any answer, here is the explanation from microsoft about the visual changes:


After reading this, I am pretty much convinced to accept the changes. 

December 15th, 2011 7:49am

Looking at these different 2007/2010 schemes side by side makes it quite clear that 2010 was a big step backwards. I feel like I have sand in my eyes after only 1 hour due to the extremely poor contrast. If MS does not come up with a solution to this I am not sure what I will do but the current color schemes are not good for vision health. Maybe someone needs to make a point of having the World Health Organization get on their back. All this is going to do is make the optometrists busy :-(

The funny thing is that Mac Office 2011 is quite reasonable on the eyes. But then Mac developers have always had a better sense of UI design and customer needs.

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January 18th, 2012 7:26pm

Well I will add one more complaint about the colors in Office 2010.  

I am a past "Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer"  and although Microsoft excited me with developments from my start on Windows 1.0 decades ago...... all the way to Windows XP,  I feel they just stop caring about their customers these past few years.   I continued to be pushed towards LINUX ....  I have been slowly converting all my website I host and design to PHP and MySQL and getting ready to switch my Window Servers to Linux Servers, then my workstations to Linux will be next.....  Time after time the forum monitors here just throw out a generic crap answer and call it quits !!!!   Bye Microsoft, after nearly 30 years of being a fan......  you have just about lost me as a future customer. 

February 13th, 2012 5:19am

Oh god,  am I writing in the correct place? I'm not sure because I'm partially blind from looking at outlook all morning!

OUtlook 2010 is awful.. ok the functionallity is still good, but whats the use in that when you can't see it?

Disgruntled customer

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February 13th, 2012 9:35am

I absolutely frigging HATE the Outlook 2010 color schemes. So much so that I downgraded  back to 2007 where they got it right. Nice clean separations between buttons, easy to read contrast of text and background. Outlook 2010 looks like a mish-mosh  of crap. Certain people have stated that 2010 looks "Mac like". NO, that is completely incorrect. The Mac version of Office looks far better, and Mac's design decisions have never been this infuriatingly stupid. The salt in the wound is that it would be so easy for them to offer additional themes. SO EASY... but alas...
  • Edited by Breathless Monday, February 27, 2012 8:32 PM
February 27th, 2012 8:31pm

It makes me wonder if the people who have developed MS office 2010 ever go outside or speak to people.  This very limited 3 choices of colour scheme are terrible and very dull. 
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March 15th, 2012 4:48pm

As a visually impaired customer, I am unable to find a solution to the unacceptable color schemes and lack of adherence to the operating system visual theme.

In many European countries, providing methods to facilitate use by disabled customers is mandated by Disability Discrimination legislation.

Please re-open this thread and provide your customers with a solution.

March 16th, 2012 11:57am


And where do you find style/color guides for appropriate color schemes? Well on Microsoft's own developers site.  Now how do we get Microsoft to read and follow their own guide?

Personally, I think pink or bright yellow on a dark blue background is really swimmingly attractive.

Wa ha ha ha.

(I must find a way to recolor office 2010)

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March 20th, 2012 6:12pm

We definitely need a solution. I guess updating color schemes can't be so difficult, so it could be in the next SP? Why ignore the customers?

Perhaps MS will add readable screens in the next Office version and introduce this "new" feature with a lot of publicity and show. Most customers will probably be stupid enough to pay again for what they already had in a previous version.

I hope MS will stop ignoring customer requests, as there will be many people unhappy with the current color schemes.

April 6th, 2012 6:53am


(I don't know why I bother, though. This is ridiculous. I'm just gonna uninstall Outlook and try another e-mail client.)

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May 6th, 2012 9:16am

these colors are absolutely ridiculous.   I can't tell if the window is active or not.  why can't the window be exactly like the other windows, blue for active and grey for not active?   Why cant I set this???   Is it in the registry or something.   all the schemes fail for the same reason,   light blue vs dark blue, light grey vs dark grey,   etc.    WTF??????  

