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How to Create Rules in MS Outlook to Auto Sort Emails

Your email inbox always seems full of new messages. Deciding
what to do with each message can seem overwhelming. You may even be late
responding to an important message because you didn’t notice it in all the
clutter. MS Outlook rules can help.

If you know how to set up rules in Outlook, you can make
sure similar emails are always grouped together. This will help you prioritize
your income email and stay organized. You can also use Outlook rules to deal
with email message types you receive frequently such as newsletters and
announcements. You can even set up a rule to automatically delete certain types
of emails.

In this tutorial, we’ll answer the question:
what is a rule in Outlook? You’ll also learn how to create a rule in Outlook
and also how to import or export Outlook rules. Finally, we’ll explain how you
can edit or delete Outlook rules.

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Now let’s take a closer look at rules in MS Outlook.

What
Are Outlook Rules (and How Are They Used?)

You
may be wondering: what is a rule?  A rule
in Microsoft Outlook is a set of actions that Outlook performs automatically
when certain conditions are met. You can define the conditions for a rule using
Outlook’s Manage Rules & Alerts
tool. A rule can be a big timesaver if you often perform the same actions on
similar emails.

Outlook
also has a Rules Wizard available to
make the process of creating rules even easier. The Rules Wizard has commonly used rules already set up. All you’ve got
to do is customize each rule in the wizard with your own choices. 

How to Create Rules in MS Outlook Using the Rules Wizard (Video)

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In the screencast above learn how to use the Rules Wizard in Microsoft Outlook. Or, read on for comprehensive written
instructions to help you create and modify rules in Outlook.

1. How
to Move a Message Into a Folder Using a Rule

By
far the most common rule that people create is one that automatically sends
certain messages to a folder. You can do this quickly and easily from with this
Outlook shortcut. The shortcut also includes a few other common actions.

Start
with your email inbox open. Select the message you want to automatically move
into a folder by clicking on it. Click Home
> Rules
. Select Create Rule
from the drop-down menu. The Create Rule
dialog box appears:

Create Rule dialog box
The top portion of the Create Rule dialog box is already filled out based on the email you selected.

Notice
the top of the dialog box is already filled out with the From, Subject, and To fields from your selected email. To
select one or more of these conditions as is, simply check in the check box to
the left of them. You can also type in a new subject and/or select a new email
recipient (if you’ve got a lot of emails going to your inbox).

In the bottom section, you can select up to three actions to
perform on an email that meets the defined criteria.

  1. Display the email in a New Item Alert window on
    your desktop. 
  2. Play a sound when an email meeting the criteria
    is received.
  3. Move the item to a folder you select
Choose
one or more actions from the list. Define those actions and then click the OK
button to save your choices. Continue to click OK. A
prompt appears asking if you’d like to run the rule on the email already in
your inbox. You’ve just created a rule. 

2. How to Use the Rules Wizard

If
you need more options for your MS Outlook rule, use the Rules Wizard. Let’s get started:

Step
1. Access the Rules Wizard

Start
with your open email inbox. Click the File
tab. The Account Information window
displays:

Account Information window in Outlook
From the Account Information window click the Manage Rules & Alerts box.

Click
the Manage Rules & Alerts box to
access the Rules and Alerts dialog
box:

Rules and Alerts dialog box in MS Outlook
Select the New Rule menu option.

Click
the New Rule menu option in the
upper left of the dialog box. The Rules
Wizard
appears:

Rules Wizard Screen 1
The first screen of the Outlook Rules Wizard.

Note: You can also access the Rules Wizard
from Advanced Option of the Create Rule dialog box.

Step 2. Choose a Template From the Outlook Rules Wizard

At
the top of the Rules Wizard, you’ll
see a list of pre-defined rule templates in two categories:

  1. Stay Organized
  2. Stay Up to Date

You’ll
also see the category Start from a blank rule. You would use this category to create a rule if you didn’t want to start with one of the pre-defined templates.

Review
the existing rule template list and click on the one that meets your needs to
select it. Then click the Next
button. For the purposes of this tutorial, I’ve selected the “Move messages
from someone to a folder” template. If you select a different template, your
choices may vary.

Step
3. Customize the Rule Conditions

After
you select a rules template, the Rules Wizard
displays a list of conditions to apply to the template with a check box by each
condition:

Rules Wizard screen 2
Choose the conditions for your rule.

Check
the box next to each condition you want to apply to the rule. The conditions
you’ve selected appear in the box under Step
2
in the Rules Wizard. Note the
hyperlinks in each condition. Click on each hyperlink to customize the rule
with your own requirements. Here’s an example of what appears when I click the importance hyperlink:

Importance level for Outlook rule condition
You can choose an importance level for the emails you want to apply the rule to.

Continuing
clicking on each hyperlink to make the condition specific to your needs. When
you’ve finished, click the Next
button.

Step
4. Customize the Rule Actions

Once
you’ve customized the rule conditions you’re ready to customize the rule
actions. The Rules Wizard displays various actions you can apply to this rule:

Rules Wizard screen 3
Select an action to perform on messages that meet the conditions.

This
screen works like the earlier Rules
Wizard
screen. Select actions you want to add to this rule by checking the
check box next to each selected action. Click the hyperlink in the Step 2 segment of the screen to make
the action more specific. When you’re done making your selections, click the Next button to move to the next screen
in the Rules Wizard

Step 5. Set Up Exceptions to the Rule

The
next Rules Wizard screen is very
similar to the previous two, except in this case you’re defining any exceptions
to the rule. When you’ve finished defining rule exceptions, click the Next button again.

Step
6. Name the Rule and Turn It On

In
the final Rules Wizard screen, you’re prompted to name the rule:

Name the Rule
When you’ve defined the rule in Outlook you’re ready to name it.

