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Automatically moving Microsoft Outlook sent items to a specified folder

SearchExchange.com expert Brad Dinerman offers a workaround for those looking for a built-in Microsoft Outlook rule to move sent messages rather than copy them.

When I create a rule in Microsoft Outlook 2003 that automatically moves sent items to a certain person and certain folder, I cannot move the sent message itself -- only a copy of it. The original email stays in the Sent Items folder. How can I create a rule so that the original is moved instead of a copy?

Outlook 2003 does not contain a built-in rule to move sent messages rather than copy them. However, here is a work-around that may meet the needs of some users.

  1. In Microsoft Outlook, go to Tools -> Options -> Email Options.
  2. Deselect the checkbox next to "Save Copies of Messages in Sent Items Folder," click OK and then exit the dialog windows.
  3. Create a rule to check messages after sending. Configure the rule such that it will copy messages sent to specific people or lists into a folder that you specify.

This may not be the ideal situation because it is more global in nature than a Microsoft Outlook rule that would conveniently apply only to specific users. In addition, you will only have a record of sent messages for those that meet the criteria of the rule, since your Microsoft Outlook client will no longer keep a copy of messages in Sent Items.

Until Microsoft decides to expand its rule set for Sent Items, we are somewhat limited in what we can do.

MEMBER FEEDBACK TO THIS ASK THE EXPERT Q&A:

One of the things I loved about Lotus Notes was the fact that you got a prompt to file or delete a sent message right when you hit Send; it made filing super easy.

I don't understand why Microsoft hasn't built that feature into Outlook. It's too much work to click on View -> Options ->Save Sent Message every time I send a file.
Liz P.

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Why not combine this approach with Microsoft Outlook's ability to apply rules in sequence?

  1. Set up a series of rules to file sent messages to Joe, Fred and Mary in respective folders for each of these correspondents.
  2. Set the "Stop Processing Further Rules" switch for each folder rule.
  3. Then set a general rule to move any sent messages to a designated "other sent mail" folder. (NOTE: This approach doesn't work unless this catch-all rule is the last one in the series.)

So mail to Fred, etc., will be filed specifically and will not be subjected to the File All rule (because of the Stop Processing switch). Mail To Others will be ignored by the specific Joe, Fred and Mary rules but will be trapped by the Move All Sent Mail rule.

This way you get to keep a copy of everything sent, tidily filed.
Arthur B.

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This post actually solved my problem. I have three email accounts in Microsoft Outlook 2003 (one business, two personal) and I wanted to separate the sent email into different folders. While this separation works perfectly fine for received email, it gets quite tricky when it comes to sent email (and I guess only Microsoft knows why). This is what solved the problem:

  1. In Microsoft Outlook, go to Tools -> Options -> Email Options.
  2. Deselect the checkbox next to "Save Copies of Messages in Sent Items Folder," click OK and then exit the dialog windows.
  3. Set a rule for the business email to move copies to a specific folder.
  4. I still wanted copies of my two private email accounts so I added two more rules via "Copy Messages to Sent Items Folder."

This way works without any hassle. Copies of my sent business email are saved in a specific folder and copies of my two private email accounts are saved in the original Sent Items folder. I no longer have to move email manually and I do not have several copies of email in different folders which sometimes confused me.

Other people might be interested in this solution.
Roman L.

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Thank you for the excellent guidance. Your solution worked perfectly for me. I like to have all of my sent email placed into my inbox, so that I can have all messages pertaining to each email-based discussion grouped in one spot. This makes them easier to read, and helps me remain aware of the state of each of the multiple discussions I have going at the same time.
Rick D.

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Create a blank rule as follows:

Apply this rule after message arrives from (insert your email address)
And send to (insert senders' names)
And move it to the (insert folder name) folder

Erika R.

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I have a personal mailbox and a shared company mailbox on Exchange Server. When I reply to a shared inbox email using that mailbox's sender name, these emails go into my personal sent items folder. I tried creating a rule to move every sent message from that shared sender name to the sent items folder of the company shared mailbox, but this only works when I manually run the rule. What can I do to make this rule run automatically?
Luigi M.

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There is no general answer I can give. I would need screen shots of the various components of the rule(s) that have been created in order to offer assistance.
Brad Dinerman, Exchange Server expert

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I understand the methods that you have described; in fact, I've been running rules like these for years with no difficulty. However, all of a sudden, my emails are being copied rather than moved. Why would this change for seemingly no reason?
Angie V.

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If something is working and suddenly stops, usually something happened to make it stop. Did you change any settings, apply any Outlook service packs or upgrade the version? If not, my answer would have to be "gremlins."
Brad Dinerman, Exchange Server expert

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This was last published in June 2006

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