June 13th, 2012 2:23pm

I agree with you.  I happened upon this thread in hopes a patch was available that offered more options for the color schemes.  The color schemes on the right bar (with the folders) is very difficult to read and distinguish the folders.  It is blinding.
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June 28th, 2012 4:31pm

The colour schemes in outlook 2010 are awful... Especially the folder's list and the task list areas. The contrast is too low to be readable without getting a headache. Microsoft - for goodness sake please fire the tasteless inconsiderate employees who came up with this design and release a FIX to make this product usable. HOW did this even make it out the door???????? Fire the quality control guy too!!

July 5th, 2012 8:32am

Sally is no longer able to reply as she has become blind from using the outlook default colour schemes 
  • Edited by Massplinter Friday, August 31, 2012 1:23 PM
  • Proposed as answer by Alan Ladde Thursday, November 15, 2012 11:55 AM
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August 31st, 2012 1:08pm

After reading the whole thread, I made my decision.  I did a clean install of Linux Mint 13 "Cinnamon" which came with tons of free software including Libre Office and Thunderbird Mail.  Fast and easy.  Free updates for five years and free upgrades forever.  "Was blind but now I see".

Unfortunately my boss still has me on Outlook 2010 at work.

November 15th, 2012 12:04pm

I just bought a copy of Office 2010 and installed it on a new machine I built, and I have to agree with this thread.


They were looking for "smooth" and "streamlined" and they got "extremely difficult to read, difficult to differentiate screen elements, difficult to know what's going on in the GUI of the app"

They DEFINITELY should fire the team that made the GUI decisions for this product.  It is the worst I have ever seen.  I have been using Office 2003 at home and Office 2007 at work, and I far far prefer Office 2003... no ribbon, clear and pleasing use of GUI elements and color schemes.  There was nothing that needing "improving" - maybe "dumbing down" is what they're trying to do.

Sad - very sad. :-(

- Tim

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November 27th, 2012 8:22am

First, let me say that I'm probably one of the seemingly only four people on the planet who doesn't mind the ribbon at all.  I'm not saying it's the greatest thing in the world, but it's not the worst either.

But my GOD, are these color schemes awful.  The lack of easily identifiable borders means everything just runs into each other.  There's no different shades of black/silver/blue to differentiate one area from the next.  Picking a color scheme is little more than opening Paint, clicking the little "Fill" bucket, selecting your color, and watching 90% of your screen become that one solid color, with the other 10% becoming an unreadable mess.

And this was "By design"?  Who designed this?  Helen Keller?  Mr. Magoo?

2007 was just fine.  There was absolutely no reason to change it at all.  2010 might have improved functionality, but the UI is an unusable disaster.

Just let us have the 2007 schemes for 2010 and I'll be a happy camper.

November 30th, 2012 3:00am

Apparently microsoft is too rich to care about improving productivity.

Or they just dont know how...

After all.. they are only a 50 billion dollar organization.

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January 19th, 2013 2:52pm

January 29th, 2013 11:08pm

Well I'm going to chime in here too! Colors need to be set by users. Someone with some vision difficultly literally can't read the screen. In the Office 2013 "Outlook Today" view they use a powdered  blue on white for birthdays. Really!!

I teach seniors and they have issues with high contrast black on white. While the team that designed this should be shot, the people that gave it final approval should be taking the real heat.

Setting colors has been basic functionality since the beginning of time.

Guess Microsoft just got tried of have customers.

I will bet these colors are set in the registry somewhere. We just need someone smart to figure it out.

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February 8th, 2013 2:31am

I'm going to add myself in to the me-too on this rant against Outlook colors.  When I look at my calendar in month view, there can sometimes be more appointments than can be shown in a day.  What is the indication that there are further appointments not shown?  A small down arrow at the bottom of the box for a particular day in the calendar.  A very LOW CONTRAST down arrow.  And all the color scheme changing in the world doesn't seem to affect this.

This is serious.  We're relying on our calendars to stay on track when there are too many things to juggle.  Now we have to watch our backs on missing barely-visible indicators of commitments that might not be shown?

