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”.

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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.

ALTERNATIVE:

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).

Encouraging news from spam

Looking at an inbox full of spam is annoying, but if you tilt your head right, you can brighten your day with it’s encouragement!

For example, today I find that “There has been a change to your Experian score”, and if I’m “stressed over bills you can’t pay”, that’s okay because I’m “pre-approved for loan”, so that must be good.  To find that “President reduces amount homeowners owe” is always welcome news.  I can get pills to “burn fat fast”, I can learn to “speak a new language like a pro”, and to top it off, “Subway is giving away sandwiches for a week”!  Given that diet, I’ll probably need to take advantage of the “25k Life policy for $1 per month”.  I still haven’t figured out where to go on vacation but “Southwest Airlines is giving away 2 roundtrip tickets”

All of these spam offers seem to adhere to a single common thread: Yes, the vendor is losing money on the individual transaction, but they make it up in volume! :-p