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How to manage email messages by using rules

A rule is an action that Microsoft Outlook performs automatically upon incoming or outgoing messages, based on conditions that you have specified. You can create a rule from a template, from a message, or using your own conditions.

How rules help you manage email messages
Create a rule
Server-based rules versus client-only rules

How rules help you manage email 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 Wizard.



The Rules Wizard includes templates for the most frequently used rules, which include the following:

Stay Organized

These rules help you 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 named Bobby's Sales.

Stay Up to Date

These rules 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 device when you receive a message from a family member.
Start from a blank rule    These are rules that you create without the aid of a rule template and that you can completely customize.

Create a rule

Outlook includes rule templates for common scenarios. Use these rule templates, or create design your own custom rules.

Use Outlook rule templates

  1. Click the File tab.
  2. Click Manage Rules & Alerts.
  3. In the Rules and Alerts dialog box, on the E-mail Rules tab, click New Rule.
  4. Under Step 1: Select a template, select the template that you want from the Stay Organized or Stay Up to Date collection of templates.
  5. Under Step 2: Edit the rule description, click an underlined value. For example, if you click the people or public group link, the Address Book opens.
  6. Click Next.
  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 for any condition that you added, and then specify the value.
  9. Click Next.
  10. Under Step 1: Select action(s), select the action that you want the rule to take when the specified conditions are met.
  11. Under Step 2: Edit the rule description, click an underlined value for any action that you added, and then specify the value.
  12. Click Next.
  13. Under Step 1: Select exception(s), select any exceptions to the rule, and then click Next.
  14. Under Step 2: Edit the rule description, click an underlined value for any exception that you added, and then specify the value.
  15. Click Next.
  16. Under Step 1: Specify a name for this rule, enter a name.
  17. Under Step 2: Setup rule options, select the check boxes for the options that you want.
    • If you want to run this rule on messages that already are in the Inbox, select the Run this rule now on messages already in “Inbox" check box.
    • By default, the new rule is turned on. To turn off the rule, clear the Turn on this rule check box.
    • To apply this rule to all email accounts set up in Outlook, select the Create this rule on all accounts check box.
  18. Click Finish.

Design a custom rule

  1. Click the File tab.
  2. Click Manage Rules & Alerts.
  3. In the Rules and Alerts dialog box, on the E-mail Rules tab, click New Rule.
  4. Under Start from a blank rule, click either Check messages when they arrive or Check messages after sending.
  5. 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 for any condition that you added, and then specify the value.
  8. 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 for any action that you added, and then specify the value.
  11. Click Next.
  12. Under Step 1: Select exception(s), select any exceptions to the rule, and then click Next.
  13. Under Step 2: Edit the rule description, click an underlined value for any exception that you added, and then specify the value.
  14. Click Next.
  15. Under Step 1: Specify a name for this rule, enter a name.
  16. Under Step 2: Setup rule options, select the check boxes for the options that you want.
    • If you want to run this rule on messages that already are in the Inbox, select the Run this rule now on messages already in “Inbox" check box.
    • By default, the new rule is turned on. To turn off the rule, clear the Turn on this rule check box.
    • To apply this rule to all email accounts set up in Outlook, select the Create this rule on all accounts check box.
  17. Click Finish.

Create a rule based on senders or recipients of a message

A rule can be quickly created from any message. The advantage of creating a rule in this manner is that rules are suggested based on the message sender or recipients. For example, when you start with a message, one rule that is suggested moves all messages from that sender to a folder that you choose.
  1. Click the message for which you want to create a rule, and then on the Home tab, in the Move group, click Rules.
  2. Suggested rules appear based on the message sender and recipients.
  3. Do one of the following:
  • Click one of the suggested rules, click a destination folder, and then click OK.
  • For more rules options that are based on the sender, recipients, or subject of the message, click Create Rule.
If you chose Create Rule in step 2, the Create Rule dialog box appears. Continue with the following steps.
  1. Under When I get e-mail with all of the selected conditions, select the check boxes for the conditions that you want.
  2. Under Do the following, select the check boxes for the action that you want the rule to take when the specified conditions are met.
  3. Select the Move the item to folder check box.
  4. Click an existing folder or click New to create a folder to store the messages.
  5. To add more conditions, actions, or exceptions to the rule, click Advanced Options, and then follow the rest of the instructions in the Rules Wizard. This is the same wizard that appears when you click Manage Rules & Alerts in the Backstage view (by clicking the File tab).
  6. Click OK.

Server-based rules versus client-only rules

Server-based rules

If you are using a Microsoft Exchange Server account, some rules that you create are server-based rules. These rules run on your mailbox on the Exchange mail server, even when Outlook isn’t running on your computer. Server-based rules must apply to messages when they are first delivered to your Inbox, and the rules must be able to run until they are completed on the server. For example, a rule that specifies that a message be printed can’t run until it is completed on the server. If a rule can’t be applied on the server, it is applied when you start Outlook and becomes a client-only rule.

Client-only rules

Client-only rules are rules that run only on your computer. These are rules that can’t run until they are completed on the server, such as specifying to print certain messages. Client-only rules can only run when Outlook is running.

If your list of rules contains both kinds of rules, the server-based rules are applied first, followed by the client-only rules.


Properties ID: 000077   Views: 726   Updated: 3 years ago
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