Come on.  By what process was this graphic design selected?  I cannot imagine.

March 18th, 2013 8:58pm

I guess the answer is use 2007 outlook, so much easier to read.  what are they thinking at MS !!!!  I here 2012 is even worse than 2010.  why would you upgrade ????
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July 19th, 2013 7:11am

Outlook 2013 is the reason I found this thread.
July 24th, 2013 8:28pm

The colors are horrid.  My first issue was the lack of color choices, and inability to customize colors in the calendar. I use colors for all my 30 categories, unfortunately, Outlook 10 only gives me 25 colors to with which to work.

The colors in Mail are just as limited and very bad on the eyes.  There is no reason why a user should not be able to customize the colors in any fashion they want, particularly in the Enterprise and Academic versions.

So far I have found nothing useful to alleviate the problem. 

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July 24th, 2013 10:02pm

I work for a very large company, one of Microsoft's largest customers. We have approached them with this issue many times. It appears there is no solution possible. They understand the issue, but it would require a large modification to Windows to address this. They know we will buy their product anyway, so there is no reason to fix it.
January 26th, 2014 6:18pm

If you saw what it looked like before you did, you wouldn't upgrade.

Got a new laptop and with it Office 2013. It sucks!

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February 3rd, 2014 1:05pm

Hi Sally,

The link you sent applies to 2007 products. However, this question - and our issue - is with 2013.

It would probably look ok on a monochrome display, but given the colours and vibrancy are key features of tablets / Windows 8, what happened with 2013?

Don't Office / Windows talk?

February 3rd, 2014 1:10pm

A year later and still hilarious!  Too bad the developers didn't use the link in training before creating this version of Outlook! Great find!
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April 8th, 2014 11:27pm


Yes, I have to agree. The Outlook web and the SharePoint interfaces are washed out and difficult to navigate. I avoid these interfaces now.

June 30th, 2014 3:41pm

I got a pop up from microsoft on this page that read


Microsoft is conducting an online survey to understand your opinion of the Office TechCenter site.

I tried to post a screen grab but Microsoft wont let me post a photo or link here.  

Well one improvement I would suggest is to actually respond to the post.  I know that's a bit outside the box, but I'm thinking it just might be a good start.  Hello, sally?....Hello?.....Hello?.....Sally?......Sally's replacement because she went to work for Google?.......Hello?.... Knock, Knock.  Anyone at all?......

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July 22nd, 2014 2:41pm

Those functionalities are pretty useless when you can't read the screen!
July 23rd, 2014 10:19pm

My law firm has (very reluctantly) "upgraded" from XP to Win 7 and from Office 2003 to Office 2010, and I am APPALLED at how awful everything is.  Everything.

There is NOT ONE FEATURE that is an improvement.  Not one.  And many many basic features have been made much harder to use.

I CANNOT tell where the "focus" is on my screens.  Not even the lousy "task" buttons at the bottom show which one is "at bat".

I think I'm somewhere and start typing, and I'm somewhere else.  This was never an issue in XP or Office 2003.

I am a fast keyboard-shortcut user, and until a few weeks ago played my keyboard like Horowitz at Carnegie Hall.  No more - back to chopsticks.

And so many of these impairments are just obvious to anyone - except the profoundly illiterate ant-army monkey-brained engineers at Microsoft - who must be the most inconsiderate and socially inept geek jerks in all of mankind.  Clearly none of them is ever asked to write more than a paragraph or imagine that their captive audience actually must perform at a professional and proficient level.

The inane and utterly unnecessary problems I'm having with Win 7 and Office 2010 are proof positive that Microsoft is nothing but a monopolist pickpocket.

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August 24th, 2014 10:00pm


A year later, and I feel even more strongly about my post above.  Win 7 and Office 2010 remain much worse than XP or Office 2003.

And Win 10 is completely non-intuitive, hard to use and pointless.  We hope NEVER to upgrade to 10 - just plain awful.


August 19th, 2015 11:22am

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