Want to know how to create a rule to move email to a folder in Outlook? I get a lot of email. Some is important but I also get a significant amount of email which consists of newsletters, and notifications of various things happening. They can fill my inbox and make it hard to focus on the important email messages. A great way of sorting through this content is using the built-in rules available within Microsoft Outlook to automatically sort your incoming email into specified folders.

This particular function works really well if you receive regular emails from mailing lists, retail shops, and even your favourite website (like me!) and it allows you to store email from a particular sender in one location where you can read at your own leisure. This is also a great way of keeping a well-organised inbox. So let’s take a look at how you can create a rule to move email to a folder in Outlook.

Create an Outlook Rule

In this example I want to setup Outlook so that it automatically moves any emails from Apple iTunes to a specific folder in my Outlook profile.

To create an Outlook rule, follow these steps:

  1. Open Microsoft Outlook
  2. Firstly you need to locate an email within your Inbox which you would like to automatically move. Open the email and copy the senders email address located in the From field

TIP: Right mouse click on the address and select Copy

  1. From the Home tab on the Ribbon, locate the Move group of icons
  1. Click the Rules button and choose Manage Rules & Alerts

TIP: You can select Create Rule however the Manage Rules & Alert dialog box gives you more options on what you can do with your mail messages

  1. The Rules and Alerts dialog box will appear:
  1. Click the New Rule button
  2. The Rules Wizard will now begin

Step 1: Select a template

Outlook includes some pre-defined template rules that are already set up and allow you to customise the necessary options. This makes rule creation really quick and straight forward. Whenever I demonstrate this feature to training participants I always say “The best way to understand rules is to read them like a story”.

  1. The first screen of the Rules Wizard displays Step 1: Select a template
  2. The top section of the dialog asks you how you’d like to create the rule: either using a template or start from a blank rule. The bottom half of the dialog shows the Step 2: Edit the rule description. Here is where you can read the rule, just like a story and as you change or select options the story will grow.
  3. We are going to create our rule from scratch using a blank rule so select Apply rule on messages I receive and click Next

Step 2: Select condition

We now need to tell Outlook what the condition, or criteria is for the incoming emails we want to automatically move. Are the emails from a specific person or group, will they have specific words or phrases in the subject line. There are lots of options to choose from.

  1. Browse through the different options available for the conditions:
  1. Because we want to move any emails we receive from a specific sender to a folder within our Outlook profile, tick the box for the from people or public group option.
  2. You will see the Step 2: Edit the rule description area at the bottom of the window has now added that criteria to our “story”.
  3. Anytime you see words with a blue underline, exactly like a hyperlink, click on it because it allows you to specify that part of the rule.
  4. Click on the words people or public group displayed in the Edit the rule description area.
  1. The Rule Address dialog box will appear allowing you to select a person from your contact list or you can paste or type any email address into the From field at the bottom of the dialog box
  1. Right mouse click inside the From field and select Paste
  2. When you paste the email address ensure that the display name and any additional symbols are not accidentally included. E.g. When I select Paste, the full email display address of Apple <no_reply@email.apple.com> is inserted, I then have to manually remove the display name “Apple” and the greater than/less than symbols which are wrapped around the email address.
  3. Click OK
  4. Your rule should now be starting to take shape
  1. Click Next

Step 3: Select action(s)

Now that we have specified who the emails will be from, we need to tell Outlook what we want it to do with them.

  1. At the top of the wizard you will see the question: What do you want to do with the message?
  2. From the options available tick the box for Move it to a specified folder.
  3. This option will now be added to your rule at the bottom of the window:
  1. Click the link for the word specified
  2. Now browse your folders and select the location you wish to move these particular email messages

TIP: If needed you can create a whole new folder by clicking the New button

  1. Click OK
  2. The rule is almost done
  1. Click Next

Step 4: Select exception(s)

Now we can specific if there are any exceptions to our conditions. Maybe you don’t want the email to be automatically moved if you are listed in the CC field. Maybe you don’t want it moved if it has been flagged as Important?

  1. For this particular rule I don’t need to implement any exceptions so I’m just going to click Next
  2. The final part of the rule will now ask you to specify a name for this rule and you can also specify a few other options:
  1. For the Step 1: Specify a name for this rule, make sure you give it a meaningful name such as Move iTunes emails
  2. You have the options to run the rule on email already in the Inbox, if you wish to do this just tick the checkbox
  3. Ensure the Turn on this rule box is selected so this rule will be enabled and applied to all new incoming email
  4. Click Finish and click OK on the Rules and Alerts window
  5. Your rule is now finished and will now be active for any new incoming emails
  6. When the next email arrives from the specified sender, Outlook will automatically move it to the folder you specified

You are done! I hope this has helped you learn how you can create a rule to move email to a folder in Outlook.