Inbox Rules

E-mail inboxes fill up quickly with messages, and it's important to efficiently organize these messages. Microsoft Exchange offers a tool to help automatically sort and organize messages. The tool is called Inbox Rules. Inbox Rules allow users to specify conditions which automatically sort and organize incoming messages. For example, you can create a rule which automatically moves messages with the word "Sales" in the subject line to a folder called "Sales". Or, you can create a rule which automatically moves messages coming from a certain sender into a certain folder. Microsoft Exchange offers many options for Inbox Rules which can help you more efficiently organize emails.

Creating an Inbox Rule

To ensure that your rule will work, regardless of how you normally access your e-mail, it is best if it is created in OWA - the web portal for your e-mail (and a direct connection to the e-mail server).

  1. Navigate to the OWA website at
  2. Log in with your NetID username and password.
  3. In the top-right of the window, click the Options button.Options
  4. Click Create an Inbox Rule...Create an Inbox Rule
    The Inbox Rules screen appears.
  5. To begin creating a new rule, click New...New Rule
    The New Inbox Rule screen appears.New Inbox Rule Screen
  6. Select desired option from the "* When the message arrive, and:" dropdown menu.
  7. Select desired option from the "Do the following:" dropdown menu.
  8. Click Save.

Example Inbox Rules

When to Use Inbox Rules

Inbox rules work best for organizing simple and consistent message types. If you subscribe to coupons from a pizza place, these messages require minimal processing by you and could use Inbox Rules. But, on the other hand, if you receive messages from your manager that require time and effort to process, you should probably leave these messages out of Inbox Rules. Inbox Rules automatically process incoming messages, so they work well for messages that require minimal processing. But, you should probably manually handle more complex and involved messages that require extensive processing.

Also, be aware that inbox rules have some limitations. The Exchange-server, OWA, offers limited options for rule creation. Use the desktop version of Outlook if you want to create complex, multi-condition rules. Some message-types don't trigger inbox rules, including delivery status notifications, read receipts and delivery receipts, and some automatic reply (Out of Office) messages. And, Inbox Rules apply to meeting requests as well. If a meeting request is processed by an Inbox Rule, it won't be automatically added to your calendar.

Be careful when creating rules and make sure your rules only affect desired messages. Make the conditions specific enough so as not to affect unintended message types. For example, say you create a rule to move all messages with the word "Meeting" in the subject line to a folder called "Meetings". The rule might automatically move a meeting request to the folder without updating on your calendar, and you may miss a meeting request because of the rule. So, carefully select inbox rule conditions to make sure the rule processes messages in the way you intend.