Outlook Rules and Alerts

Having an organized inbox is just as important as keeping a clean workspace. But, if you’re getting hundreds of emails daily, it can be difficult to find time to sort through your many messages. Outlook and other email applications can help you keep your inbox tidy and highlight the important information with rules.

In Outlook, rules are a set of conditions, actions, and exceptions that process and organize messages automatically. Rules are completely customizable to your specific needs and can do many functions that help organize, customize and clean your mailbox. To create a rule for your mailbox, look in the tools menu bar for “Rules and Alerts” and open it. Here, Outlook lets you decide whether to create a rule using a pre-created template or to create a new rule from scratch. While the pre-created templates can be useful, creating a rule from scratch gives you the most flexibility and is what we recommend.

Since there are countless options for creating a rule, we will use an example to explain the process:

Say you want to create a rule that will automatically put all the emails you receive with the word “finance” in the subject into a folder labeled “Financial Information” in your personal folders. Find where it says “Start from a blank rule.” Then choose “Check messages when they arrive.” This tells Outlook to check the emails you receive as opposed to the ones you send. Click next. Check the box next to “with specific words in the subject.” Here you’re telling Outlook to look in the subject line for a specific word or phrase. Other options include looking for emails sent from a specific person, or sent to a certain email address—if you want to sort out emails that are sent to a distribution list you’re on. By clicking the blue underlined “specific words” at the bottom of the page it will let you customize which words you want to specify. Type in “finance” and click add. Now this rule will run on any email that arrives in your inbox with the word finance in the subject. Click OK to return to the previous box and click next.

Now you will designate what you want done with the emails. Check the box next to “move it to the specified folder.” You will need to specify which folder to send it to by clicking on “specified” at the bottom of the dialogue box. Choose the folder in the personal folders labeled “Financial Information” (you will need to create the folder you want the messages to go in beforehand) and click OK to set that option and then click next. This brings us to the exceptions. For the example, we’ll say that you would like this rule only to apply to those messages sent directly to me, if you are being CC’ed they will stay in your Inbox. Choose the box next to “except where my name is in the CC box” and hit next. The rule is now set up! You can now decide whether to run this rule on the emails in that are already in your inbox. This will move any emails in your inbox that follow the rule into the specified folder. You can also choose to turn on or leave it off for the time being. Rules and alerts are only active if they are checked in the “Rules and Alerts” box and the rules you set up will only be active when your Outlook is open.

There are many rules and alerts to customize and we suggest that you utilize this feature to improve efficiency and minimize your workload. For more information and tips on using rules, check out Tips for Managing Your E-Mail Using Rules from Microsoft Office Online.

Please contact us for assistance or further information for other email applications, including Entourage, Apple Mail, etc.