Image: iStock/Igor Kutyaev

Messages come in and out, and one of the most frequent email tasks is forwarding a message on to someone not in the recipient list. It’s second nature to us. You might forward a weekly status report to your boss or forward a message to your spouse letting them know that you’ve accepted dinner plans for both of you with good friends. You can forward the message as is or enter a new message of your own in Outlook. In this article, I’ll show you how to create a rule that will forward specific messages without any extra effort on your part.

SEE: 83 Excel tips every user should master (TechRepublic)

I’m using Microsoft 365 on a Windows 10 64-bit system, but you can use earlier versions. Forwarding is available in Outlook for the web. There’s no demonstration file; you won’t need one.

About forwarding emails

If you find yourself manually forwarding the same types of messages to the same people often, you can create a rule in Outlook that will forward the message appropriately, for you. It might not seem to be a huge time-saver, but if you do it often enough with multiple types of messages, you can save yourself the trouble of remembering to do it and then actually doing it. I do want to stress one con to using a rule—the rule won’t know when not to forward the message. For instance, if you often receive confidential information in these messages that you shouldn’t forward, you’ll have to remember to suspend the rule for that message. In the long run, that might be harder than manually forwarding. Or, create a quick step that forwards to your boss; it’s an extra click, but still a bit quicker than manually forwarding and safer if sometimes you shouldn’t forward.

How to create a rule in Outlook

Before we actually create the rule, let’s discuss the situation. Let’s suppose that you receive notice of specific service requests from clients. Your boss wants to know about those requests from only one client. In this case, all you really need is the client’s email and your boss’ email, so this rule will be easy to create.

  1. First, click the Inbox. If you have a message from the client in question, select it. If not, it doesn’t matter what message you select.
  2. If necessary, click the Home tab and then click the Rules dropdown (in the Move group).
  3. In the resulting dropdown list, choose Create Rule.
  4. The resulting dialog will autofill with information from the selected message, so ignore it and click Advanced Options.
  5. In the Rules Wizard dialog, some links will autofill the same way, but here you can change them.
  6. Click the first rule, From x (where x is the sender of the selected message, which may or may not be the client in question).
  7. Clicking that option will update the rule shown in the bottom pane (Step 2). If you need to change the sender, click the link and using the Rule Address dialog, delete the sender in the From control and then double-click the appropriate sender. In this case, I’m using my email,, as shown in Figure A.
  8. Click OK, and Step 2 updates with the selected address.
  9. Click Next.
  10. This time, check the Forward It To People Or Public Group option (Figure B).
  11. Double-click the forward link, select the boss’s email address, and click OK. (I’ll use the same email address to keep things simple on my part, but you’ll be working with two email addresses.) The updated rule now forwards messages.
  12. Click Next twice and enter a name for the rule, such as Forward To Boss. If there are messages in the Inbox that need to be forwarded, check Run This Rule Now On Messages Already In Inbox. For our purposes, the checked Turn On This Rule option is all we need. I do recommend that when testing this that you not use your boss’s address until you’re ready to start sending messages.
  13. Click Finish.

Figure A

Double-click the sender and click OK.

Figure B

At this point, you have the rule in place, and you can start using it. When an email arrives from the client, Outlook will automatically forward the message to the boss the next time you send mail. That last part is important. If you send and receive email manually, the forwarded copy will sit in your Outbox until the next time you send email.

How to create exceptions to the rules in Outlook

This is a simple rule that will forward every message you receive from your client to your boss. In step 12 in the last section, you click Next twice, skipping a section of exception options. You can further customize the rule if necessary. For instance, if your boss is in the list of recipients, you wouldn’t want to forward the email because the boss has already received it. In a case such as this, you’d click the Except If Sent To People Or Public Group option and choose your boss’s email address.

If you’re not familiar with rules, spend a little time reviewing the different options, so you can start putting them to use. In addition, always test your rules to make sure they work as expected. Finally, it’s easy to forget rules like this, and not every situation will have an exception that will work. When that’s the case, you will have to remember to temporarily suspend or update the rule yourself.

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