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Digging out from a flood of email

Email filtering rules are good. Outlook 2003 is good. Rules + Outlook? Could be better.

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Digging out from a flood of email

This is Leo Notenboom with news, commentary and answers to some of the many questions I get at

As I write this, I have 46 rules in Microsoft Outlook 2003 that file, filter or – as appropriate discard – email that makes it past my servers spam filters. The rules allow me to prioritize incoming mail and take appropriate action on the results. As my rules filter email into folders hither and yon, it’s not uncommon for what’s left in my inbox to be spam, and only spam.

So naturally I look at my inbox last.

If you get a lot of email, I highly recommend using some kind of rules based system to identify, and prioritize, your incoming mail. Moving things to folders, or simply changing the appearance of email in your inbox can make dealing with your flood of email a less daunting, and more efficient, task.

As I said, I use Outlook 2003. And, I’ll be honest, I really do like it – it consistently works great for me.


Outlook’s rules handling, or more correctly, its approach to rules editing, is in my opinion a weak point. Setting up and managing email processing rules is very cumbersome – I’m forced to use a wizard like interface to make even the smallest change. (And don’t get me started with the “only on this machine” option – why does that even exist?) With 46 rules, it can be a daunting task.

Where’s my “Advanced” button that would allow me to edit all the rules at once? As, dare I say it, a text file? Or in keeping with Microsoft’s GUI – a spreadsheet-like interface?

I know users of other email clients that are able to handle their ruleset in easy-to-manage text files using a very simple pseudo-language. Copy, paste and modify in just a few keystrokes – what a concept. I’m jealous.

Yes, I’m a power user. But in the rush to make things easy to use for the computer novice, let’s not make it cumbersome for the more advanced users to really exercise the product.

Besides, it’s the advanced users that you’ll find evaluating, and recommending your product on blogs, other websites and even on podcasts around the internet.

Or not.

I’d love to hear what you think Visit ask leo dot info, and enter 9282 in the go to article number box. Leave a comment, I read them all.

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