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Outlook Wizard rules more than spam

The Rules Wizard has numerous capabilities beyond helping control unwanted e-mail. Read this tip to find out about other rules you can use.

Most people probably think that the primary reason to use the Rules Wizard in Outlook is for dealing with spam. While that is one of the things it can handle very well, it has many more capabilities than just helping with the growing glut of unwanted e-mail.

You access the Rules Wizard from the Tools menu in Outlook. Click on Tools/Rules Wizard, and you get a dialog that walks you through generating rules for all sorts of actions that Outlook can take.

The first screen in the Wizard tells you the rules that exist for the mailbox in question. To make a new rule, simply click on the New button, and you get a screen that offers some possibilities for generating your new rule. You can start with a template (the default selection) or click on the blank-rule radio button to start from scratch.

If you stay with the template, you will see a variety of choices for action on a particular message. Moving the message to a given folder (like the Junk folder for spam) is straightforward, but there are many more actions.

For example, one choice is to flag the message. Highlight this choice in the list of possible actions, and you get a listing of the rule in the Rule Description box below the list. This listing in the case of flagging a message says to flag messages appearing from some person or distribution list for action in a given number of days. These choices are linked: Clicking on the first opens your contacts list for selection; clicking on the second brings up another dialog that lets you select the action that you want. To test this rule feature out, click on the Flag Messages link, and then select Follow Up from the drop-down list, and 0 from the action in a number of days dialog. OK your way out, and then click next until you get to the dialog that asks you to name the rule. Call it Follow-Up, or some other similar name, and click Finish. Now the new rule will appear in the list of rules you have.

You can now test the rule. I sent myself a message after I told the Rules Wizard to flag messages from me for follow-up in 0 days. So I sent a message, and then told the Rules Wizard to run the rule (by clicking on Run Now, and then checking Follow-Up in the dialog that popped up). As a result, I got a reminder from Outlook that I had received a message from myself that needed follow-up. Now obviously the utility of something like this is to remind you within a day or two that you have received a message from someone that's important and needs action from you.

This is just one of the ways that you can use the Rules Wizard. I have another rule that alerts me when any message with High importance shows up in my inbox. Sometimes, when I get busy, I ignore the incoming mail, and there could be messages that come in that require action immediately. When the Important Message rule active, I'll get a notice that the message is there, and who it's from, so I know I have to take some kind of action.

Experiment with the Rules Wizard. You'll find that there are a great many things you can do with it that will make your life easier as it manages your inbox for you.

David Gabel has been testing and writing about computers for more than 25 years.

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