Today, I’m going to show you how you can use the “create rules” feature of your email to organize your inbox and help fight spam that sneaks through your filter. I’ll demonstrate with the Outlook online email client.

The demo here is for accessing Outlook email online with a browser, not for using the Outlook email client on your PC. To start, go to Outlook.com and open your inbox.

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Click the gear icon in the upper-right corner and select View all Outlook settings from the very bottom of the drop-down menu.

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Under Settings click Mail and then Rules.

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To add a new rule, click on the + sign next to Add new rule. Not only will the new rule apply to future emails, but you can also apply it to sort existing emails.

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The first step is to name your rule. I’ll call this one Shipping Notices.

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Then pick your conditions. This is the cool part. Conditions can be used to sort your messages in many ways. You can sort by the name of the person who sent the email or the name of the person the message was sent to. This is a great way to keep track of all communications with a particular person.

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For example, you could have a folder called ‘Mom’ and set the condition to put all messages to or from your mother in that folder. Or if you were having an ongoing exchange with a customer service rep over a product issue, all messages from that person could be directed into a folder.

The next option is to sort by where your name appears is the message. You can sort by the presence or the absence of your name.

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Your next options are Subjects and Keywords. This can be especially helpful for weeding out spam that your spam filter keeps missing. As I’m sure you notice, spam often tends to focus on one particular subject. You might choose a word like ‘diet’ or ‘lottery.’  You can use keywords to choose words in the message body, address, or header.

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Messages can also be sorted by importance, attachments, (that’s a great way to put all message that came with photos in one convenient spot) or when they were received.

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Then you’ll select an action for the condition.  You can move, copy, delete, or pin messages. Or mark messages as read or junk. For example, you could select all messages with the words “diet” in the message body to be marked as “Junk.” If you find you’re getting a lot of spam with the same words in the message body, this is a good way to redirect it. You can also choose to forward messages that meet a particular condition.

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If you choose to move or copy messages, you can choose the folder or create a new folder.

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There’s also the option to add an exception to the rule. Maybe you want to ditch most messages with the word “diet” in the body, but still get messages from a friend with whom you’re discussing diets. Click on Add an exception. Then choose one from the menu that pops up.

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You might find that sometimes multiple rules will apply to one message. Ticking the box next to Stop processing more rules. If that box is ticked when you create a rule, that rule will override other rules that might also apply to a message. Make sure to hit Save at the top right to keep your new rule.

Below are some examples of rules.  The first two move all emails from a particular address to folders created for those messages. The third moves all messages with a particular subject to a special folder.

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You can use these rules to quickly organize existing messages in your inbox or to prevent being bothered by spam. If you wanted a special folder just for your Cyn’s Tech Tips messages, you could create a rule called ‘Cyn’s Tech Tips’ that would move all messages from our site into a Cyn’s Tech Tips folder automatically.  Then save the rule.

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This is a super-helpful tool to organize your inbox.