Outlook Tip #2: How to Use Email Rules to Automatically Move Incoming Emails into Folders

In this post, we’ll take a look at how you can manage your Outlook email better by having incoming mail automatically moved into separate folders. If you get a lot of email everyday, this can save lots of time. Rather than having to spend an hour once a week moving emails from the Inbox to your categorized folders, email rules will help automate your inbox organization. Email rules may seem complicated and they can be if you really want to perform some sophisticated sorting, but if you simply want to move work emails to the Work folder automatically, then it’s a piece of cake.

In order for rules to be useful, you should create some folders underneath your Inbox to categorize your email, such as Projects, Work, Family, etc. You can create folders by right clicking on the main folder and selecting New Folder.

Now to get started, open Outlook and go to Tools and then Rules and Alerts. In newer versions of Outlook, you have to click on the File tab and you’ll see the Manage Rules & Alerts button.

rules and alerts

The Rules and Alerts main window will appear and by default you might see one rule already created depending on your version of Outlook.

rules and alerts dialog

From here you will click the New Rule button to get started with your first Outlook email rule. In earlier versions of Outlook, they had a wizard to walk you through creating rules, but now it starts off with rules templates. These are the most common and probably all you’ll ever need. The most common rule is the first one listed, “Move messages from someone to a folder“. Go ahead and select it, then click Next.

move messages from someone

You’ll notice the bottom list box that is called “Step 2:” remains at the bottom with some underlined text. In reality, all of you have to do to setup the rule is click on the hyperlinks for people or public group and specified to choose the email address and where you want those email to go. Then you can click Finish and you’re done. However, if you want to make the rule more complicated, then clicking Next will give you a whole lot more options:

rules wizard

As you check on different conditions in the top list box, the rule description at the bottom will also populate with more hyperlinks. You can even create rules that look for specific words in the email body and then perform actions on those emails. Your next task is to click on each hyperlink and choose the associated values like email addresses, folders, etc. In our example above, you’ll want to click on people or public group and choose an email address.

rules address

Then click on the word specified and browse to the folder you would like the email to be moved to or click New and a new folder will be created under the currently highlighted folder.

rules and alerts folder

Now you’ll see the bottom part updated with the actual values for your rule.

outlook email values

When you click Next, you can set more actions for the rule. You can normally leave this alone if it’s a simple rule, but if you want to also perform other actions like play a sound, forward the email, make a copy of it, print the email, start another program, run a script, etc, then you can do all of that on this screen.

perform actions outlook

Click Next when you are done and you’ll be brought to the Exceptions dialog, where you can choose what conditions you would not want to have this rule processed. Unless you have some unique cases, you can leave it blank, which is the default.

outlook rules exceptions

Click Next and we’ve finally reached the end of the rule wizard! Give the rule a name like “Move Friends Email” so that you know what it does when you look at it later on. Then if you have emails already in your Inbox that would match your new rule, check the box to “Run this rule on messages already in Inbox“. You can leave everything else as default and click Finish!

finish outlook rule

Now you can create rules for people, newsletters, bank/credit card statements and whatever else you can think of to start managing your Outlook email more efficiently!