Our calendars showcase the business of busyness. With invitations to meetings, collaboration sessions, brainstorms, and events, the calendar has become a snapshot of our hectic lives. And the best way to keep track of each time block is to organize by category using color codes.

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The benefits of SharePoint calendar overlays

Both SharePoint 2010 and 2013 offer you the ability to color-code event categories to help users easily identify and prioritize information, increase adoption and usage, and indicate group-assigned events. Best of all, it takes only four steps to customize your built-in SharePoint calendar overlays.

Before we get started, check which SharePoint version you’re using.

SharePoint overlay calendar colors

SharePoint calendar with color-coded overlays based on category of event type.

4 easy steps in the color-coding process

Color coding your weekly online calendar is made easier and faster with SharePoint’s built-in functionality. However, a small amount of configuration is needed upfront. If you have a basic understanding of lists, columns, and custom views, you can customize your SharePoint calendar.

The four steps it takes to do so, involve:

  • Establishing a basic information structure for your event categories and category column in the calendar list
  • Filtering and creating views of your events using your category values
  • Creating and setting a blank view as the default where the category filters for a NULL value
  • Adding your colored calendar overlays

If you experience any issues, check out the troubleshooting tips following these steps.

1. Customize the SharePoint category column

The most important step in this process is to set up your event categories correctly in the calendar list. You’ll find standard categories—including meeting, work hours, business, and holiday—that SharePoint provides as a default.

You can use these, add your own categories, edit the existing options, and remove irrelevant ones. To do this, follow these steps:

  • Navigate to your calendar site.
  • Select List Settings from the Calendar tab in the top-of-the-page ribbon. You’ll see standard-list-setting options and currently-in-use-content types, columns, and views.
  • Select the category column to see the default options listed in the field entry box, with each value on its own line.
  • Add, edit, and delete the category names to set your calendar category values.
  • Select Save at the bottom of the page.

2. Create category-filtered views by column

How to color code a calendar in SharePoint and customize list of category views

SharePoint calendar list of category views available.

The next step after creating and saving your event categories is using those categories to customize your calendar views. Using the same list settings as when you accessed the category column, scroll down to see the options for existing views for your calendar.

By default, SharePoint provides All Items, Calendar, and Upcoming Events view options. To customize the color codes of your calendar, you’ll want to create new views. This may seem obvious, but different starting views can be used very differently.

  • Select Create a View, then Calendar from the Start from an existing view
  • Name your new view based on the event category you’ll display in that view.
  • Don’t change the default settings but do go to the Filter section and add a filter to display events when the category is equal to the name you created.
  • Show items when the column Category is equal to Enter your category value here.
  • Select Save to create the new view. If you already have calendar events created in this category, you’ll see them displayed on the calendar after saving.
  • Repeat this process for each category you created.
Adding color to your SharePoint calendar event category

SharePoint calendar event category color codes.

To ensure your filters are set up properly, add an event to each category. It allows you to quickly test the new calendar views with a visual check on the displayed events.

3. Create a blank calendar view where the category filters for NULL value

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Before color coding any calendar, you need to create one more calendar view.

  • Follow the same process step 2 lays out for creating filtered category views.
  • This time leave the category blank and name it All Events to apply your overlays to all categories.
  • In the filter section, set up this view to read Category—is equal to— and the final field is left empty.
  • Set this view as your default. Or modify the original default calendar view to include these category settings.

4. Add the color-coded calendar overlays.

Now that you have your categories and views set up, it’s time to add your calendar overlays. First, open the All Events view you created, where the category filters for a null value.

  • Select Calendar Overlays from the Calendar tab in the ribbon.
  • Click New Calendar and fill out the available fields. Name your overlay based on the category you wish to be colored and select the color.
  • Select Resolve—this action searches for calendar views on the site you choose to be used for overlays.
  • Now, you should see your calendar list and newly created calendar views.
  • Repeat these steps to color code each calendar view overlay with a different color.

Each time you create a new overlay, you’ll see that category’s events added to the All Events calendar view. Once the calendar contains all overlays, you’ll see a nicely color-coded SharePoint calendar.

View a video walk through

If you prefer a video walk through of the process outlined above, check out this YouTube video.

Troubleshooting color-coded SharePoint calendars

Color coding a SharePoint calendar may seem easy, but you can encounter a number of issues. So, we gathered a few tips to help you troubleshoot the most common scenarios.

  • Too many event categories: You can only create, apply, and color code 10 calendar overlays within SharePoint calendars.
  • URL won’t resolve: Most error messages that appear when you select Resolve during overlay creation are related to the missing Discussion Board list on the site. You must delete the nonexistent list—which cannot be done through the normal SharePoint web interface—by opening the site in SharePoint Designer and deleting the list. (SPD is free—download here.)
  • Duplicate events displaying on your calendar: Duplicate events occur when you forget to create a blank calendar view, like in step 3 of the above instructions. Without the blank calendar view filtered for NULL value, you risk adding color-coded events on top of existing calendar events.

For further questions or issues with the implementation, leave a note in the comments below.

Optimizing your SharePoint for improved collaboration

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Color-coded SharePoint calendars allow your associates to better collaborate and filter calendar views to plan business meetings around company events. Additionally, it’s valuable to have your entire SharePoint site optimized for your business.

Maximizing online collaboration for your staff is vital for your success. We help brands audit their content and collaboration tools before we begin developing a solution to ensure we know all the information and its purpose to architect an improved intranet experience.

If you have any questions about creating a more optimized SharePoint solution, let’s chat. We’d be happy to discuss your business and collaboration goals with you.

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