Monday, August 10, 2009

Creating a Rule in MS Outlook 2007

I’ve just upgraded my computer files from MS Office 2003 to Office 2007. This had led to no small amount of existential angst on my part, since there are many changes in how things get done between the two versions, but overall, I think the upgrade was necessary and will lead to greater productivity. I had reached a point where a lot of the student files that I received were unable to be opened, since they were created on a newer version of Office/Word than I had available for my use. And my home computer, a Mac, runs Office 2008 for Mac. So, now I have to go and learn some new skills. Much fun will ensue!

But I have already found one very useful tool in the MS Office package, relating to Outlook. This venerable mail/scheduling program has more depth to it than simply delivering your mail. It can actually do things to your mail, and ease the burden you have of deleting the 30th post of the day letting you know you won the lottery in Nigeria, and offering to send you several million dollars if you will simply send them some basic information. Like your social security number, bank account number (so they can wire that money to you) and the names of all your kids. This is the “Rules and Alerts” entry in the program. It can automate functions for you to help organize all your email.

The “Rules and Alerts” menu is found under the basic “Tools” pull-down menu in the main Outlook screen. When you click on “Rules and Alerts,” it opens up a new screen in which you have a choice of two main tabs, one not surprisingly for “Rules” and the second for “Alerts.” We will open the tab for “Rules.” When you do, it brings up a screen that offers you a number of options, and you can read those over at your own leisure. But for now, let me use one example: you wish to have all of the Nigerian lottery emails sent to your "Junk Mail" folder without you having to take the time to do so one by one as they come in. So you can click on the line that says “Move messages with specific words in the subject to a folder.” Then click “next” on the bottom on the window. This brings up a second screen in which you can set the conditions for how you wish this to be done. Again, as an example, I will click on the line that says “with specific words in the subject.” You will note this instruction appears in the higher of two boxes in the window. Once you click that instruction, go to the lower box, and click the underlined words “specific words.” This opens a screen where you can type in the words you wish the system to track. For our purposes, type in the word “lottery.” Then, again that lower box, click on the word “specified” to denote which folder you want these emails to be sent. When the new window opens, click “Junk Email” and then “okay.” Once you do all this, you can click “next” on the screen. You will then be coached to list any exceptions to your rule. We don’t want one, so we leave everything unchecked and again click “next.” You will have to give this rule a name, so we call it “Lottery Rule.” Click on the box instructing the system to turn the rule on, and then click “Finish.” You are returned to the main “Rule” screen where your new rule appears in the window. Click “Okay” and your new rule is now operational. As every new email announcing your lottery winnings appears, it will be sent to your junk mail folder and will not appear in your main email window.

You can make all sorts of rules. You can make one so that all emails from your immediate supervisor are sent to its own menu, or are flagged for your attention. This is limited only by your needs and your creativity, but it can be a wonderful time saver. I no longer get much spam mail in my main window, and I can then just delete the contents of the junk mail folder once a day. It is a nice little feature, but not one I see a lot of people using. Consider taking a look at it. And if my instructions are confusing, here is a link to a video explaining how to create your own rules:


Dr. Steve said...

Dr. Lawrence,

I could not agree with you more about the benefits of using filters as you describe. I have been using these types of filters since the late 90's. I found this capability to be not only delightful but also extremely time efficient with the results you can receive by using them.

That capability has been available through use of the email client now called Mozilla Thunderbird (like nearly every other software program, it has gone through a number of name changes). This is an open source program. You can read up on this type of software using the following site:

I do feel obligated to point out that I do not like Microsoft® Products in the least. I MUCH prefer the Linux operating system (also open source and free to download from a multitude of websites). I have been an advocate and user of Linux and open source since the mid 90's and have enjoyed multiple benefits, the least of which being around 90-95% of open source software is offered by the authors to anyone who wishes to use it merely by downloading the program at not charge over the internet.

You, as well as other's reading this, may be wondering how one could survive in today's "computer world" without a copy of Microsoft Office®? The short answer is "open source". I inform every student that is enrolled in my classes (I am an Adjunct Professor at a local Community College) to check out an open source program called Open Office. This is, for all practical purposes, a complete "alternative" option to the Microsoft Office Professional® package that can cost up to $1,500. And yes, as open source it is available free of licensing fees or any per user fees for the package. Here is their website where it can be downloaded: The file is somewhat large and it is best to download using a broadband connection, which nearly every college in the nation has availabe to every enrolled student.

If I can be of any assistance to you in the future please don't hesitate to contact me. I can always be reached by the email address below.

Steve Vaitl, D.C.
Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician
Certified Chiropractic Extremity Practitioner
Adjunct Professor, Anatomy, Biology and Chemistry
Kansas City Kansas Community College

John Wiens, DC said...

Stick with it. I just helped a friend format a publish-on-demand book using Word 2007 and once you get used to the ribbon you'll never go back. One of the new functionalities of 2007 is automatic hyphenation. Invaluable for book formatting.

Dana J. Lawrence, DC, MMedEd said...

Thank you both for your comments. I do know that open source programs are available (And that Macs also offer programs such as keynote), but I also have to note that IT support here where we work is designed to support the software that the college has decided to use. In our case, Microsoft is the system in use college wide.
Dana Lawrence

Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.