Understanding Outlook Express Message Rules

Messages Rules can used to better organise your email messages.

Rules are applied to  incoming messages usually for organisational purposes, and they only apply to POP3 accounts.

Rules consist of a condition followed by an action if that condition is meet.

Example: The condition could be that:

if the message is from steve

and the action could be to:

delete it.

The result would be that all messages from steve would be deleted.

The following lists the conditions and actions supported:

Rule conditions:

  • Where the From field contains people
  • Where the To field contains people
  • Where the cc field contains people
  • Where the To or cc field contains people
  • Where the Subject field contains specific words
  • Where the message body contains specific words
  • Where the message is marked as priority
  • Where the message is from a specified account.
  • Where the message size is more than size
  • Where the message has an attachment
  • Where the message is secure

Rule actions:

  • Move it to the specified folder
  • Copy it to the specified folder
  • Delete it
  • Forward it to people
  • Highlight it with Colour
  • Flag it
  • Mark it as read
  • Mark the message as watched or ignored
  • Reply with Message
  • Stop processing more rules
  • Do not download it from the server
  • Delete it from server

If more than one condition is chosen then the condition can be
combined as a logical AND or logical OR.

If the conditions use AND then all conditions must be
meet for the action to be executed.

If the conditions use OR then any one of the conditions being meet results in the specified action.

Multiple Rules

Multiple message rules can be applied to a message.

When this is the case you must be careful that the rules applied first do not interfere with the rules that would follow.

For example a message rule to delete all incoming messages would
make any rules that came after it meaningless, as the message would already have been deleted.

Message Rule Examples:

Example 1  White Lists

 A white list is a lit of contacts from who you wish to receive messages. To create a white list for Outlook Express you create a rule that stops all further rule processing for the people on your white list.

This means that any filtering rules that you implement later will not be processed for the people on your white list.

The white list rule should be placed at the top of the rule list. The steps are as follows:

1.     Add the addresses of the people you want to receive mail from to your address book.

2.     Open the rules window by selecting Tools->Message Rules->Mail

3.     Click on the New button at the upper right.

4.     In the uppermost pane (pane 1), put a checkmark in the box Where the From line contains people.

5.     Click on people in the bottom pane.

6.     Add all the people you want, and then click OK.

7.     In the middle pane (pane 2), check the box labelled Stop processing more rules.

8.     Click on OK buttons until the windows are closed.

Block Messages based on Content

You can configure a word filter to check for particular words and phrases in both the subject line and message body. Be very careful when deciding on what to filter as you could easily block legitimate email.

Here we will create a simple filter to block messages that contain the dollars “$$$” as you often find it get rich quick emails.

1: Click on Tools, then highlight Message Rules and select Mail...

2: On the right side, click the New button.

 3: In Part 1, select the checkbox for where the subject line contains specific words, and then click the link for contains specific words

Part 3 (Rule Description)

4: Enter “$$$” in the window asking Type specific words or a phrase, and then click Add. Then click OK

5: In Part 2, select the checkbox for move it to the specified folder, and then click the link for specified (shown highlighted) in Part 3.

6: If you do not already have a folder defined where you wish to place

e-mail that has been identified as spam, click New Folder to create a new folder. Under Folder Name, type in SPAM, and click OK

7: Click once on the SPAM folder you just created to highlight it, and then click OK. In Part 4, change the name of the rule to spam Filter

8: Verify that all settings are correct and the rule is checked then click OK at the bottom.

You have now setup a filter in  that should move any e-mail with “$$$” in the subject line to a folder called SPAM.

You should now review the contents of this folder to make sure everything has been configured correctly.

Example 3- Separating Messages  Based on Recipient

If you are using outlook express to manage multiple POP3 mailboxes then it is useful to be able to distinguish between each mailbox.

There are two ways of doing this.

  • Moving mail to each mailbox into separate folders.
  • Highlighting the messages with different colours.

The rule screen shots below show the rule setup for testuser1.


Rule-  Highlight Message with a colour.


Note: You would also need to configure a rule for the other recipient.

Here is the rule applied to the Inbox


Applying Rule to Existing Messages

When you create a new message rule it is often useful to apply the rule to messages that you have already received and not only to mew messages.

To do that click on the Apply Now button before you OK the rule.


You can choose how to apply the rule to a folder (inbox) and its sub folders.

Click Apply now to confirm and then you can close the rule.



Message rules are a good way of automatically organising your email messages. They are applied on the client and only work with POP3 Mailboxes.

If you are using Outlook Express with an Email provider like Yahoo then they also provide rules/filters that are implemented on the server.

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