I get a lot of email messages from my mother and they tend to clutter up my inbox. Frustrating! Is there a way I can automatically have all emails from her go to their own folder so I can deal with them when I’m not working and have them stop clogging my Outlook.com inbox?
Whether it’s a mailing list, an overly enthusiastic life partner, or a parent who just loves to share the latest jokes or conspiracy theories, we’ve all experienced having our email inbox clogged up with unimportant messages. Fortunately, Outlook has some of the most sophisticated filtering tools in the entire email world, allowing you to do just about anything you want with these messages. From automatically printing them, to pushing them into a folder, to forwarding them to another email address, if you can imagine it, you can do it. If you can figure out the complex menus required to set things up, that is.
Outlook also is a bit confusing because there are a standalone program and a slick Web-based interface. Microsoft‘s done a good job of normalizing things, however, so while I’ll focus on Outlook.com, part of the Office 365 Suite, you should be able to apply this approach to the app too. For our scenario, let’s assume you get a lot of emails from me and really want to automatically put them into their own folder…
HOW TO CREATE MAIL FILTERING RULES IN OUTLOOK
The easiest way to set up an email filter in Outlook is to have a representative email message in your inbox. It might well look like this:
You already know that if you move your cursor over that message, you’ll get some shortcut icons:
None of them will accomplish the task, unfortunately, so open up the message, then click or tap on the “•••” on the top right. A really big menu appears with a bunch of options, as you can see:
A close examination of the above reveals the path you need: “•••” > Advanced actions > Create rule. There are other ways to create a new email filter rule, but this is unquestionably the easiest. Choose that with an email message you’d like to be filtered, and it’ll pop up a new window with a rule already created to match this specific email message and the ability to specify a destination folder:
You can just specify a folder here – and you can create a new folder right from this menu! – but instead, click on “More options” and you get to a much richer window with lots and lots of options:
Want to just specify a folder for all the matching email messages? Ok. Just click on “Select an action” and you’ll see quite a range of options:
As you can see, it gives you quite a lot of power. You can automatically mark all emails as junk, as important, delete them without having to read them or see them in your inbox, or forward the messages to someone else (even the sender!). “Copy to” is an interesting option if you want to archive all emails you receive from a particular person or company, while still having it show up in your inbox as normal.
For this demo, I’ll choose “Move to” and a list of my existing folders appears:
I have quite a few folders already, but notice that one of the options is “New folder“. Choose that and you can name the new folder right there in the pop-up menu itself:
Once I’ve named my new folder “Email From Dave“, it’s ready to use!
CREATING EXCEPTIONS TO AN OUTLOOK FILTERING RULE
Of course, sometimes you want to have a rule except in certain situations. Perhaps an email from a colleague should be routed to a special folder if you’re the only recipient, but land in your inbox if other people are on the distribution list too. Or perhaps you only want to filter email messages where you are explicitly listed on the destination To: list. You can specify an exception as needed by choosing “Select an exception“:
The above is a subset of the many exceptions available, but “I’m not on the To line” is a logical one to choose, and that’s what I’ve done. And that’s it.
Now you can go to Settings > Rules at any time and see a nicely written explanation of each and every rule you have set:
Note that it’s easy to disable a rule with the “switch” on the left, or delete it with the trashcan icon on the right.
Since the email message you’ve used as your starting point will have been filtered, the new folder shows up in your main Outlook.com view too:
Not too difficult once you get the hang of it. Note that you can also create far more sophisticated rules too, including routing all messages from mailing lists, companies, domains, or even just messages that include the word “EXTERNAL” or “SPAM” in the subject line. Just keep experimenting and you’ll see how it all works.
Pro Tip: I’ve been using and writing about Microsoft’s Office Suite for many years. Please check out my Outlook help library for plenty of useful tutorials, as well as additional Office 365 help pages! Thanks.