How to Filter Email in Outlook

By Adrian Grahams

A busy email inbox can soon fill up with a mix of urgent and important or completely irrelevant and trivial messages. One way to sort the email wheat from the chaff is to set up rules that automatically filter the messages into different folders as they arrive in your inbox. Outlook offers many rule options for filtering messages by key words, sender, subject, account or address field. One of the most commonly used filter rules diverts emails from a specific person or group of people -- say your boss, a client or the members of a project team -- from the inbox to a dedicated folder. Use the Rules and Alerts feature in Outlook 2013 to filter and organize your emails automatically.

Step 1

Click the "File" tab in the main menu ribbon from any screen in Outlook.

Step 2

Select the "Manage Rules and Alerts" button on the Info screen.

Step 3

Click the "New Rule" button in the Rules and Alerts dialog window. You can also change the settings for existing rules from this dialog window.

Step 4

Select your preferred rule template from the list in the "Select a template" section of the Rules Wizard dialog window. Outlook offers rule templates covering many email filtering tasks. One of the most widely used rules filters messages from a person or group of people to a specific folder. Select "Move messages from someone to a folder" and then click the underlined "people or public group" link in the rule description pane.

Step 5

Double-click on each contact in your Outlook address book to add them to the "From" field. Click the "OK" button.

Step 6

Click the "specified" folder link in the rule description pane in Rules Wizard dialog box.

Step 7

Click to select the Outlook folder that you want to use for storing messages filtered by the rule. The "Choose a folder:" pane displays all available Outlook folders. Click the "OK" button.

Step 8

Review your rule settings. You can add or remove people or change the folder destination by clicking these links in the rule description pane. Click "Next" when you're ready to move on.

Step 9

Click to select any other conditions that you want to include in the rule; for example, enabling the "sent only to me" check box means that Outlook will apply the rule only to emails sent to you alone.

Step 10

Select any exceptions to your rule; for example, opting for "except if sent only to me" means that Outlook won't follow the rule for emails sent to you alone. Many of the exceptions and conditions include configurable actions. For example, if you select the "except if the subject contains specific words" exception, click the underlined "specific words" link and select the words to add to the rule. Click the "Next" button.

Step 11

Enter a name for the rule in the applicable field. Click to select the "Run this rule now on messages already in Inbox" if you wish to apply the rule to all existing inbox messages. Click the "Finish" button to complete the setup and exit the Rules Wizard.

Step 12

Select "Apply" and then "OK" to implement the rule and exit the Rules and Alerts dialog window.

Tips & Warnings

  • Outlook also offers a filter option to help you search through your emails for messages based on specific criteria such as the receive date, importance status or whether it had an attachment. Click the "Home" tab, click "Filter Email" in the Find tools group and then select your preferred email search filter from the drop-down list.
  • The junk email filter in Outlook automatically moves suspected spam messages to the Junk Email folder. You can adjust these settings to block senders or add senders to a safe list. Go to "Home," "Junk" and then "Junk Email Options" to check and change Outlook's junk email settings.