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: http://www.brainstorminc.com/cbt/microsoft/help.php?file=outlook9