How-To: Manage Messages with Rules

This article explains what rules are and how you can use rules to stay organized and current with the activity in yourInbox.

In this article

How rules help you manage messages

Create a rule from a template

Create a rule from scratch

Create a rule from a message

Run a rule periodically but not all the time

How rules help you manage messages

A rule is an action that Microsoft Outlook takes automatically on an arriving or sent message that meets the conditions that you specify in the rule. You can choose many conditions and actions by using the Rules and Alerts Wizard. Rules do not operate on message that have been read, only on those that are unread.

Rules fall into one of two general categories: organization and notification. The Rules and Alerts Wizard contains templates for the most commonly used rules.

  • Stay organized    These are rules that help you to file and follow up on messages. For example, you can create a rule for messages from a specific sender, such as Bobby Moore, with the word "sales" in the Subject line, to be flagged for follow-up, categorized as Sales, and moved to a folder called Bobby's Sales.

  • Stay up-to-date    These are rules that notify you in some way when you receive a particular message. For example, you can create a rule that automatically sends an alert to your mobile telephone when you receive a message from a family member.

  • Start from a blank rule    These are rules that you create from scratch.

    Rule templates
    Figure 1: The Rules and Alerts Wizard contains several predefined rules, called templates.

Exceptions

You can add exceptions to your rules for special circumstances, such as when a message is flagged for follow-up action or is marked with high importance. A rule is not applied to a message if even one of the exceptions that you specify is met.

Create a rule from a template

  1. In the Navigation Pane, click Mail.

  2. On the Tools menu, click Rules and Alerts.

  3. If you have more than one e-mail account, in the Apply changes to this folder list, select the Inbox that you want.

  4. Click New Rule.

  5. Under Step 1: Select a template, select the template that you want from the Stay Organized or Stay Up to Date collection of templates.

  6. Under Step 2: Edit the rule description, click an underlined value. For example, if you click the people or distribution list link, the Address Book opens.

  7. Under Step 1: Select condition(s), select the conditions that you want the messages to meet for the rule to apply.

  8. Under Step 2: Edit the rule description, click an underlined value if you have not done so already, and then click Next.

  9. Under Step 1: Select action(s), select the action that you want the rule to take when the specified conditions are met.

  10. Under Step 2: Edit the rule description, click an underlined value if you have not done so already, and then click Next.

  11. Under Step 1: Select exception(s), select any exceptions to the rule, and then click Next.

  12. To finish creating the rule, enter a name for the rule, and then select any other options that you want.

    • If you want to run this rule on messages that already are in one of your folders, select the Run this rule now on messages already in "folder" check box.

    • To apply this rule to all your e-mail accounts and the Inbox associated with each account, select theCreate this rule on all accounts check box.

  13. Click Finish.

Create a rule from scratch

To create a rule by choosing your own conditions, actions, and exceptions, do the following:

  1. In the Navigation Pane, click Mail.

  2. On the Tools menu, click Rules and Alerts.

  3. If you have more than one e-mail account, in the Apply changes to this folder list, select the Inbox that you want.

  4. Click New Rule.

  5. Under Start from a blank rule, select either Check messages when they arrive or Check messages after sending, and then click Next.

  6. Under Step 1: Select condition(s), select the conditions that you want the messages to meet for the rule to apply.

  7. Under Step 2: Edit the rule description, click an underlined value if you have not done so already, and then click Next.

  8. Under Step 1: Select action(s), select the action that you want the rule to take when the specified conditions are met.

  9. Under Step 2: Edit the rule description, click an underlined value if you have not done so already, and then click Next.

  10. Under Step 1: Select exception(s), select any exceptions to the rule, and then click Next.

  11. To finish creating the rule, enter a name for the rule, and then select any other options that you want.

    • If you want to run this rule on messages that already are in one of your folders, select the Run this rule now on messages already in "folder" check box.

    • To apply this rule to all your e-mail accounts and the Inbox associated with each account, select theCreate this rule on all accounts check box.

  12. Click Finish.

Create a rule from a message

You can create a rule directly from a message. For example, you can create a rule to move messages from someone to a specific folder.

  1. Right-click the message that you want to base the rule on, and then click Create Rule on the shortcut menu.

    In the Create Rule dialog box, select the check boxes for the options that are already filled in with information from your selected message.

  2. Select the Move the item to folder check box.

  3. Click an existing folder or click New to create a new folder to store the messages.

  4. To add more conditions, actions, or exceptions to the rule, click Advanced Options, and then follow the rest of the instructions in the Rules and Alerts Wizard.

    Tip     To run the rule as soon as you create it, select the Run this rule now on the messages already in foldercheck box on the last page of the Rules and Alerts Wizard.

    All the messages in your Inbox, or any folder that you choose, that meet the conditions and exceptions associated with the rule are moved to the specified folder. To test your new rule, open your new folder. Were the correct messages moved?

Run a rule periodically but not all the time

If you want to run a rule periodically but not all the time, do the following:

  1. On the Tools menu, click Rules and Alerts.

  2. In the Rules and Alerts dialog box, turn the rule off by clearing the check box next to the rule.

  3. Click Run Rules Now.

  4. In the Run Rules Now dialog box, under Select rules to run, select the check box next to the rule that you want to run.

  5. Select the folder that you want to apply the rule to.

  6. Select the category of messages that you want to apply the rule to.

    For example, you can apply the rule only to unread messages in a folder.

  7. Click Run Now.

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