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Microsoft Outlook 2003

Modifying Existing Rules

Rules are a helpful tool when organizing your email in Outlook. Rules allow you to set actions that will be performed on messages received or sent that meet the criteria you set. These instructions assume that you have already created a rule that needs to be modified. Many times it will be necessary to modify a rule you have created due to changes in email addresses and other criteria. For instructions on how to use the Rules Wizard to create rules, refer to Using Rules to Organize Your Email. This document contains information on modifying existing rules in the following ways:

return to topUnderstanding Rule Criteria

When modifying a rule, you have the same options as when you created the rule. You are able to change the rule's conditions, actions, exceptions, and the name.

Understanding Rule Criteria: Conditions

Conditions are the additional criteria, apart from the basic type of rule, that Outlook uses to select the messages that it will perform an action upon. These criteria can be things such as message importance, message size, or message content. Selecting conditions allows you to specify more completely the criteria that Outlook will use to select the messages. Outlook can also search for messages suspected to be junk emails or those having adult content, enabling them to be disposed of promptly.
Conditions text box

Understanding Rule Criteria: Actions

The action is what Outlook will do with the message that it selects. Commonly used actions are moving the message to a specific folder or deleting it. However, Outlook can also perform actions such as automatically forwarding messages to specific people or sending a preset reply to the sender.
Actions text box

Understanding Rule Criteria: Exceptions

Exceptions allow you to designate criteria that will exempt certain messages from the rule. Selecting exceptions can prevent potentially important messages from being deleted or moved. Exceptions can also prevent unimportant messages, such as forwards and default messages, from being treated as if they are important. The exceptions criteria are similar to the conditions that were originally set. Other exceptions criteria can be based on the sender, recipient, or the message content.
Exceptions text box

return to topChanging Basic Criteria

The basic criteria of a rule (e.g. email addresses, folders, search criteria), which was underlined when you created the rule, can be easily changed. Due to the frequency of changes in email addresses, this is the most common need for modification.

  1. If necessary, open your Inbox

  2. From the Tools menu, select Rules and Alerts...
    The Rules and Alerts dialog box appears.
    Rules and Alerts dialog box

  3. If necessary, select the E-mail Rules tab

  4. In the Rule scroll box, select the rule to be modified

  5. In the Rule description text box, click an underlined value to edit it
    A dialog box appears.
    NOTE: If the part of the rule you wish to edit does not have an underlined portion, follow the instruction for Changing Other Criteria.

  6. Complete the dialog box as appropriate
    NOTE: This dialog box will differ depending on your initial selection and which value you choose to edit.

  7. Click OK

  8. Repeat steps 5-7 as needed

  9. Click OK
    The rule is updated and you are returned to your Inbox

return to topChanging Other Criteria

Changing a rule follows many of the same steps as creating a new rule. Thus, you are able to proceed through the same menus as when you created the rule. You can change the conditions that Outlook will use to select the messages, the actions that Outlook will perform on the messages, and any exceptions that you would like to make to the rule. You may also change the name of the rule. 

  1. If necessary, open your Inbox

  2. From the Tools menu, select Rules and Alerts...
    The Rules and Alerts dialog box appears.

  3. If necessary, select the E-mail Rules tab

  4. In the Rule scroll box, select the rule to be modified

  5. From the Change Rule menu, select Edit Rule Settings...
    OR
    Double click the rule
    The Rules Wizard dialog box appears.

  6. From the Select condition(s) scroll box, select the appropriate condition(s)

  7. In the Edit the rule description section,
    1. Edit the conditions as necessary by clicking the underlined portion
      NOTE: Conditions that are not underlined do not need editing.
    2. Complete the dialog box as appropriate and click OK
      NOTE: This dialog box will differ depending on which type of rule you selected.
      HINT: To set words to search for, in the Search Text dialog box that appears, type the word you want Outlook to search for.

  8. Click NEXT

  9. In the Select action(s) scroll box, select the appropriate action(s)
    NOTE: You may select more than one action.

  10. In the Edit the rule description section,
    1. Edit the action(s) as necessary by clicking the underlined portion
      NOTE: Conditions that are not underlined do not need editing.
    2. Complete the dialog box as appropriate and click OK
      NOTE: This dialog box will differ depending on which type of rule you selected.
      HINT: To set words to search for, in the Search Text dialog box that appears, type the word you want Outlook to search for.

  11. Click NEXT

  12. In the Select exception(s) scroll box, select the appropriate exception(s)
    NOTE: You may select more than one action.

  13. In the Edit the rule description section,
    1. Edit the exception(s) as necessary by clicking the underlined portion
      NOTE: Conditions that are not underlined do not need editing.
    2. Complete the dialog box as appropriate and click OK
      NOTE: This dialog box will differ depending on which type of rule you selected.
      HINT: To set words to search for, in the Search Text dialog box that appears, type the word you want Outlook to search for.

  14. Click NEXT

  15. OPTIONAL: In the Specify a name for this rule text box, type a name for the revised rule

  16. If it is not already selected, select Turn on this rule

  17. OPTIONAL: Select Run this rule now on messages already in "Inbox" to have the rule applied to messages you already have

  18. Click FINISH
    The Rules and Alerts main dialog box appears.
    HINT: You can review the rule and revise it as needed in the Rule description text box.

  19. Click OK
    The rule criteria has changed.

return to topChanging Rule Order

Changing the order in which rules are applied can control how the messages are selected, especially if Do not process subsequent rules is selected. Moving a rule up in the list order will ensure that the rule is applied to all messages, while moving it down will ensure that the rule is applied only to those messages not selected by the previous rules. 

  1. If necessary, open your Inbox

  2. From the Tools menu, select Rules and Alerts...
    The Rules and Alerts dialog box appears.

  3. Select the rule you wish to move

  4. To move the rule up or down in the list, click MOVE UPMove Up buttonor MOVE DOWNMove Down buttonas appropriate

  5. When finished, click OK

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