How to Create Rules in Outlook 365?

Email management is crucial in maintaining productivity and staying organized. Thus, it is very important to keep the email data managed and ensure that it is easy to access. Microsoft Outlook 365 offers a powerful feature called “Rules” that helps automate email handling and keep the accessibility very smooth. This guide will walk you through the process of creating rules in Outlook 365 and explain the different types of rules you can create to optimize your email workflow.

What Are Outlook Rules?

Outlook rules are actions that are automatically applied to incoming or outgoing emails based on specified conditions. These rules help you manage your inbox by organizing, flagging, or even deleting emails without manual intervention.

How to Create Rules in Outlook 365? Steps and Process

Creating rules in Outlook 365 is a straightforward process. Follow these steps to set up your first rule:

Step 1: Access the Rules Menu

  1. Open Outlook 365: Launch Outlook 365 on your computer.
  2. Go to the Home Tab: On the ribbon at the top, click on the “Home” tab.
  3. Open Rules: In the “Move” group, click on “Rules,” then select “Manage Rules & Alerts.”

Step 2: Create a New Rule

  1. New Rule: In the “Rules and Alerts” dialog box, click on “New Rule.”
  2. Select a Template: You can start from a rule template or create a rule from scratch. For beginners, starting from a template is easier. Templates include common rule types like moving emails from a specific sender or with certain words in the subject.

Step 3: Set Up Rule Conditions

  1. Choose Condition: Select the conditions that will trigger the rule. For example, “from people or public groups” or “with specific words in the subject.”
  2. Edit Condition: Click on the underlined text to specify the details (e.g., the specific sender or keywords).
  3. Add Multiple Conditions: You can add more than one condition if needed.

Step 4: Specify Actions

  1. Select Actions: Choose what you want Outlook to do when the conditions are met. Common actions include “move it to the specified folder,” “mark it as read,” or “delete it.”
  2. Edit Action Details: Click on the underlined text to specify the details of the action.

Step 5: Add Exceptions

  1. Specify Exceptions: You can add exceptions to your rule to ensure it doesn’t apply in certain scenarios. For example, you might want to ignore emails from a specific person even if they meet your rule’s conditions.
  2. Edit Exception Details: Click on the underlined text to specify the details.

Step 6: Finish the Rule

  1. Name the Rule: Give your rule a meaningful name.
  2. Turn on the Rule: Ensure the “Turn on this rule” checkbox is checked.
  3. Review Settings: Double-check all your settings and click “Finish.”

Step 7: Apply and Manage Rules

  1. Apply Rules: Click “Apply” and then “OK” to save your new rule.
  2. Manage Rules: You can edit, delete, or temporarily disable rules from the “Rules and Alerts” dialog box.

Types of Rules You Can Create

Outlook 365 offers various types of rules to cater to different email management needs. Here are some of the most commonly used rule types:

1. Move Messages

  • Move Emails from a Specific Sender: Automatically move emails from a particular sender to a designated folder.
  • Move Emails with Specific Keywords: Filter and move emails containing specific words in the subject or body.

2. Organize Emails

  • Categorize Emails: Automatically assign categories to emails based on conditions.
  • Flag Emails: Flag important emails for follow-up.

3. Manage Notifications

  • Mark as Read: Automatically mark certain emails as read upon arrival.
  • Play a Sound: Play a specific sound when an email meets certain criteria arrives.

4. Respond Automatically

  • Send Automatic Replies: Set up automatic responses for specific senders or keywords.
  • Forward Emails: Forward incoming emails to another email address based on the rules.

5. Delete or Archive

  • Delete Emails: Automatically delete emails that meet specific conditions.
  • Archive Emails: Move emails to an archive folder after a set period or when certain conditions are met.

6. Custom Scripts and Actions

  • Run a Script: For advanced users, you can run custom scripts for more complex email handling.
  • Perform Custom Actions: Use add-ins or third-party tools to create custom actions not natively supported by Outlook.

Benefits of creating rules in Outlook 365

Creating rules in Outlook 365 offers numerous benefits that can significantly enhance your productivity and efficiency when managing emails. Here are some of the key advantages:

1. Improved Organization

  • Automated Sorting: Rules can automatically sort incoming emails into specific folders based on criteria like sender, subject, or keywords, keeping your inbox organized and clutter-free.
  • Prioritization: Important emails can be flagged or moved to priority folders, ensuring you don’t miss crucial communications.

2. Time Savings

  • Reduce Manual Effort: By automating repetitive tasks such as sorting, deleting, or categorizing emails, you save time that would otherwise be spent on manual email management.
  • Quick Actions: Rules can trigger actions like marking emails as read or forwarding them to another address instantly, reducing the need for manual intervention.

3. Enhanced Productivity

  • Focus on Important Emails: By filtering out less important emails and highlighting critical ones, rules help you focus on what matters most.
  • Streamlined Workflow: Automated email handling leads to a more streamlined workflow, allowing you to concentrate on other important tasks.

4. Consistent Email Management

  • Standardized Handling: Rules ensure that emails are consistently managed according to your set criteria, reducing the chance of missing important communications or misplacing emails.
  • Reliability: Once set up, rules work consistently without the need for ongoing adjustments, providing a reliable way to handle incoming and outgoing emails.

