Last reviewed on May 8, 2014   —  No Comments

The Rules Wizard for Microsoft Outlook automatically processes both incoming and outgoing messages. You set conditions similar to those used for Microsoft Outlook filters, then indicate what action(s) you want to be performed on messages that meet those conditions.

Rules in the Rules Wizard apply to only to mail at the time its downloaded. They can be applied to mail after its downloaded using the Run Rules Now command.

For Microsoft Exchange Server users, Rules Wizard automatically converts rules created with the Inbox Assistant feature (which Rules Wizard replaces). Exchange Server users also have an Out of Office Assistant for handling such things as vacation notices and Folder Assistant rules that run on public folders. See Server-based vs. client-based rules.

Availability | Usage | Specific Applications | Maintenance | Limitations | Problems | More Information


If you use Outlook 98 or a later Outlook version, Rules Wizard is installed automatically.

If you have the Exchange Server service installed in Tools | Services and have Owner permission on a public folder, you will be able to set Folder Assistant rules.


There are two ways to put the Rules Wizard to work. If you're in the Microsoft Outlook Viewer, choose Tools | Rules Wizard. If you're working with an open message and want to build rules from information in that message, choose Actions | Create Rule (Outlook 98 or 2000) Tools | Create Rule (Outlook 97).

The Rules Wizard consists of several screens where you enter information about the type of rule you want to create (incoming or outgoing messages), what you want to look for, what you want to happen to messages that fit the rule and what types of messages should be handled as exceptions to the rule.

At the top of each screen, check the boxes that you want to apply to the current rule. Then in the bottom half of the screen, click any underlined text to set the value for that part of the rule. For example, if you see with specific words in the subject or body, click on that text to set the specific words to search for.

After you go through all the screens in this fashion, you can click the Finish button to save the rule.

To make a rule apply to all incoming or outgoing messages, just enter no conditions for the rule. You'll get a popup message informing you that the rule will apply to all messages and asking whether that's OK.

The order in which rules are processed can be important, since if you move a message from the Inbox to another folder, other rules won't process it. To change the order and enable/disable rules temporarily, choose Tools | Rules Wizard from the main Microsoft Outlook menu. In many cases, you will want to add a Stop Processing action to your rules, so that once that rule is applied, no subsequent rules will act on the item.

Also see:

Specific Applications



Rules Wizard cannot automatically move items to another folder after you read them.

You can't print out a copy of your rules. If you want a record of your rules, you'll need to jot down the conditions, actions and exceptions manually.

For rules that are copied to Microsoft Exchange Server, there is a 32k limit. (Apparently, this limit applies to all Outlook installations, not just those with Exchange Server.) This amounts to about 40 rules. See Out of Space Error Message When Creating or Importing Rules.

In Outlook 98 and Outlook 2000 Corporate/Workgroup mode, messages forwarded with a rule or replies sent with a rule are not saved in the Sent Items folder.

Rules Wizard does not have the ability to delete messages from the server based on a rule, but there are plenty of third-party POP3 mail tools (i.e. not Outlook-specific products) that can do that. Check at your favorite shareware download site.

You can set up a rule to mark incoming messages as read using the MarkRead custom action in Outlook 2000 and earlier versions or the "mark it as read" action in Outlook 2002, but this will not affect the appearance of the "new mail" envelope icon in the Windows system tray. It will still show that you have new mail.

Out of Office Assistant works only with Exchange Server. For other environments, see To make automatic reply rules in Microsoft Outlook.


If you start using a different Personal Folders file (say, if you changed machines) or mailbox and then import your rules, you will need to edit any rule that involves a folder. You have changed the information store you were using, so the Rules Wizard thinks the folders have changed, too.

If a rule moves an item out of the Inbox, Outlook's automatic processing cannot access it. In particular, that means that voting button, meeting and task responses will not be processed.

In an Exchange Server environment, automatic forwarding and replies to the Internet may be disabled at the server level. Consult your Exchange administrator if automatic replies are working to internal recipients, but not those one the Internet. See:

Also see these Microsoft Knowledgebase articles:

More Information

If you need functionality that Rules Wizard or the available add-ins can't supply, then you might want to consider writing custom code for Outlook 2000 using Visual Basic for Applications. The support for VBA in earlier versions is only for external applications, not for VBA running in Outlook itself. See:

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