Work magic with Microsoft Outlook's Rules Wizard

E-mail has made instant communication much easier, but it still can become overwhelming at times, especially with all the junk mail that we receive. According to Paul Suiter, however, you can use the Rules Wizard to organize your Inbox.

Although e-mail has made instant communication much easier, it still overwhelms many users. This problem is due primarily to the fact that e-mail is so easy to use. As individuals and companies find more and more ways of filling up our Inboxes with personal notes and junk mail, we must find a way to organize and sort the hundreds of e-mail messages that each one of us receives. At work, the issue of server space for e-mail accounts makes this question even more important. Microsoft knew that the demand for e-mail would increase, and it provided its users of Outlook with a convenient way of organizing e-mail. With the Rules Wizard, which comes with Outlook, users can choose from a wide selection of options for making e-mail more manageable.

The Rules Wizard will be familiar to those of you who formerly used Exchange. With Exchange, you could use the Office Assistant to achieve some of the same goals that you now accomplish through the Rules Wizard, but the Outlook Rules Wizard adds more actions and improves your control over incoming messages.

Two roads to the wizard
Through the Tools menu
You can initialize the Rules Wizard in one of two ways. First, you can access the wizard from the Tools menu. When you open the Rules Wizard this way, you’ll begin with a dialog box. In the upper section of the dialog box, you’ll see any current rules that have been created; this section will be empty if no rules have been created. If you highlight a rule, a description of that rule will appear below. To add a rule, click on the New button. (You also can modify, copy, delete, and rename existing rules from this window.)

When you select the New button, another window with two boxes will open. In the upper box, you can choose the type of rule that you wish to create. This box contains several choices for the basic actions that begin your rule, such as checking, deleting, and moving messages. As you move through the various types of rules, the lower box will display sentences that describe the actions of whichever rule you’re viewing in the upper box. You may see some underlined text in the lower box; underlined words represent further choices that you need to make in order to complete the rule. If you click on the text, you’ll be taken to a new window, where you must choose the proper attributes for the rule. In some cases, you’ll need to choose the People Or Distribution List in order to complete the rule. If you select this link, you’ll have to choose the People Or Distribution List from your Contacts, Personal Address Book, or any address list that’s maintained on the mail server. This step becomes problematic if you don’t know the exact name of the sender for whom you want the rule or if the person or group isn’t in any of your lists. And you can’t place a name in the rule manually. That’s why I prefer to use the second way of accessing the Rules Wizard.

Through an e-mail message
When you receive an e-mail for which you wish to create a rule, choose Create Rule from the Actions menu of the opened e-mail. The window with two boxes, which I describe above, will appear. This time, however, you’ll start with a list of conditions from which you can choose. Accessing the Rules Wizard through an e-mail bypasses the need to add a person or group because the wizard pulls this information directly from the e-mail. Many conditions will contain the sender’s address or other addresses that appear in the e-mail, including your own. Once you reach the Conditions window, the differences between accessing the Rules Wizard through the Tools menu and accessing it through e-mail ends.

Now, you must checkmark the boxes next to the condition(s) that you will use in your rule. When you place a checkmark beside a condition that has underlined text, you’ll need to complete its link(s) in the second box. You can select more than one condition if you want to create very specific conditions and eliminate all unwanted e-mail.

At this point, you can click the Next button and continue creating rules, or you can end the rule conditions by clicking the Finish button. If you choose to continue, you’ll see another window with two boxes. You’ll be asked what you want to do with the e-mail message that you used to open the Rules Wizard. (You can keep it or delete it.) Although it may seem repetitious, you also ought to take the opportunity to verify the choices that you made.

If you click the Next button again, you’ll return to the window with two dialog boxes. This time, however, the boxes will contain certain exceptions that you can add to your rule. In some cases, you may not want to apply your rule to an e-mail that falls under one of these exceptions. For example, you can exempt e-mail messages that contain attachments or specific words in their subject lines. After you choose (or reject) any exceptions, click Next or Finished. You’ll be prompted to name the rule, and you have the choice of applying the rule now or later.

The Rules Wizard should provide you with an effective method of battling the ever-increasing number of e-mail messages that you have to deal with on a daily basis. Creating rules to organize mailboxes is a positive evolutionary step in our technological society. With its ease of use and self-explanatory procedures, the Rules Wizard is a virtual assistant that will free you from the more distasteful aspects of organizing your Inbox.

Paul Suiter received his first taste of the deadline rush as a photographer for the Montgomery Advertiser, where he earned four photography awards. After receiving degrees in economics and business management from Auburn University, Paul entered the college book business. After managing two bookstores for three years, Paul became a business analyst for EDS. Four years later, Paul continues with EDS, taking its equipment apart, while working with G3 switches and advanced imaging programs. But he’s finally getting back to one of his favorite pastimes—writing. (Of course, he also enjoys spending time with his wife and son.)

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