Excerpt from New Outlook Book: Auto-Categorizing Mail in Outlook 2011 for Mac

May 31, 2011

Here are two excerpts from the new third edition of Total Workday Control Using Microsoft Outlook. They are on creating rules in Outlook 2011 for Mac to automatically categorize mail coming into your in-box, based on sender or subject line. This is a fantastic way to save time on topic filing and beats similar folder-filing rules since it leaves the e-mail in the Inbox where you can read it before dragging it out of the Inbox.

First, from pg. 245:

If you are filing e-mail using Outlook Categories, as described in Lesson 8, consider this. Probably the least enjoyable part of any e-mail organization system is filing. It takes time to decide how to file e-mail and assign categories or drag to folders. Wouldn’t it be great if your e-mail were categorized automatically? Think how much time you would save. If e-mail arrived precategorized, all you would need to do after you read it is drag mail in bulk to the Processed Mail folder, which is what you do anyway.

While automatic categorization of all of your mail is not possible, you can do it with much if not most of your mail. The two primary ways to auto-categorize is to do it based on sender name or based on a keyword in the mail.

On the Mac, if your intention is to categorize incoming mail based on sender, a built-in feature makes this very easy. You merely assign the category to the sender’s entry in your Outlook Contacts list, and then check a box at the bottom of the Edit Categories dialog box (see Figure 8.5 in Lesson 8), and it is all automatic. Again, you get to the Categories dialog box by CTRL-clicking any e-mail in its Categories column, and then choosing Edit Categories… from the shortcut menu.

Next, from pg. 251, how to create an Outlook rule based on subject line contents:

On the Mac there is no need to create a rule if your intention is to auto-categorize based on sender name, as mentioned at the very start of this section. However, for any other type of auto-categorization (most likely categorizing based on a keyword in the subject line) you will need to create a rule.

Creating rules on the Mac is much easier than on Windows, but you lose a bit of flexibility compared to Windows Outlook. For this example, let’s say you want to create a rule based on a keyword in the Subject field.

  1. Since you are interested in e-mail that is entering your primary Inbox, you must first select that folder. Note: Exchange users need to be online with your mail server to create these rules.
  2. Next, from the Home tab click the Rules button and click Edit Rules….
  3. If you are using Exchange, then in the window that pops up, select Exchange from the top of the list presented. Otherwise select POP (or IMAP if by chance you are using that type of server). Then click the plus sign at the bottom of the window.
  4. In the Edit Rule window that pops up (see figure above), type a rule name at the very top; then edit the rule elements as indicated next.
  5. Edit the first If statement (initially labeled All Messages) to read Subject. In the next box to the right adjust it so it reads Contains. And in the third box to its right, type a keyword or phrase as appropriate. In the figure above, I typed the keyword Marketing.
  6. In the Then section in the bottom half of the Edit Rule dialog, two actions may appear by default and you need only one. If two are there, delete the first action by clicking it once (so it is selected and surrounded by a faint blue box) and then click the Remove Action button.
  7. Then edit the remaining action; ensure the first box is Set Category, and then choose the category name in the next box at right.
  8. Consider whether you want to clear the box that says Do Not Apply Other Rules to Messages that Meet These Criteria (examine your other rules, if any, that may affect these messages). And leave the Enabled check box selected. The complete example is shown in the figure above.
  9. Click OK.

You are now done creating the rule. From now on, Outlook will automatically categorize incoming mail that meets the criteria of these new rules. This will occur as you see the mail appear in your Inbox.

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3 Responses to Excerpt from New Outlook Book: Auto-Categorizing Mail in Outlook 2011 for Mac

  1. Les Brand says:

    My company is implementing exchange server 2010 which will also support mac outlook. I currently run outlook in windows within a virtual machine on my mac and it’s configured as per your book. Now looking forward to migrating to mac outlook and not having to run virtual machine. Can you recommend best way to migrate from win outlook to mac outlook and what do I need to consider? Thanks.

  2. Ronald Martin says:

    I’m a bit late to the party, but I’ll add my $0.02 anyway. I was used to Outlook 2010 on Windows. Bowing to corporate pressure, I switched to a Mac and Outlook 2011. I am disappointed in the Mac version. There are a number of features that I am used to having in the Windows version that are just not there on the Mac.

    One of my co-workers is doing exactly what you are: he has a Windows VM set up to run MS Office applications because they have more and better features in the Windows versions than the Mac version.

    Stay with what you have and enjoy the full feature set of MS Office for Windows.

    – Ron

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