Rules are a way to have incoming (or outgoing) messages sorted, filed, marked, or otherwise handled automatically. You teach Outlook what to look for and what to do when it sees a message that meets the conditions you've set. For example:
Here we'll talk about two ways to create rules:
To filter e-list messages, select "Move message sent to," not "sent from." This will catch everything where the sender put the list address in the To or Cc field. (Catching the Bcc field is more complicated, but doable; see our troubleshooting tip on e-list rules.)
- whether the rule should be run on messages already in your Inbox,
- whether the rule should be turned on so that it will be applied to all incoming messages in the future, and
- if you have more than one account set up, whether the rule applies only to the current account or to all accounts.
Sometimes you'll set up a rule and the result won't be what you had in mind. Here are some reasons why, and how to deal with them.
When creating complex rules, you'll need to understand how Outlook handles multiple values.
If you use more than one condition, Outlook treats them as "and" statements, that is, the rule won't be applied unless a message meets all of the conditions. So, for example, if you check the boxes for "with ‘Network" in the subject" and "which has an attachment," only messages where both those things are true will have the rule applied.
If you specify more than one value within a condition, Outlook is happy if it finds at least one of the values, not necessarily all. For example, if we set the condition to "with 'Network' or 'cable' in the subject," the rule would be applied if either word (or both) were found.
If you specify more than one action, Outlook will do them all, as you'd expect.
If you specify more than one exception, Outlook treats them as "or" statements, that is, if any one (or more) of the exceptions apply, the rule won't be applied to the message.
As with multiple values within a condition, if you specify more than one value within an exception, Outlook will use the exception if it finds at least one of the values, not necessarily all.
It's also important to know that the rules are checked in the order you have them listed, and if a message fits more than one rule, Outlook will try to take the action listed in each one.
For example, a single message could end up being filed in several folders, or be assigned to multiple categories, or have its importance changed to High by one rule and then changed again to Low by another.
You can use the "stop processing more rules" action which, in effect, says "If this rule applies to a message, quit checking this message and go on to the next one."
You also can change the order of your rules by selecting a rule in the Rules & Alerts dialog box, then clicking the up arrow or down arrow in the toolbar.
You can create simple rules by starting with a message, rather than starting with a blank slate. This can be useful in setting up a rule for e-lists, or for people who routinely send you messages.
To filter e-list messages, select "Sent to," not "From." This will catch everything where the sender put the list address in the To or Cc field. (Catching the Bcc field is more complicated, but doable; see our troubleshooting tip on e-list rules.)
- From - all messages that come from the same address that this message came from.
- Subject Contains - this field will initially contain the complete subject line from the current message. If you choose this condition, edit this down to just the keyword or words.
- Sent to - the drop-down list will include all addresses where the current message was sent.