5. Improved Response Times

  • Automated Replies: Setting up rules for automatic responses ensures that senders receive immediate acknowledgments, improving communication efficiency.
  • Timely Actions: By automating actions like forwarding or flagging emails, you ensure timely attention to important matters.

6. Reduced Clutter

  • Automatic Deletion: Rules can automatically delete unwanted or junk emails, helping to maintain a clean and organized inbox.
  • Archiving: Automatically archiving old emails helps reduce inbox size while still retaining access to important information when needed.

7. Customization and Flexibility

  • Tailored Rules: You can create highly specific rules tailored to your unique email management needs, whether for work, personal use, or both.
  • Complex Actions: Advanced users can create complex rules involving multiple conditions and actions, providing flexibility to handle diverse email scenarios.

8. Enhanced Security

  • Spam Filtering: Rules can help filter out spam or potentially malicious emails, reducing the risk of phishing attacks and other security threats.
  • Sensitive Information Management: Automatically moving or encrypting emails containing sensitive information helps maintain security and compliance.

9. Consistency Across Devices

  • Synchronization: Rules set up in Outlook 365 sync across all your devices, ensuring a consistent email management experience whether you’re on your computer, tablet, or smartphone.

By leveraging the rules feature in Outlook 365, you can create a more efficient, organized, and stress-free email management system. Whether you’re dealing with hundreds of emails a day or just looking to streamline your communication, setting up rules can make a significant difference in your daily productivity.

What to do if the Outlook rules do not work automatically in Office 365?

Although the rules in Outlook are of great use, it is quite possible MS Outlook rules do not work. If Outlook rules in Office 365 are not working automatically, there are several troubleshooting steps you can take to identify and resolve the issue. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you get your rules back on track:

1. Check Rule Settings

  • Correct Conditions and Actions: Ensure that the conditions and actions specified in the rule are correct. A minor mistake can cause the rule to fail.
  • Rule Order: If you have multiple rules, ensure that they are in the correct order. Rules are applied from top to bottom, so a preceding rule might be affecting a subsequent one.

2. Enable the Rules

  • Active Rules: Make sure the rules are enabled. Go to “Home” > “Rules” > “Manage Rules & Alerts” and check if the rules are turned on.

3. Apply Rules Manually

  • Manual Application: Apply the rules manually to check if they work as expected. This can help identify if the issue is with the rule itself or its automatic application. Go to “Home” > “Rules” > “Manage Rules & Alerts” and click “Run Rules Now.”

4. Update Outlook

  • Latest Version: Ensure you are using the latest version of Outlook. Sometimes, updating the software can fix bugs and issues.
  • Office Updates: Check for any updates to Office 365 as a whole.

5. Review Rule Size

  • Rule Limitations: Outlook has a limit on the number and size of rules. If you have too many rules or very complex ones, it might cause issues. Try simplifying or combining some rules.

6. Check Email Account Settings

  • Correct Account: Make sure the rules are set up for the correct email account if you have multiple accounts configured in Outlook.
  • Default Account: Verify that your default email account is correctly configured.

7. Turn Off Cached Exchange Mode

  • Cached Mode: Sometimes, Cached Exchange Mode can interfere with rules. Try turning it off. Go to “File” > “Account Settings” > “Account Settings,” select your account, and click “Change.” Uncheck “Use Cached Exchange Mode” and restart Outlook.

8. Review Conflicting Add-Ins

  • Disable Add-Ins: Disable any third-party add-ins that might be conflicting with Outlook rules. Go to “File” > “Options” > “Add-Ins” and disable unnecessary add-ins.

9. Reset SRS File

  • SRS File: The SRS file stores the settings for send/receive groups. Resetting this file can sometimes resolve rule issues. Close Outlook, navigate to %appdata%\Microsoft\Outlook, and rename the .srs file (e.g., to Outlook.srs.old). Restart Outlook to create a new .srs file.

10. Recreate the Rules

  • Delete and Recreate: If a specific rule isn’t working, delete it and recreate it. Sometimes, rules can become corrupted and need to be rebuilt from scratch.

11. Check for Server-Side Issues

  • Exchange Server: If you’re using an Exchange server, there might be server-side issues affecting the rules. Contact your IT department or email administrator to check for any problems.

12. Repair Outlook Profile

  • Profile Repair: Sometimes, the issue might be with your Outlook profile. Go to “File” > “Account Settings” > “Account Settings,” select your profile, and click “Repair.” You can also create a new Outlook profile in case the profile is not repaired.

By following these steps, you should be able to diagnose and fix the issues preventing your Outlook rules from working automatically in Office 365. Properly functioning rules can significantly enhance your email management, so it’s worth taking the time to ensure they are set up correctly.


Creating rules in Outlook 365 is an efficient way to manage your inbox and streamline your email workflow. By automating repetitive tasks and organizing your emails systematically, you can save time and maintain a clutter-free inbox. Explore the different types of rules to find the ones that best suit your needs and start taking control of your email today!

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