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You can set Outlook Express to ignore people not on your contact list with a few easy steps.

I get so much junk mail everyday, and I am tired of it. I was wanting to know how to set up Microsoft Outlook Express to receive emails from people just in my contact list.

We can do that.

Both Outlook and Outlook Express have powerful "rules processing" abilities that allow you define actions that should be taken automatically when a message is received. Based on various conditions, such as the email address the mail was sent from, either of the Outlooks can be instructed to copy, forward, move, or even delete the email.

One approach to reducing the amount of spam you have to deal with might be to apply some rules to your incoming email. It might be tempting to simply delete email from anyone you don't know, but that's harsh, and can result in losing emails you actually wanted to receive anyway.

But it's certainly easy to set up a rule to help prioritize the email you're getting so you can look at the email from people you know quickly without being forced to wade through a ton of spam to do it.

That's what we'll do.

In Outlook Express, set up a message rule by clicking on Tools, Message Rules, Mail.... Several possible "Conditions" for the rule are listed, and for this example we'll select "Where the From line contains people". Once selected, then in the rule description box you can click on the underlined "contains people" to actually specify which people or email addresses you want this rule to apply to. It pops up the address book, and you can select one, several, or all of the addresses listed there.

One key change before leaving the "Select People" dialog, is to click on Options and change the rule to apply only if the message does not contain one of the email addresses you've selected - in this example, implying that it's someone you don't know.

The Actions for the rule will be to "Move it to the specified folder". Once again in the rule description box you can click on the underlined "specified folder", and actually specify the folder you want these emails to be moved to.

That's a rule. Now, when email arrives that is not from one of the people you've specified, then it'll be moved to the folder you indicated. People you know will be left in your inbox.

The process for Outlook 2003 is similar. Select Tools, Rules and Alerts, and New Rule. I find starting from a blank rule a little easier to grasp, so select that and leave the default to "Check messages when they arrive".

Outlook allows you to reference the entire contents of an address book in a rule, so for this example, I'd select "sender is in specified Address Book" as the condition for the rule. You'll then need to click on the underlined "specified" in the rule description to select the address book, typically your Outlook Contacts folder.

In the next step of Outlook's rule wizard you can select the action to take, for example once again moving the messages to a specified folder. Unfortunately Outlook doesn't appear to allow us to say "if not in my address book", so in this case I'd create a folder to automatically receive the email from my address book contacts. That could then be the folder to pay attention to for incoming mail, which all other email from people you don't know would remain in your inbox.

My Warning as tempting as it may seem, I strongly recommend you not automatically delete email from addresses you don't know. There are simply too many cases where this could cause you a problem. A friend could change an email address. You may place an order on-line and would be sent an email confirmation that you need to respond to which would be sent from an address you don't know. Your long lost cousin, or a (legitimate) business contact may send email before you even know they're going to.

The bottom line is that rules are great ways to prioritize your email. By identifying email from people you know, you can give them the attention they're due. Everything else can wait - perhaps once a week or when your expecting something, you can scroll through the list of "other" email, and decide if there's anything worth reading or worth adding to your address book.

I've teamed up with Lockergnome to create weekly video tips. Managing Email with Outlook Rules will walk you through the examples I've outlined above and show you how to set up those rules.

Article C2147 - August 5, 2004 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

August 26, 2004 7:34 PM

That rule is handy for a while. However the new contacts that I added in my address book after I applied that rule will be treated as junk mail too as the rule applied previously did not contain the new contacts that I added in. So I actually need to modify the rule again with the updated address book. Is there any way of making the rule to automaticaly update with the address book?? Thanks you.

August 26, 2004 10:45 PM

outlook or outlook express?

August 30, 2004 4:46 AM

Outlook express.

August 30, 2004 8:56 AM

Sadly, no. I know of no way to automatically update the rule in Outlook Express. In Outlook you can just say "the address book", and it works automatically. But not on OE.

September 1, 2004 3:21 AM

Thanks you. =)

July 15, 2005 2:11 PM

In OE. to update the rule click Tools > Message Rules > Mail. Then click the list of email addresses, then you can either type in additional emails, or select them from the addressbook.

July 2, 2006 7:44 AM

What about if you have more than one adress book? It appears I'm only able to do it with one? is there a way around this (outlook 2002)

Francis G. De Rosa
March 6, 2009 6:03 AM

Why is Outlook Express the only server that will
work in E-Mail.
I think they ought to up date the systeem, It would avoid many many Problems with the wrong people getting into our Computer.

May 15, 2009 6:07 AM

In Outlook 2003, click Actions..Junk Email..Junk Email Options. In the Options tab, select Safe Lists Only, uncheck Permanently delete suspected junk, and check Don't turn on links. In the Safe Senders tab, check Also trust e-mail from my Contacts and check Automatically add people I e-mail. Now your white list is completely safe. Remember to check your junk mail and add address to the safe senders list if you do want email from those particular addresses.

p woodside
September 21, 2009 8:43 AM

My sister is e-mailing and it isn't coming to me, but she is able to e-mail others. How can I look to see if it is going into my junk or spam folder. I have outlook express 2004

Roque Gallas
January 27, 2010 6:21 AM

I trying to use these rule "sender is in specified address book" to link with a CRM but in my Outlook (in Portuguese) these option does not appear.
Can you help me?

March 21, 2010 10:44 AM

"doesn't appear to allow us to say "if not in my address book"

Just one of the thousands of instances of MS UI ineptitude. The "not" becomes possible AFTER an address is entered. It is in separate dialogue that arises when you use the Optins button that is disabled until entry is made.

December 7, 2010 5:09 AM

Leo -- I noticed that, in Outlook (2010 at least), you can set up a rule that , for example, moves messages to a specific folder UNLESS they are in contacts. Hopefully your readers find this helpful.

See a sample rule below:

Apply this rule after the message arrives:
with "hotmail" or "yahoo" in the sender's address
and on this computer only
move it to the Junk Mail Folder
except if sender is in Contacts Address book



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