March 06, 2008, 8:23 PM — I was messing around with my Outlook rules the other day and discovered something interesting, namely that if you don't watch what you're doing, you might end up with multiple copies of some of your emails! Here's a simple example of how this can happen: Create two rules where the first rule takes messages received from a certain recipient and moves them to Folder 1 and the second rule takes messages received that have a certain word in their subject and moves them to Folder 2. Now ask the recipient to send you a message that has that word in its subject, and when you receive the message you'll find two copies of it, one in Folder 1 and another in Folder 2!
Obviously most of us don't want lots of extra copies of messages kicking around, so there must be a way to fix this situation and it turns out to be quite simple: add the condition "stop processing more rules" to the "what do you want to do with this message" portion to the first rule (or more specifically, to the rule which is higher in your rules list and therefore is processed first). Problem solved!
But that got me thinking a bit. Having multiple copies of messages might not be so bad sometimes. For instance, if I'm working on a specific project where everyone involved on the team always includes the project code in any emails they send concerning that project, then I could create one rule that would move project emails into Inbox and another that would move them into a project archive folder. That way I could deal with messages or not as I work through my Inbox, while still ensuring I have a complete history of the project's communications saved in a folder.
Another use for this "message copy hack" might be to have all newsletters that come in from some site copied to two folders: Inbox and a newsletter archive folder. Then as I grind through my Inbox I can skim through all the newsletters that come in and delete them if I'm not immediately interested in their contents, while still saving all of them in case I decide to dig them up later and re-read them. The nice thing about this approach is that it saves me the hassle of having to drag each newsletter email from my Inbox to the archive folder after I read them. After all, from past columns, you know me as a member of the Mouse Challenged global group since I often drag messages into the wrong folder and end up having to try and hunt them down.
More about Outlook rules next time, but meanwhile do you have any tips or tricks for using or managing Outlook rules you'd like to share with other readers? Email me and I'll mention your suggestions in a future edition of this newsletter.