Opening Outlook at the beginning of the day can be daunting. It’s amazing how rapidly your inbox can grow overnight, or even in a matter of hours. Outlook folders and rules are great tools to help streamline the way you manage your email. They make it possible to filter messages into designated folders using rules based on the sender or terms in the subject line. Read on to learn how to take control of your inbox for better efficiency and productivity.

What are folders and rules?

Let’s start by defining folders and rules.

A folder within Outlook acts like a folder you might keep on your desk. It’s a place to sort and store something you want to keep. For instance, you might store photos of your kids in a “family photos” folder, or a copy of your apartment lease in a “documents” folder.

A rule defines the action that occurs when a new message is received. Rules allow you to move, flag, and respond to email messages automatically. You can use rules to sort new messages into designated folders, resulting in fewer messages in your inbox. When you have created a rule that applies to a given message, the message will be delivered automatically to the folder you have specified, rather than to your inbox.

Why create folders and rules?

By creating folders and rules, you can streamline your inbox and stay organized. Automatically sorting emails into specific folders makes it easier to stay on task and focus on your priorities, knowing that all of your messages from a specific person or on a designated topic will be waiting for you in a dedicated folder. You’ll know right where to look when you need them, and you can decide when to read them.

For example, we can create a rule that will always send emails from “Jane Doe” into a “Jane Doe” folder. Or maybe we have all email with the subject “check this out” into a “please review” folder.

How to create folders

Once you are in Outlook, right-click on Inbox to bring up a list of options. Select Create new subfolder.

The reason it’s called a subfolder is because currently Outlook is funneling all your emails into your inbox, which is a folder. Once you select Create new subfolder, a second pop-up window will appear, asking you to name your folder. For this example, we will name our subfolder “Wendy.”

Create new subfolder

Now you will see that below your inbox you have a “Wendy” folder.


How to create rules

Right-click on one of your existing email messages, and you will get a list of options. Select Create rule.

You will see a pop-up window that asks you which folder you would like the email to go to. Outlook will default to creating the rule around the sender of the email. For example, if you selected an email that came from Outlook Team, your pop-up window will note “Always move messages from Outlook Team to this folder:” and then follow with a list of your existing folders.

Create rule

You can also click on More options to open a window where you can specify conditions and actions that determine how rules will apply to new messages. For example, you might create a rule to move all messages with the subject line, "Weekly Stats" to a folder, and then create a second rule to delete all messages with attachments. You probably wouldn't want a Weekly Stats email with an attachment to be deleted, so you would use the option stop processing more rules on the first rule.

Create a rule

Now, we’ve just created a folder called Wendy, so we will select Wendy in the list to create a rule for all email messages from Outlook Team to be delivered to the folder called Wendy.


You can create as many rules and folders as you want.

How to remove or edit folders and rules

To remove a folder, right-click over the folder name and a menu will pop up. Select Delete folder. Once you make the selection, you will get another window asking if you’re sure that you want to delete the folder.

Delete folder

All emails that were in the folder you deleted will be filtered into your Deleted Items folder.

To edit a folder, right-click over the folder name and select Rename. This will allow you to rename the folder entirely without touching any of its contents.

Rename folder

To remove or edit a rule, click on the Settings icon in the upper right-hand corner of Outlook. This will open a search box where you can search “Inbox Rules.”

Edit rules

Select Rules and a window will open that displays all of your existing rules, along with options to remove, edit, and create rules.

Add new rule

With rules and folders, you can eliminate clutter and spend less time managing your email. Follow the simple steps outlined above and get ready to rule your inbox!