Type the rule name in the indicated space. If you want to
run the rule on existing messages, check the box next to the first box. To turn
the rule on, check the second check box. 
If you’ve got more than one account, check the third box.

When
you’re finished customizing the rule, click the Finish button. The Rules and
Alerts
dialog box appears. Click Apply
and then click OK to activate
the rule.

You’ve
just created a rule in MS Outlook!

4.
How to Import or Export a Rule

Rules
can be imported or exported. This can be especially helpful if you migrate to a
different version of Outlook. I’ve also been able to use this feature to share
Outlook rules between different Outlook users.

Caution: If
the exported rule involves a specific folder or anything else specific to your
email, the Outlook importing the rule must have the same folder.

Let’s get started.

Step
1. Export a Rule

Start
with your open email inbox. Click the File
tab. The Account Information window
displays. Click the Manage Rules &
Alerts
box to access the Rules and
Alerts
dialog box. Click Options
from the menu at the top of the screen. The Options dialog box appears: 

Options dialog box
You can export rules you’ve already created.

Note: You can also access the Rules and Alerts
dialog box from Rules option
under the Home tab on your ribbon.

Click
the Export Rules button. A File Explorer window opens:

File Explorer window
Type the file name of the rule you want to export.

Navigate
to the directory where you want to store your exported rules file. Type the
name of the file you want to store the rules in and the click Save.

Step
2. Import a Rule

The
procedure to import a rule is like the export rule procedure with a few
differences.

Start
with your open email inbox. Click the File
tab. The Account Information window
displays. Click the Manage Rules &
Alerts
box to access the Rules and
Alerts
dialog box. Click Options
from the menu at the top of the screen.

When
the Options dialog box appears,
click Import Rules instead of Export Rules. When the File Explorer
window opens, navigate to the directory where you’ve got the imported rules
saved. Click on the file name to select it and click Open. Click OK to import
the rule.

Note: If
some of the parameters are missing for an imported rule you’ll get an error
message. An example would be if a folder used by the rule isn’t set up in your
email.

5.
How to Edit a Rule

Suppose
you’ve got a rule set up for how to handle a certain type of email in Outlook,
but you need to change the rule. With Outlook, you can easily edit an existing
rule to change it.  Here’s how:

Step
1. Open the Rules and Alerts Dialog Box

Start
with your inbox open. Click the File
> Manage Rules & Alerts
. The Rules
and Alerts
dialog box opens:

You can change a Microsoft Outlook Rule

Select
a rule from the list. Click the Change
Rule
menu option at the top of the dialog box. The Change Rule pop-up menu appears:

Change Rule pop-up menu
You can change the name of an existing rule in Microsoft Outlook.

Note: You can also get to
this pop-up menu from Rules > Manage
Rules & Alerts > Change rule
on the Home tab in your Outlook inbox.

From
this menu you’ve got three choices:

  1. edit
    more than one rule setting at a time
  2. quickly rename the rule
  3. quickly
    add or change a single rule action

Let’s
look at each of these options separately.

Step
2. Edit Multiple Rule Settings

To
edit more than one rule setting, click the Edit
Rule Settings
option on the Change
Rule
pop-up menu. The system re-opens the Rules Wizard for the selected rule. Use the Rules Wizard to make changes to the conditions, actions, and
exceptions.

Step
3. Quickly Rename the Rule

If
all you want to do is rename the selected rule, there’s no need to re-open the Rules Wizard. Instead, select the Rename Rule option from the Change Rule pop-up menu. The system
prompts you to type in the new name for the selected rule:

Renaming a Microsoft Outlook rule
You can rename a rule in Microsoft Outlook.

When
you’ve finished typing the rule name, click the OK button.

Step
4. Add or Change One or More Rule Actions

There’s also no need to re-open the Rules Wizard if all you
want to do is change a few common actions. The Change
Rule
pop-up menu has some shortcuts for common actions beneath the Rename Rule option:

Changing a Rule Action
You can change a few Microsoft Rule actions without re-opening the Rules Wizard.

Active actions appear with a blue box around the action icon
in the pop-up menu. To turn a single action on or off for the selected rule,
simply click on it.

For some actions, that’s all you need to do. For other
actions a second dialog box displays when you add that action. The second
dialog box lets you provide more specific information. 

For example, If you click the Copy to Folder option a dialog box appears so that you can select
the correct folder:

You can copy a Microsoft Rule
You can copy a Microsoft Outlook Rule.

When you’ve finished making changes to the selected rule,
click OK on the Rules and Alerts dialog box.

6. How to Delete a Rule

If
you no longer need a rule, you can delete it. Start with your inbox open. Click
the File > Manage Rules & Alerts.
The Rules and Alerts dialog box
opens:

Deleting a rule in MS Outlook
In Outlook you can delete rules you no longer need.

Note: You can
also get to the Rules and Alerts
dialog box from Rules > Manage Rules
& Alerts
on the Home tab in
your Outlook inbox.

Select
the rule you want to delete by clicking the checkbox next to it. Then, click
the Delete option (it looks like an
X) on the menu towards the top of the Rules
and Alerts
dialog box. A prompt appears asking if you really want to: Delete rule [Rule Name]. Click Yes, then click the OK button at the bottom of the Rules and Alerts window.

Learn More About Outlook

Study the tutorials below to learn more about MS Outlook:

More Helpful Email Tips and Strategies

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Take back your inbox

Conclusion

Keep your inbox messages organized using Outlook rules. You
can automatically sort messages into the appropriate folders by setting up
rules in Outlook. Now that you know how to use Outlook rules, your messages
will always be handled properly and your inbox will be organized.