BOOT CAMP 205 (11/12/01)
EMAIL RULES, OK?
Like it or loath it Microsoft Outlook Express is the world’s
most widely used email ‘client’ program. Personally I’m a fan it’s free,
generally reliable, relatively easy to use, naturally compatible with other
Microsoft applications and highly configurable, though I suspect comparatively
few users ever use more than a small fraction of its numerous facilities. This
week we’re going to be taking a close look at one of the most useful ones,
If OE has any faults it’s the way so many useful features are
tucked away or given obscure-sounding names and that’s certainly the case with
message Rules, which you’d probably never find, unless you were looking for it.
Rules, or ‘filters’ as they’re known in other email programs works like an
automated sorting office. Instead of all your incoming emails going straight
into the Inbox OE can be set up to re-direct them into specified mailboxes.
Messages can also be copied, forwarded, highlighted, flagged, sent an automated
reply or deleted. You can even make up your own rules, but first a quick
introduction to the basics.
I should point out at this stage that we’re only talking
about Outlook Express version 5, included with later release of Windows
98/SE/ME, and version 6, which is bundled with Windows XP. Incidentally, if you
are using version 5 it is worth upgrading to v6 for the extra security features.
Look out for it on computer magazine cover discs and it can be downloaded from
the Microsoft web site at: www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/downloads/ie6/default.asp
There are two ways to create rules, manually, or from a
message, we’ll look at that method first. Let’s suppose you are receiving
unsolicited, offensive or pornographic emails from one source. The next time you
get one open it and click on the Message drop-down menu (on the message window
toolbar) and select the item Block Sender, click OK and every message from that
email address will be sent directly to Deleted Items without it ever appearing
in your Inbox.
This simple rule is very effective for dealing with
undesirable emails from one specified sender, however, most of the time you will
want to set up rules for messages that you want to receive and that’s where the
manual set-up comes in. Before you start, though, if you haven’t already done
so, create any new mailboxes, where your incoming mail will be sent. For
example, you might want to separate work and business messages, or set up
mailboxes for other members of your family. All you have to do is right-click on
Local Folders (in the Folders pane) and select New Folder, give it a name (i.e.
Work, Personal, Janet, Peter etc.), click OK and the folder appears on the list.
Go to the Tools menu select Message Rules then click Mail.
(The Message Rules sub-menu also has the Blocked Senders List, which is where to
go if you want to un-block a sender). The Message Rules dialogue box opens --
make sure the Mail Rules tab is selected -- click New and the New Mail Rule list
opens. This is divided into three sections called Conditions, Actions and
Conditions sets the criteria for a rule, i.e. the person or
organisation the message is coming from, or going to, or if the message contains
attachments, or is above a certain size. Scroll down the list and you will see
that it covers most eventualities. The Actions box decides what happens to a
message, once it has been selected, again there are plenty of options and they
are all fairly straightforward. The Descriptions box provides a summary of your
rule and – this bit sometimes confuses first-timers -- it’s where you specify
the Conditions and Actions.
To show how it all works we’ll set up a simple rule that
sends all emails addressed to an Outlook Express user called Janet (firstname.lastname@example.org) direct to her own mailbox.
Step one, open Message Rules go to the Conditions box and put a tick next to:
‘Where the To line contains people’. Immediately the words ‘contains people’ --
coloured blue and underlined like an Internet hyperlink -- appears in the
Description box. Click on the underlined text and in the dialogue box type ‘email@example.com’ or a name or select an
entry from the address book. Click the Add button then OK and the entry appears
in the Description box. Next, go to the Actions box and check ‘Move it to the
specified folder’, again a coloured link appears in the Description box, click
it, select the Janet folder from the list and click OK, (if needed you can
create a new folder). Click OK, check the entries in the Description box are
correct click OK and it’s done. That’s really all there is to it!
Take time to look through the options in Conditions and
Actions, there are some very useful features, like instructing OE not to
download messages from your server. That means you’ll be able to access your
mail from a laptop or Internet café when you are out and about, and because they
stay on the server, you can download them onto your main PC when you get home.
There’s a rule for not downloading emails with attachments or files above a
specified size and the Reply with Message (in the Action box) works like an
email answer phone, sending out an automated reply when you are out of the
office or away from your desk.
Finally, once you’ve set up a rule it’s worth knowing that it
can be applied retrospectively. In other words, you can move all of Janet’s
emails from the Inbox to her own mailbox by opening the Message Rules dialogue
box, highlight the rule and click the Apply Now button, a dialogue box appears,
make sure the correct folder is shown in the ‘Apply to folder’ window and click
the Apply Now button.
Next week – Troubleshooting modem problems
Data file – usually containing a photograph or text document
– sent with an email message
Red flag icon, next to an email message, used to identify or
draw the user’s attention
Highlighted and underlined text or icon on a web page,
document or dialogue box, clicking on the 'link' takes you to another part of
the document, or another web page
Outlook Express, like most Windows programs is a lot easier
to use if you remember a few keyboard shortcuts. For example Ctrl + P prints the
currently displayed message and you can view a message Properties (the identity
of the sender, it’s size and even the route it took to get to your) by
highlighting it and pressing Alt + Enter, There’s a full list of keyboard
shortcuts in OE Help (select the Index tab and type ‘short’).