How to use Categories and Instant Actions; two new features in Hotmail

In our previous post, we saw how Hotmail’s new improved flag feature, pins mail to the top. Hotmail has also introduced two more new features – Instant Actions and Categories. Let us see how we can put them to use. There are so many ways that they can be put to use by configuring them in different ways. Let us see one of them.

Categories in Hotmail

First of all, if you do not see the Category column (as shown below) in the message list, then click on Gear icon besides Quick views and click on ‘Manage Categories’

Alternatively, ‘Manage Categories’ can also be accessed as shown clicking on ‘Categories’ menu option-

Check the box ‘Show the category column in the message list’. Now you can see the Category column.

There are lots of Categories mentioned by default and you can categorize your mail by adding them to it. We can also create new categories. One of the most useful category is ‘Newsletters’ as many of us receive many Newsletter and we do get bothered when they start accumulating. We will see how to ‘sweep’ these Newsletters clean, in one of our future post.

Instant Actions – Hotmail

Now talking of ‘Instant Actions’ feature – Instant actions appear beside the sender names and the subject lines in your message list, when you mouse over them. This provides a quick way to take action without opening the message. This can be customized and can add new Instant Action.

In this post we will make use of these two features and create a scenario which we talked of in our earlier post, where some users wants to have both old and new flag features. You may want to flag some mails that you think may not be as important as others but you may want to come back to it later. And maybe you also want to flag important mail that has to be shown above the Inbox.

Create a New category & call it ‘ReviewLater’. This can be done from Quick Views> New category.


Now we have a new category ‘ReviewLater’ where we will put all our flagged messages in. They will be flagged, but will not be shown on top like the new feature. And for making this action easier, we will Customize Instant Actions.

We will make a new Instant Action to add the ‘ReviewLater’ Category

Go to Options > More Options… > Customizing Hotmail > Instant Actions.

From Instant Actions window, click on Add Actions > Categorize and select ReviewLater from the drop-down list.

Choose an icon for this Instant Action. We will use ‘Move down’ to put it along the ‘Flag’ icon under ‘Show always’. Don’t forget to click on ‘Save’

Now go to the Inbox and you can see our new Instant Action and the Flag – both being always shown and when moused over.

Now add the messages to be flagged for Later Review, clicking on the new icon we have created for the ‘ReviewLater’ Instant Action. Thus we have both old & new flagging features being displayed, as important messages are also shown on top of Inbox.

You can get only the ReviewLater messages by clicking on ‘ReviewLater’ category under Quick Views.

As the Hotmail team itself has said, these features are for Power Users who wants to have everything, so it might take a bit of time for normal user to learn these. But once you know, you can make use of them in many ways according to your needs.

As I said earlier, the new Hotmail is being rolled out gradually so it may take a bit of time to get these features for all. But surely you’ll get it soon.

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The author has been a Microsoft MVP awardee in various Windows categories (2006-2016) and currently a Windows Insider MVP. A Technology Enthusiast, interested in anything technical and is committed to Microsoft technologies and products. He is actively associated with various Microsoft online communities, forums, Newsgroups and has been actively involved in Beta testing various Microsoft products and bug submissions.


  1. Lmmatoso

    I haven’t get none of this new features in my hotmail. I´m from Portugal. Do you know when will i get it?

  2. Vasudev

    The new Hotmail is being rolled out gradually to all. I hope by now you must have got it. Hotmail is still in the process of rolling out though.

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