If you are using Microsoft Outlook as your email client, but you are not taking
advantage of Outlook's Rules, you're wasting time. More importantly,
in these days of Spam-O-Rama, using Rules is a good way to help you make
sure that your more important email doesn't end up in the dumpster.
Through MouseTrax.com, I get a ton of email requests. People ask for help,
have comments they want to make and also request quotes for my consulting
services. These are very important emails and I want to make sure that they
come to my attention the minute they arrive. So I've created a rule in Outlook
that displays a special message letting me know when anything arrives from
Granted, when developing our Contact page on the site, I made sure to include
a subject within the post so that anything coming from the site displays
a special prefix in the subject. Personally, I do this through programming
code in the background. But you can easily add a subject to any email hyperlink
you might use. You just need to add the syntax ?subject= and
then add the info you want to display as a default. Let's say your normal
link would be like this:
To add a special subject, you would modify the link like this:
Although, I generally add the special comment in brackets, like this:
mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org?subject="[TTrax Mail] "
The sender would still be free to add more details in the subject line, but
assuming they don't remove your prefix, you can then easily set a rule to
make special note of any mail arriving with the words [TTrax Mail] in the
Or, maybe you just want to make sure that email from your spouse or a
family member, or yes, even your boss, gets special attention. You can set
a rule to have that mail displayed to you with a special notice and even
have it moved to a special folder so it doesn't get mixed up with other email.
This will also save you from having to move the mail into a folder later.
Just make sure you check that folder often so new mail doesn't get shoved
in there and forgotten!
Setting up rules in Outlook is pretty simple. Outlook contains a Wizard that
walks you through the steps. You need only decide what you want to happen
and make the appropriate choices as you go through each panel of the Wizard.
Click Tools > Rules and Alerts to open the Rules dialog
box. Click New Rule to get started.
Now, Outlook will offer up a pile of predefined templates to allow you to
start with something almost finished, from which you can modify. Personally,
I prefer to start fresh with a blank rule and define my own preferences.
But this is just my choice...you can make your own decision here.
Let's assume you think like I do (poor kid!) and we'll go with the blank rule.
First decide if this rule should take affect when you are sending or receiving
Assuming you're going to go with the subject line notification, you would
select the option to have the subject line checked, upon arrival, for special
words. However, as you can see in the image below, there are many other options
from which you can choose.
As you make your selections from the top window that contains the options,
the rule is being built for you in the lower half of the dialog box. Just
make sure that wherever blue hyperlinked words are displayed, you make sure
to click on those words and specify your options.
When using the subject words as your special recognition, you need to click
on the words "specific words." The Search dialog will
then appear. Add in whatever words you want. If this was a rule for special
notice, you would add those subject words that are important to you. However,
if you were creating a spam rule, this list would contain those words that
you know spam to contain and then you could choose to have these emails passed
to a special junk folder. Whatever your motives, just make sure you complete
the rule by adding in your specific terms.
Move on to the next screen. There you will set the details about what you
want to happen when an email arrives with the above details in the subject.
In my case, I want a special message to pop up in my face to make sure I
don't miss it and can handle it the minute it arrives. So I choose to display
a specific message.
But again, make sure you move to the lower window now and click the hyperlink
for the message so you can create your custom message. If you wanted the
email moved to a special folder, or some other specific action to also
take place, be sure to check that option, too.
Once all your actions are selected and customized, you can move on to
the Exceptions windows. If there are any situations that would apply, check
those exception options and customize them.
Finally, a default name for this rule will be offered, but you are free
to change it to anything you like.
At this point, you can also choose to
run the rule now to move or otherwise organize any emails that may currently
be sitting in your inbox...although this action would be more suited
if you were having emails moved en masse to a folder, versus this particular
rule which would now cause a pile of messages to pop up in your face!
That's it! Click Finish and your rule is set. From now on, anytime an email
arrives with the details you specified, your custom actions will take place,
automatically, so you won't have to spend excess time handling more email
than is necessary.
Furthermore, if you create a bunch of rules on one computer you can easily
move them to another computer, or share them with others, by Exporting the
rules out to a special file. Move that file to the other computer and then
choose to Import these rules.
I support a lot of user groups. To help me save time from sorting through
tons of additional email in my inbox, I have each category of email moved
into specific folders when they arrive, i.e., Word VBA, Word Doc Design,
Word General Support, Office General, Excel, Dreamweaver, etc. By making
sure email gets viewed regularly, I can see how many new, unread emails have
arrived. But rather than being continually interrupted or distracted by new
support email questions, I can get to them when I have a little time to spare
and can concentrate on answering support issues.
However you decide to use Outlook's Rules, there's a good chance that you
can save a handful of time for each new rule you create to help yourself
work more efficiently and make better use of your email time.