Microsoft Outlook Rules and Alerts

You can say what you want about Microsoft Outlook, but it flat works.  With a strong company behind it, great support forums, and a wealth of information on Outlook via Google, it is hard to complain about its functionality.  I used to be an Outlook hater until I was forced to use and manage it for our company.  There are a variety of tweaks and features imbedded in Outlook as well as a wealth of add-ons.  We will get a chance to view one particular aspect of Microsoft Outlook, Rules and Alerts.  I’m specifically talking about Microsoft Outlook 2007 and 2010 with this article although the basic functionality should be there in previous versions.

Installing Microsoft Outlook 2007 and 2010

Installing this email client is simple yet sophisticated.  Granted it comes packaged in the Office 2007 or 2010 suite respectively but you could choose just to install Microsoft Outlook if you wanted to.  I prefer the ability to choose what is installed along side the product I wanted, and the Office Suites allow for you to opt out of things like OneNote, PowerPoint, etc.  Some people will just install everything on the disc because they figure maybe one day they will use it, not me.  I would rather not have to deal with the extra time it adds to the install, possible start-up entries, and possible services/processes that could be running lowering overall system performance.  The only “issue” with the installation would be that at the very beginning you must input the license key.  Other than that, there isn’t really any problems with the install.

Using Microsoft Outlook

I will show you how to create a new rule that will CC people if you send a special type of message to a certain person/group and then make a copy of the sent message and store it for archiving.  This was a real world application of Rules and Alerts that I had to do so we could have fact checking between a multitude of people but only needing one response from the main recipient.

At the top of the main window, click on Tools in the Menu Bar, followed by Rules and Alerts as shown in the picture on the left.  This will bring you to the  main Rule and Alerts window where we will click on “New Rule” to get our new rule started.  Now, in the Rules Wizard we can see all of the different starting points for the creation of our rule.  Microsoft has been nice enough to include 10 default Rules and Alerts we can use, but we should go down to the bottom Start from Blank Rule area and select the “Check messages after sending” Rule.  Now we see the initial building blocks of our Rule.  For this Rule, lets select “With specific words in the subject” and “sent to people or distribution list.”  As you can see it adds the rule fragments to the bottom of the Rules and Alerts rule creation window and highlights “specific words” and “people or distribution lists.”  Click on “specific words” to set your trigger word that will initiate the Rule.  I used *(asterisk) as my trigger word as no one in house emails with that in the subject line.  Then I click on the “people or distribution lists” and I selected 1 person for this example to keep it easy to explain.  In my real Rule, I have this field attached to a distribution group.

Then hit “Next” to move onto the second page of the Rules and Alerts wizard.  Here we would select  “move a copy to the specified folder” and “CC the message to people or distribution lists.”  Once again it adds the two additional rule fragments to the bottom of the window.  This time, click on “people or distribution lists” and enter the person/people you want the message Carbon Copied to.  Then hit “Next.”  Finally, select “except if marked as sensitivity.”  Again it adds the last rule fragment to he bottom of the window and click the “sensitivity” part and select “Private” out of the drop down box.

Then hit “Next” for the last time and the final step will be Naming your rule to something that describes its basic function so you can differentiate it from other rules in case of troubleshooting or editing.  Hit Apply and you are in action with your first Rule and Alert for Outbound mail!

Finally, lets discuss the rule created so you can fully understand what just took place.  Please click on the 2nd picture in the article and look at the bottom window where the Rule fragments are.  The first entry is “Apply this rule after I send the message” meaning exactly what it says.  Next, “sent to Andreas Klein” means if I sent a message to him, do the following.  “And with “*” in the subject” shows that it must be sent to her with an asterisk in the subject to continue with the rule.  If the above is true, then CC the message to Ann Novotny and copy the message to the “Inbox” folder.  I created my own folder under the Inbox folder to keep clutter down and for easy searching of the sent files.  Finally, and a bit I threw in in case it was needed, we have the “except if it is marked as “private”.  This allows the rule to be overlooked if the message is set to the Private flag.  This was done in case I needed to send something to Andreas that was private, which by chance had an asterisk in the subject, but I didn’t want Ann to be Carbon Copied.

Summary

Right out of the box, this software just does its job.  Granted you have to know how to set it up to do what you want it to do, which can be a daunting task for some novices to general email rules and etiquette.  With it installed and configured correctly, the addition of the other tweaks and features makes it into a workhorse of an email application.  The Rules and Alerts settings allow you to send email the way you need it and without affecting the overall speed of delivery or reception of messages.  Adding just a few Rules will allow for a more streamlined Inbox, happier users, and the ability to edit them on the fly.  I’m aware that Microsoft Office is not free or very cheap for that matter, but they do offer a free 30 day trial for the Mac and 60 day for the PC.  Also, don’t forget to backup your .PST Outlook account file.

Rating (out of 5) -(Granted this was tweaking not full use, but Rating based on my overall experience with the product)

Performance: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Ease of install: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Look/feel: 🙂 🙂 🙂