Outlook 2013 – restore some sanity to your inbox with a simple rule (spam filtering)

If you are like me, your company email is full of spam from vendors even though you have a spam filter system in place.  It’s difficult for spam systems to nail all of this because a lot of these emails are generated by conference attendance and other such things which makes it a bit of a gray area.  It’s not blatant spam, but you didn’t ask for it either.  So… what to do about this inbox which has important email from your colleagues buried in a morass of useless information?

I had the idea that I’d create a rule or rules that would take any incoming email which originated outside my company and move it into a different folder.  Then I thought it would be good to further hone that filter to only move things that were from people who weren’t in my contacts list either.  This should be simple, right?  WRONG!  Outlook doesn’t necessarily respond the way you think it will.

Let’s say that my company has “username@mycorp.com” as our email domain setup.  My first thought was to create a rule which looks for “mycorp.com” in the sender’s address field, and move everything EXCEPT that to another box.  The trouble is, for local users, exchange stores the user’s name (an active directory OU object), not their email address.  When you do a rule for mycorp.com you don’t get many hits.  To make along story short, it took a lot of fiddling to figure this out.  Let’s cut to the chase and I’ll tell you how I solved the problem!

I created a rule which looks for “@” in the sender’s address, and I had Outlook move those emails to the “non-corp” folder.  That worked like a charm!  Every externally generated email ended up in the “non-corp” folder.  I then refined it a bit by adding “except” with “mycorp.com” in the sender’s address (to catch some internally generated emails which come from systems reporting status, not from real users), and I added “except if sender is in Contacts address book”.

Now, my inbox contains only emails from co-workers and people in my address book.  I’m no longer missing important emails, and when I get time to go through the “non-corp” folder, it’s pretty quick to delete things because I know most of the stuff in there is trash (as far as I am concerned) so I don’t spend much time on it at all.


Some of the other folks in my company liked this idea but wanted the result to be the other way around.  They wanted a folder for “mycorp” which got everything internal, and they wanted to leave all the external stuff in “inbox”.  How do you do that?  Create a rule which looks for “/ou” instead of “@”.  This will match all internally generated emails and let you move them to your specified folder.  If you wanted everything matching your contacts list to go in there too you would need to create a second rule to do that because Outlook doesn’t have a way to do “OR” processing.  If you try to do both in one rule it applies “and” logic (moves emails matching /ou AND in “contacts” – which won’t match very many at all).

Email disclaimers

We’ve all seen these at the bottom of an email.  There are many variations on the theme, but generally they go something like this:

The information contained in this e-mail message is intended only for the personal and confidential use of the recipient(s) named above. This message is privileged and confidential. If the reader of this message is not the intended recipient or an agent responsible for delivering it to the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that you have received this document in error and that any review, dissemination, distribution, or copying of this message is strictly prohibited. If you have received this communication in error, please notify us immediately by e-mail, and delete the original message.

Now I find this amusing on several levels.  Let’s list them, shall we?

1. “if the reader is not the indended recipient” – wow, is that as silly as it seems?  When was the last time  you even heard of an email system delivering an email to somebody other than the address listed at the top?  Now this isn’t to say that people don’t sometimes send an email to the wrong person, but that only happens when the sender puts in the wrong email address.  As a recipient, all email to my email address comes to ME, and I have no way of knowing (except perhaps by context) if the sender actually intended to send it to somebody else.  So, there is simply no way for me (or anyone) to comply with directives like this.

2. Let’s say that your server has a massive problem and does in fact deliver emails to incorrect inboxes.  Sure, it’s far-fetched, but work with me on this.  A person receives a confidential email in error with all kinds of juicy information.  Are they really going to read the disclaimer and say to themselves “oh dear, I should delete this”.  Really?  What planet are these disclaimer writers on?  I’ll tell you what will happen: The person will read the email, and make maximum personal use of the information in it.  They might even share it with selected friends so they can benefit too.  Welcome to the real world.

Bottom line: This provides NO protection at all to emails which end up in dishonest hands.  So why bother?  Just because other companies do it doesn’t make it clever.  Let’s all try to stop being stupid together.

Signing email with “best” – Best what? Best Fruitcake? Count me out!

People are either becoming more and more lazy, or are losing the ability to type.  What’s with ending emails with “Best, Tim”.  Best what?  Best wishes would be the obvious choice, but are those 7 characters (oh no, 8 including the space) so hard to type?  If you are that lazy, just leave off the entire thing – don’t bother with “best” and don’t put your name (after all, the recipient can look at the “from” address, can’t they?).  In fact, if sending an email is that difficult or bothersome for you, just don’t bother to send it to me at all.

I have actually seen people put this in a signature block in Outlook.  Yes, that means Outlook will automatically type it for you.  How’s that for the ultimate in lazy?  It’s automatic, and still it’s too much trouble.  Feebs!

Oh yea, and for those of you who think it’s “hip” … it’s not.